Saraswati (Sanskrit: सरस्वती, Sarasvatī ?) is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and nature. She is a part
of the trinity of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. All the three forms
help the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in the creation, maintenance
and destruction of the Universe.
The Goddess is also revered by believers of the Jain religion of west and central
She is known in Burmese as
or Tipitaka Medaw (တိပိဋကမယ်တော်,
mɛ̀dɔ̀]), in Chinese as Biàncáitiān (辯才天), in Japanese as Benzaiten
(弁才天/弁財天) and in Thai as Surasawadee
The Sarasvati River is an
important river goddess in the Rigveda. The
Sanskrit name means "having many pools".
In the Telugu language,
Sarasvati is also known as Chaduvula Thalli (చదువుల తల్లి), Sharada (శారద). In
Konkani, she is
referred to as Sharada, Veenapani, Pustaka dharini, Vidyadayini. In Kannada, variants of
her name include Sharade, Sharadamba, Vani, Veenapani in the famous Sringeri
temple. In Tamil, she is also known
as Kalaimagal (கலைமகள்), Kalaivaani (கலைவாணி), Vaani (வாணி), Bharathi. She is
also addressed as Sharada (the one who loves the autumn season), Veena pustaka
dharani (the one holding books and a Veena), Vaakdevi,
Vagdevi, Vani (all meaning "speech"), Varadhanayagi (the one bestowing
Saraswati is strongly associated with flowing water in her role as a goddess
of knowledge. She is depicted as a beautiful woman to embody the concept of
knowledge as supremely alluring.
She possesses four arms, and is usually shown wearing a spotless white sari and seated on a white lotus or riding a
Saraswati goddess is found in temples of Southeast
Asia, islands of Indonesia and Japan. In Japan
, she is known as Benzaiten
She is depicted with a musical instrument in Japan, and is a deity of knowledge,
music, and everything that flows.
In the Rigveda, Saraswati is a river as well as its
personification as a goddess. In the post-Vedic age, she began to lose her status
as a river goddess and became increasingly associated with literature, arts,
music, etc. In Hinduism, Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness,
cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts,
eloquence and power. Hindus worship her not for "academic knowledge",
but for "divine knowledge" essential to achieve moksha. 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. 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. 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. 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.
The Forms of
In the Devi Mahatmya, Saraswati
is in the trinity of Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. She is depicted
as eight-armed and is often portrayed holding a Veena whilst sitting
on a white Lotus Flower.
Her dhyāna shloka given at the
beginning of the fifth chapter of Devi Mahatmya is:
Wielding in her lotus-hands the bell, trident, ploughshare, conch, pestle,
discus, bow, and arrow, her lustre is like that of a moon shining in the autumn
sky. She is born from the body of Gowri and is the sustaining base
of the three worlds. That Mahasaraswati I worship here who destroyed Sumbha and
Nilasaraswati is another form of Mahavidya Tara.
There are separate dhyana shlokas and mantras for her worship in Tantrasara.
9th-century marble sculpture of
The goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in pure
white, often seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes
that she is founded in the experience of the absolute truth. Thus, she not only
has the knowledge but also the experience of the highest reality. She is mainly
associated with the color white, which signifies the purity of true knowledge.
Occasionally, however, she is also associated with the colour yellow, the colour
of the flowers of the mustard plant that bloom
at the time of her festival in the spring. Unlike the goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati is adorned
with simple jewels and gold, representing her preference of knowledge over
worldly material things.
She is generally shown to have four arms, which represent the four aspects of
human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.
Alternatively, these four arms also represent the four Vedas, the primary sacred
books for Hindus. The Vedas, in turn, represent the three forms of
The four hands also depict this thus—prose is represented by the book in one
hand, poetry by the garland of crystal, and music by the veena. The pot of
sacred water represents purity in all of these three, or their power to purify
She is shown to hold the following in her hands:
- A book, which is the sacred Vedas, representing the
universal, divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as her perfection of
natural study and the scriptures.
- A mālā of crystals,
representing the power of meditation and spirituality.
- A pot of sacred water, representing creative and purification powers.
- The veena, a musical
instrument that represents her perfection of all arts and sciences. Saraswati
is also associated with anurāga, the love for and rhythm of music,
which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in speech or
A white lotus,kamnadala is also depicted.
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. "
A hansa / hans or swan is often located next to her
feet. The sacred bird, if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be
able to drink the milk alone. It thus symbolizes discrimination between the good
and the bad or the eternal and the evanescent. Due to her association with the
bird, Saraswati is also referred to as Hansvahini, which means "she who has a
hansa / hans as her vehicle". The peacock is also related to her.
She is usually depicted near a flowing river, which may be related to her
early history as a river goddess.
Sometimes a peacock is shown beside the
goddess. The peacock represents arrogance and pride over its beauty, and by
having a peacock as her mount, the goddess teaches
not to be concerned with external appearance and to be wise regarding the
In Hindu beliefs, great significance is attached to offering honey to this
goddess, as honey is representative of perfect knowledge. Hymns dedicated to her
include Saraswati Vandana
There are many temples, dedicated to Saraswati around the world. Some notable
In Karnataka, the Shringeri
Sharadamba Temple is a revered pilgrimage spot. There are other Sharada
In Andhra Pradesh, the Gnana
Saraswati Temple in Basar, on the
banks of the River Godavari. Two more temples in
Medak namely Wargal Saraswati temple and Shri Saraswati Kshetramu.
In Ernakulam district of Kerala, there is a
famous Saraswati temple in North Paravur, namely Dakshina
Mookambika Temple North Paravur.
In Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka,
Saraswati Puja starts with Saraswati Avahan on Maha Saptami and ends on
Vijayadashami with Saraswati Udasan or Visarjan.
Saraswati Puja calendar:
- Saraswati Puja Avahan – Maha Saptami – Triratna vratam starts in Andhra
- Saraswati Puja (main puja) – Durga Ashtami
- Saraswati Uttara Puja – Mahanavami
- Saraswati Visarjan or Udasan – Vijaya Dashami
- Saraswati Kartik Purnima on (Sristhal) siddhpur of Gujaratis ancient
festival since Solanki ruling of Patan state.
Saraswati Puja in
In the eastern part of India—Tripura, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihār and
Assam,—Saraswati Puja is celebrated in the Magha month (January–February). It
coincides with Vasant Panchami or Shree
Panchami, i.e., the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of
Magha. People place books near the goddess' statue or picture and worship the
goddess. As a custom , as the books and notebooks are supposed to be kept on
alter by the students for worship,students are not supposed to study on the day.
Many choose the day as a symbolic start of learning in form of 'Hate Khori' or
starting to learn alphabets.
Saraswati Puja in
In the southern states of India, Saraswati Puja is conducted during the Navaratri. Navaratri literally
means "nine nights", but the actual celebrations continue during the 10th day,
which is considered as Vijaya Dashami or the Victorious Tenth Day. Navaratri
starts with the new-moon day of the bright fortnight of the Sharad Ritu (Sharad
Season of the six seasons of India) during September–October. The festival
celebrates the power of the feminine aspect of divinity or shakti. The
last two or three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati in South India.
In Karnataka, the Mysore Dasara
festival includes Saraswati Puja. During the Navratri season they keep various
dolls on raised platforms this arrangement is called ("Gombe koori suvudu").
Books and musical instruments worship is also done on Saraswati puja day.
Nadu, Sarasvati Puja is conducted along with the Ayudha Puja (the worship of
weapons and implements including machines). On the ninth day of Navaratri, i.e.,
the Mahanavami day, books and all musical instruments are ceremoniously kept in
front of the Goddess Sarasvati early at dawn and worshipped with special
prayers. No studies or any performance of arts is carried out, as it is
considered that the goddess herself is blessing the books and the instruments.
The festival concludes on the tenth day of Navaratri (Vijayadashami), and the
goddess is worshipped again before the books and the musical instruments are
removed. It is customary to start the study afresh on this day, which is called
Vidyarambham (literally, "Commencement of Knowledge").
In Kerala, the
last three days of the Navaratri festival, i.e., Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami,
are celebrated as Sarasvati Puja. The celebrations start with the Puja Vypu
(Placing for Worship). It consists of placing the books for puja on the Ashtami
day. It may be in one's own house, in the local nursery school run by
traditional teachers, or in the local temple. The books will be taken out for
reading, after worship, only on the morning of the third day (Vijaya Dashami).
It is called Puja Eduppu (Taking [from] Puja). Children are happy, since they
are not expected to study on these days. On the Vijaya Dashami day, Kerala
celebrates the Ezhuthiniruthu or Initiation of Writing for the little children
before they are admitted to nursery schools. This is also called Vidyarambham.
The child is made to write for the first time on the rice spread in a plate with
the index finger, guided by an elder of the family or by a reputed teacher. The
little ones will have to write "Hari Shri Ganapataye Namah" and recite the same
to mark the auspicious entry into the world of education. This is considered a
memorable event in the life of a person. In some parts of Kerala bordering Tamil
Nadu, Ayudha Puja is also conducted during this period.
Respect for written
In India, it is customary that, out of respect, when a person's foot
accidentally touches a book or any written material (which are considered a
manifestation of Saraswati) or another person's leg, it will be followed by an
apology in the form of a single hand gesture (Pranāma) with the right
hand, where the offending person first touches the object with the fingertips
and then the eyes, forehead and/or chest. This also counts for money, which is
considered a manifestation of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
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domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia
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