Goddess Saraswati – Story and Significance

Goddess Saraswati – Story and Significance

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, intellect and learning. The following information about Goddess Saraswati and her origin, story and significance is found in various Hindu religious texts. She is one of the trinity goddesses, Saraswati-Lakshmi-Parvati. These three goddesses are the consorts of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva respectively.

Goddess Saraswati

Saraswati in Vedas

The first mention of Saraswati is found in the Rigveda. She is an important goddess of Hinduism from the Vedic age to the modern age. Saras + Vati = Saraswati (radiant). Ira, Bharati, Saraswati are seen together many times in Rigveda and Yajurveda. Reviewing the mantras of the Vedas, one can realize that Saraswati is basically Suryagni (the fire of Surya).

Appearance of Saraswati

The image in the Dhyanamantra depicts Goddess Saraswati as a divine woman with a white complexion, seated in a white lotus, adorned with pearls, adorned with lotuses and a veena (harp).

It is also mentioned in the Saraswati Stotram mentioned in the Padmapurana that Goddess Saraswati is without endlessness, seated in white lotus, adorned with white flower, dressed in white clothes and imitating white scent. Moreover, she wears a garland of white rudraksha on her hand. She is adorned with white sandalwood, white veena and white ornaments.

The Vahana of Saraswati

Saraswati is seen as Maral(swan) Vahana or Mayur(peacock) Vahana. Mayur Vahna Chaturbhuja (four-armed) Saraswati is generally worshipped in North and South India. She is the holder of Akshamala, Kamandalu, Veena and Veda. In Bengal and East India, Saraswati is seen as two-armed and her vehicle is a swan.

Saraswati in Hindu Puranas

In the Skandapurana, there are pilgrimages to all the gods except Brahma in the world. Thinking this, Brahma set out to establish his pilgrimage on earth. He threw an omnivorous rock into the earth. Brahma thought of setting up his shrine where the rock fell. At the command of Brahma, his wife Saraswati came up from the underworld. Brahma said to her, “Stay here with me all the time. I will spend in your water.” Frightened, Saraswati said, “I am always in underworld because I am afraid of being touched by people. But I cannot disobey your order. Make an arrangement by judging all aspects.” Then Brahma dug a lake for the location of Saraswati. Saraswati began to stay in the lake. Brahma appointed the serpent as the guardian of that lake and Saraswati.

According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana, Goddess Saraswati originated from the tongue of Vishnu. She is the goddess of words, intellect, knowledge and wisdom. Brahma first worshipped her. Later his worship was established in the world. Saraswati is white in color, wearing a yellow robe and holding a veena (harp) and a book. She was created from Narayana so she started thinking of him as her husband. Later she was cursed by Ganga and was reborn from the fourth mouth of Shiva and took Brahma as her husband. Then Krishna introduced her worship in the world. Her worship is done on the fifth day of Shuklapaksha in the month of Magh.

According to the Shukla Yajurveda, when the author of the Ramayana, Valmiki, was overwhelmed at the sight of a hunter shooting an arrow of death-bringing strength to a male bird, Krouncha, (dove) which was with its partner, goddess Saraswati appeared like a line of lightning on his forehead.

 Saraswati Puja Rituals

Hindus worship Goddess Saraswati on the day of Basant Panchami (Shukla Panchami or Sri Panchami of the month of Magh). Kids start Hatekhari (learning alphabets) on the occasion of Sri Panchami or Saraswati puja at various temples and educational institutions. Parents believe their children will be brilliant with the blessings of Saraswati if they start learning alphabets on the occasion of Sri Panchami or Saraswati puja. During the puja, people choose to wear yellow or white traditional clothing and accessories to honour the goddess. Devi Saraswati is fond of Palash flowers. Although all white colored flowers are liked by Devi Saraswati, Palash flowers are considered to be the essential component in Saraswati puja. So, worshippers usually offer Palash flowers to her. Kool (plum), is considered to be a favourite fruit of Saraswati. Many Hindus do not eat Kool before the celebration of Saraswati Puja.

Saraswati in Other Communities

Saraswati is also worshipped by Buddhists and Jains in western and central India. Apart from India, Saraswati is also worshipped in Japan, Vietnam, Bali (Indonesia) and Myanmar as the goddess of knowledge, music and art.

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Different Names of Saraswati 

A large number of names of Saraswati are seen in Hindu scriptures. These are- Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge), Mahabhadra (The Supremely Auspicious one), Mahamaya (The one who envelops the universe with illusion), Varaprada (The merciful one who gives boons), Padmakshi (The lotus eyed one), Padmavaktraga (The one with a lotus like face), Shivanuja (The one who is the sister of Lord Shiva), Pustakabhrita (One who holds a book in her hands), Jnanamudra (The one who shows the symbol of wisdom in her fingers), Kamarupa (The one who assumed different forms as desired), Mahavidya (The one who gives all forms of knowledge), Mahapataka Nashini (One who destroys all sufferings), Mahashraya (One who gives the ultimate refuge to the beings), Malini (One who wears a beautiful garland), Mahotsaha (The most enthusiastic one), Divyanga (One with an auspicious body), Suravandita (One who is adored by the gods), Mahankusha (One who carries a goad), Pita (One with a yellow complexion), Vimala (the blemishless one), Vishwa (The one with a universal form),
Vidyunmala (One with a resplendent garland), Chandrika (One with a bright moonlight), Chandravadana (One whose face is resplendent like a moon), Chandralekha Vibhushita (One who wears a crescent moon on her forehead), Savitri (The ray of light), Surasa (The most charming one), Divyalankarabhushita (One with adorable ornaments), Vagdevi (The Goddess of speech), Vasudha (One who is the embodiment of earth), Mahabhadra (The most auspicious one) Mahabala (One with a supreme strength), Bharati (The Goddess of Speech), Bhama (The personification of perfection), Brahmi (The consort of Brahma), Brahmajnanaikasadhana (The means to attain wisdom), Saudamini (The one resplendent like lightening), Subhadra (One who is extremely beautiful), Surapujita (One who is fondly worshipped by the gods), Suvasini (One who fills the cosmos with auspiciousness), Vinidra (One who is sleepless), Mahaphala (One who distributes the fruits of actions), Trikalajna (One with a knowledge of past, present and future), Triguna (One who is the embodiment of the three qualities), Shastrarupini (The personification of all knowledge and books), Shubhada (One who bestows auspiciousness), Swaratmika (The one who is at the soul of music), Sarvadevastuta (The one adored by all the gods), Saumya (The gentle and cheerful one), Surasura Namaskrita (One worshipped by the gods and demons), Kaladhara (One who supports all forms of art), Rupasaubhagyadayini (The one who blesses with beauty and luck), Varijasana (The one seated on a white lotus), Chitragandha (The one with a diverse kinds of fragrances), Kanta (The resplendent one), Shwetanana (The one with a very attractive face), Nilabhuja (The one with blue color arms), Chaturanana Samrajya (The Goddess who rules the empire made by the four heads of lord brahma), Niranjana (The most dispassionate one), Hamsasana (The one seated on a swan), Brahmavishnushivatmika (The one who is the soul of the trinity named Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) etc.

Saraswati Mantra

सरस्वति महाभागे
विद्ये कमललोचने ।
विद्यारूपे विशालाक्षि
विद्यां देहि नमोस्तुते ॥

Saraswati Mahabhage
Vidye Kamalalochane।
Vishwaroope Vishaalaakshi
Vidyam dehi namosthuthe।।

[Meaning: O Goddess Saraswati, salutations to you. You have eyes as beautiful as lotuses. You have large-eyes, taking the form of the whole universe. I request you to shower me with all the powers and glories of all knowledge that exist.]

By Krishna Das

[Last Updated: 20 January, 2023]

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