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Her color is white, the color of peace. Her clothes, and also her familiar swan, are all white. Not for her Kali's dramatic and gory nakedness, or Lakshmi's dazzling red and gold. Her robe and appearance show serenity and a total lack of artifice.
Legends say that she sprung from the forehead of her father, Brahma, as did the Greek virgin goddess Athena who was born from her father, Zeus's head. As soon as Brahma looked at this beautiful woman, he desired her, even though she was his daughter. Saraswati disliked the amorous attentions of this old god and kept dodging him, but whichever way she moved, Brahma grew a head in that direction to see her the better. As a result he grew four faces on four sides of his neck, and even a head on top of these four, so that she could not escape by moving upwards. But Saraswati still eluded him.
Brahma was angry. He, being the Creator, was also all powerful. We do not know how, but legend has it that he did manage to marry the elusive girl, and produced through her mind the four great Vedas. Lore also has it that Brahma discovered that his girl-wife was too aloof and absent-minded for his liking. He had arranged for a major fire-sacrifice, at which his wife's appearance by his side was a must. He repeatedly warned Saraswati not to take too long over her toilet and miss the auspicious hour. She must, he had decreed, take her traditional seat to his left, well in time. But Saraswati behaved with her characteristic whimsical disregard for parental diktats. Her prolonged toilet saw to it that the holy hour passed without the couple's making the supreme joint offering to the fire God as man and wife. When Saraswati finally arrived, Brahma was livid. He threw her out, and replaced her with the daughter of a sage, called Gayatri.
Saraswati, thus, though married, never enjoyed domestic bliss like Durga or Lakshmi. According to most myths she had no children, possessed a fiery temper, was easily provoked and was somewhat quarrelsome. She, of all the goddesses, is described as possessing a very independent will and was not very obliging to the male gods.
As the disinherited daughter and estranged wife, Saraswati lived perpetually in self-imposed exile. She focuses her calm, dispassionate gaze upon the past as pure experience. The capacity to recall without anger or resentment, is Saraswati's greatest gift to her children: the writers, musicians and creators of various art forms. All of them have fought with tradition, but their fight has been cerebral, not emotional. For without cutting away the umbilical cord, no innovative new beginning may ever be made, whether one is creating or procreating. This is the message of Saraswati.
She is shown here in a classical and dynamic pose, seated on her swan.
This is a paata painting. Pata is a Sanskrit derivation which literally means canvas. The art of Pata Painting (or pata chitra) is practiced by the artists of Orissa, a state on the Eastern Coast of India.
The painter first chooses two pieces (generally tussar silk) of cloth and he sticks the pieces together by means of a paste prepared from tamarind seeds. They are then dried in the sun.
The tamarind paste is traditionally prepared as follows: The tamarind seeds are first kept in water for two to three days. When the seeds swell and become soft, these are ground with a pestle stone till the formation of a jelly like substance. In an earthen pot some water is poured along with this substance which is finally heated into a paste. The pieces of cloth thus pasted into one become a Patti.The Patti may be of an area of a few square meters. After the Patti is dried it is rolled up and from this roll, pieces of pata are cut and utilised for individual paintings.
The colors are hand prepared by the artists from natural ingredients like china-clay, soft clay(chalk), conch shell, red stone etc. The black color is prepared from charcoal powder. For white, the artists use sea shells which are available in plenty on the sea shores of Orissa, the home of pata paintings. The sea-shells are powdered and the powder is kept mixed with some water for two days.The mixture is stirred properly until it becomes soft and milky. This milky liquid is then heated with the gum of Kaitha fruit (Feromia Elephantum). The paste thus prepared is then dried in the sun to form a solid substance.
Black color is prepared by holding an earthen plate over the smoke of a burning wick. The soot thus collected at the bottom of the plate is thickened to a black substance. This is mixed with the gum of Kaitha fruit when used as black color in painting.
Green color typically is prepared from the juice of green leaves which is boiled and gum is mixed in the same proportion.
The materials used by these artists are totally of an indigenous character. To unite the colors they utilise wooden bowls made of dried coconut shells. The coarse brush is prepared from the root of a local plant called keya. Hairs of brushes are collected from a buffalo's neck, more fine brushes require the hair of mouse. These brushed are fixed to wooden handles. They are usually kept in the quivers made out of a hollow joint of a thick bamboo tree. The brushes may also be sometimes stored in leather cases or in dried pumpkin bowls.
It is truly said of these Pata paintings that " Strange is this world of Pata paintings, a world in itself, where every article and ornament keeps its unchanging shape, its place and importance, where every animal has its own stylized features, every personality its unerring marks of identification defined by the ancient texts, religious myths and local tradition. It is a world of myths and gods, but still more it is a world of folk imagination, the reflection of thinking and of the mental scope of millions of Indian peasants, fishermen and craftsmen, their joys, their hardships, binding faith and exacting beauty. So the paintings speak the language of their creators, they give realistic expression, a clear symbol, humorous details. They are familiar to the eye, close to the heart, bringing joy and expressing life".
Indeed the immensity of life and the diversity of the divine come together and stand in one in these Pata paintings.