The Goddess Saraswati, Patron of Knowledge and Arts

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The Goddess Saraswati, Patron of Knowledge and Arts

 

Saraswati is among the important gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Known as the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, speech, music, and art, it’s not surprising that Saraswati is not only important but is much venerated and has many devotees.                         

The name Saraswati comes from the combination of the Sanskrit words saras, which can mean “pooling water” and can also be interpreted as meaning “speech”, and the word vati, which means “she who possesses”. Her name, therefore, has two literal translations. It can mean “she who has pooling water” or “she who possesses speech”. 

Goddess Saraswati Seated on Swan Tanjore Painting | Traditional Colors With 24K Gold | Teakwood Frame | Gold & Wood | Handmade | Made In India

Fittingly, the goddess Saraswati was originally associated with an ancient river that was also called Saraswati. In the Vedas, the river Saraswati was not only mentioned far more often than any other significant body of water but it was also the most revered. With regard to Saraswati as “she who possesses speech”, it is said that Saraswati is the inventor of the Sanskrit language.

A truly significant goddess, Saraswati is one-third of the Hindu Trivedi, which is the feminine counterpart of the Trimurti, which is comprised of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Along with Saraswati, the two other members that make up the Trivedi are Lakshmi and Parvati. Together, the three goddesses of the Trivedi along with the three gods of the Trimurti are believed to be responsible for creating, maintaining, and regenerating the universe.

Goddess Rajarajeshwari, Lakshmi and Saraswati In All Their Finery Tanjore Painting 

Saraswati is especially worshipped before the Spring season, from January to February. During this time, icons of Saraswati are brought out and worshippers take part in a jubilant procession. On the fifth day of Spring, Hindus likewise celebrate the Vasant Panchami festival, also known as Saraswati Jayanti and Saraswati Puja. In honour of Saraswati, the day is commemorated by teaching young children to write the letters of the alphabet.

Academic and Divine Knowledge: A Floral Offering


However, special devotion to Saraswati is not reserved for just the early months of the year. As the goddess of the arts, music, speech and learning, she is regularly worshipped all throughout the year. She is especially invoked by students during examinations, as well as by artists and performers before shows or productions. Many Hindus pay special devotion to Saraswati to aid them in their special intentions. Saraswati is also related to anuraga, which is understood to be the love for the rhythm of music and is said to represent all the emotions and feelings that are expressed through both song and speech.

16" Goddess Saraswati Seated On Lotus Seat With Kirtimukha Aureole in Brass | Handmade | Made In India

As one can expect, considering Saraswati’s history as the goddess of water, she is often portrayed as a beautiful woman next to a body of water such as a flowing river. In terms of her own physical embodiment, Saraswati is frequently depicted as having four arms and holding four objects that have particular significance in Hinduism. The first of the four objects is a pustaka, which is a book or script that represents the Vedas and is a symbolism for its universal truth, divine knowledge and all forms of learning. The second object is a mala, which is a rosary or garland. This serves as a symbol of the power of meditation and spirituality. The third item held by Saraswati is a pot of water. The pot of water is meant to represent purification, a separation of the clean from the unclean, and the distinction of right from wrong. According to some, the pot of water is also a symbol for soma, which is a drink that liberates and leads to enlightenment or knowledge. Last but not least, the fourth item that Saraswati holds is a Veena, which is a musical instrument. The veena is perhaps the most widely recognized icon associated with Saraswati. It signifies all the creative arts, as well as the sciences. It is said that Saraswati holding the Veena, in particular, represents the expression of knowledge that leads to harmony.

38" Devi Sarasvati, Cradling The Veena Like A Mother Her Baby In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

In addition to the symbolic items in Saraswati’s possession, she is also portrayed dressed in white while seated on a white lotus. The colour white is meant to represent Sattwa Guna or purity and wisdom. The colour is the complete antithesis of black and the darkness that comes with ignorance. Saraswati is also never portrayed as being heavily adorned with lavish jewels as she rejects worldly desires and instead, represents simplicity and elegance. Rather than being decorated with expensive jewels, Saraswati holds priceless objects in her hands.

39" Gold Embellished Goddess Saraswati on Her Vahana | White Marble 

Another element in Saraswati’s iconography is a hamsa, which is a swan or goose, that is positioned close to her feet. In other depictions, Saraswati is seen riding the white swan or goose. The hamsa is a sacred bird in Hindu mythology. It is believed to be able to distinguish good from evil and is also a symbol for moksha or spiritual perfection. As a goddess associated with the sacred swan, Saraswati is also sometimes called Hamsavahini, which translates to “she who has a hamsa as her vehicle”.

Embellished Maa Saraswati in a Superfine Quality

The goddess Saraswati appears in numerous forms, having many different avatars. She is not only known as the goddess of knowledge but is also referred to as Brahmavidya, which means the goddess of the wisdom of ultimate truth. Her other avatar includes Mahakali, in which Saraswati is the destroyer of ignorance and ego. Mahakali eradicates the darkness that is said to surround the minds of the unlearned. She also comes in the form of Gayatri, which is the embodiment of the sacred Vedas, Vidhyalakshmi, who provides one with wealth according to one’s skill, and Vidhya, which is the amorphous concept of wisdom and knowledge.

Superfine Large Goddess Saraswati Made of Jade | Signature Piece

One major difference of Saraswati from all other gods and goddess is that she has chosen not to bear any children. Unlike most goddesses, she is not a mother and not depicted with any children. This distinction underscores Saraswati as a symbol of independence, singularity and individual thought. One could say that Saraswati especially represents the modern woman’s quest for personal identity and independence.

 The goddess Saraswati was not only significant during the Vedic period. She is among the Hindu gods and goddesses that remain significant and revered in today’s modern times.

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