Deity of the Day
Goddess of Knowledge and Arts
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the mother of the Vedas, and chants to her, called the ‘Saraswati Vandana’ often begin and end Vedic lessons.
Saraswati is the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga. It is believed that goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus – the symbol of true knowledge – in the second.
The Symbolism of Saraswati
With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on a string instrument called the veena. She is dressed in white – the symbol of purity – and rides on a white swan – symbolizing Sattwa Guna or purity and discrimination. Saraswati is also a prominent figure in Buddhist iconography – the consort of Manjushri.
The learned and the erudite attach greater importance to the worship of goddess Saraswati.
As a practice, only educated people worship her for knowledge and wisdom. They believe that only Saraswati can grant them ‘moksha’ – the final liberation of the soul.
Vasant Panchami – Day of Saraswati Worship
Saraswati’s birthday – Vasant Panchami – is a Hindu festival celebrated every year on the 5th day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha. Hindus celebrate this festival with great fervor in temples, homes and educational institutes alike. Pre-school children are given their first lesson in reading and writing on this day. All Hindu educational institutions conduct special prayer for Saraswati on this day.
Saraswati Mantra – Hymn for the Goddess
The following popular ‘pranam mantra’ or Sanskrit prayer, Saraswati devotees utter with utmost devotion eulogizes the goddess of knowledge and arts:
Om Saraswati Mahabhagey, Vidye Kamala Lochaney |
Viswarupey Vishalakshmi, Vidyam Dehi Namohastutey ||
Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey |
Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey ||
The beautiful human form of Saraswati comes to the fore in this English translation of the Saraswati hymn:
“May Goddess Saraswati,
who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon,
and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops;
who is adorned in radiant white attire,
on whose beautiful arm rests the veena,
and whose throne is a white lotus;
who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me.
May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance.”
What is ‘Curse of Saraswati?’
It is a concept where success is equated with Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. As mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik notes: “With success comes Lakshmi: fame and fortune. Then the artiste turns into a performer, performing for more fame and fortune and so forgets Saraswati, goddess of knowledge. Thus Lakshmi overshadows Saraswati. Saraswati is reduced to Vidya-lakshmi, who turns knowledge into vocation, a tool for fame and fortune.”
Saraswati, the Ancient Indian River
Saraswati is also the name of a major river of ancient India. The Har-ki-dun glacier fed into in the Himalayas producing the Saraswati’s tributaries, Shatadru (Sutlej) from Mount Kailas, Drishadvati from Siwalik Hills and the Yamuna. The Saraswati then flowed into the Arabian Sea at the Great Rann delta. By about 1500 B.C. the Saraswati River had dried up in places and by the late Vedic Period, the Saraswati ceased to flow.