Saraswati the goddess_of_knowledge_by_dr.swanand_s._pathak


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Saraswati the goddess_of_knowledge_by_dr.swanand_s._pathak

  3. 3. 1 PrefaceIt is believed that any intellectual endeavorshould begin with the blessings of goddessSaraswati. Here is a small effort on my part tocompile and write about Goddess Saraswati soas to spread the message of worship of thegoddess for the benefit of those who want toutilize the knowledge to attain moksha. Igreatly acknowledge the help rendered byShri. S. T. Pathak and Smt. M. A. Borkar inediting the booklet. Let me very humbly offerthe book at the lotus feet of goddess Saraswati. Dr. Swanand S. Pathak Wardha 26th November 2010. 1 F1
  4. 4. 1Hinduism considers Saraswati as the goddessof knowledge, music and arts. It is consideredthat all the types of knowledge may it be thebookish knowledge or the ultimate divineknowledge about Brahman it is passed to thehuman race by Saraswati. Considered as one ofthe many aspects of adi Shakti, Saraswati is theembodiment of existence itself. In the folkloreof Durga Puja in Bengal, Saraswati isconsidered to be a daughter of Shiva along withher sister Lakshmi and her brothers Ganeshaand Karthikeya but in some Puranas (likeSkanda Purana) she is sister of Shiva(Shivaanujaa).We get the reference of Saraswati in variousother Puranas with some interesting accountsassociated.The Puranas relate Saraswati to Brahma andVishnu. Most frequently, she is associated withBrahma. Her connection with him dates earlierthan to any other God. She is portrayed mostlyas his wife and occasionally as his daughter.When Vishnu’s popularity in India increased,myths relating Saraswati to him appeared.Saraswati and BrahmaWhen Saraswati is pictured as a wife ofBrahma, she is usually portrayed as white 1 1
  5. 5. 1complexioned, wearing white or yellowgarments, and accompanied by a peacock or aswan or both (symbols of Brahma).Story of origin of Brahma’s five heads due toSaraswati (From the Matsya Purana) Brahma created Satarupa (Saraswati) out of hisown body, and got charmed with her. He waslooking at her affectionately. In order to avoidhis glances, Satarupa turned to the right sidefrom his gaze. In order to see her then, Brahmacreated a second head. As she passed to his leftand his rear, in order to avoid his lustfulglances, two other heads of the godsuccessively appeared. At last she sprang to thesky, and following her, a fifth head of Brahmawas also formed.Brahma’s Great Sacrifice and origination ofSaraswati (From the Skanda Purana)Brahma decided to perform a great sacrificeand for that purpose he and his wife Savitriwent to Pushkara. When all the preparationswere made with due rites and ceremonies forperforming the sacrifice, Savitri, detained bysome household affairs, was not in attendance.A priest was immediately advised to call her.But she replied that she had not yet completedher dress, nor arranged several affairs. Since 1 1
  6. 6. 1without a wife no advantage could be derivedby performing a sacrifice, Brahma advisedIndra to bring a wife from wherever he couldfind one. Indra proceeded accordingly and, hefound a milkmaid Gayatri (another name forSaraswati) who was young, beautiful. Indraseized her and brought to the assembly. ThenBrahma told that he would take up themilkmaid and she would be regarded as themother of the Vedas. Thus Brahma was unitedwith Gayatri. At this time Savitri, accompaniedby the wives of Vishnu, Rudra and other Gods,come to the place of sacrifice. Seeing themilkmaid in the bride’s dress, Savitri becamefurious and cursed Brahma and all the otherGods and left. But Gayatri repaired most of thecurses by performing proper sacrifices.Origin of Saraswati and her marriage toVishnu (From the Brahma-VaivartaPurana)Once Krishna felt an inclination to create andthus sprang from him Radha, his shakti. Theirunion produced an egg, which Radha threwinto the waters. Krishna was angry at thisunmotherly conduct of Radha and cursed herwith everlasting youth and barrenness. At thispoint, suddenly from the lip of Radha sprangforth a lovely daughter Saraswati of white 1
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  8. 8. 1complexion wearing yellow dress, decoratedwith jewels and holding a veena and a book inher hands. Radha again parted herself into twoand her left half was transformed into Kamalaor Lakshmi. At this, Krishna also parted intotwo and produced the four-armed Vishnu fromthe left side of his body. Krishna gaveSaraswati and Lakshmi to Vishnu as wives.Fight between Saraswati and Ganga (Fromthe Brahma-Vaivarta Purana)Besides Saraswati, Vishnu married Ganga. Oneday Ganga was looking lovingly at herhusband, and Vishnu was reciprocating theglances. This was too much for Saraswati whobegan to accuse Vishnu of partiality. Vishnuleft the place to give Saraswati time to calmdown. But this only served to anger Saraswatimore. She advanced threateningly to Gangawhen Lakshmi intervened. Lakshmi heldSaraswati away from Ganga. Saraswati thencursed Lakshmi. Vishnu, having found outabout what happened, cursed both Saraswatiand Ganga with transformation into rivers, andalso gave both of them to other husbands.Saraswati was given to Brahma and Ganga toShiva. 1 1
  9. 9. 1Whatever may be the mythological reference,Saraswati enjoys the highest seat of knowledgein Hinduism. Not only in Hinduism Saraswatihas an important place in Buddhism too. She isrespected as a Guardian Deity in Buddhismwho upholds the teachings of Gautam Buddhaby offering protection and assistance topractitioners along their spiritual path towardsliberation.Meaning of SaraswatiThe name Saraswati is a combination of twowords ‘Saras’ meaning flow and ‘Wati’meaning a woman. Here the flow depicts theflow of knowledge, music and arts. In fact inthe ancient scriptures we have the mythologicalriver Saraswati along with other sacred riversGanga, Yamuna, Sindhu and Kaveri. InHinduism, Saraswati represents intelligence,consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity,education.DescriptionThe idol of goddess Saraswati itself is theorigination of most pure and serene vibrations.Saraswati’s female form demonstrates the greatrespect and recognition that women held in thevedic tradition. She stands for tolerance, as well 1 1
  10. 10. 1as moral and spiritual strength. She canwithstand roughness and bear pain.Clad in simple white robes with very minimaljewels she sits on the white lotus supportingveena with one hand and playing it withanother , a mala or rosary of crystals held inthird and Vedas in fourth hand. Her four armsdenote four sides suggesting her omnipresence.1She is never shown giving Ashirvaad orblessings. This reconfirms the Gita saar, “Justdo your karma don’t wait for results.” Shehands no weapon to prove that knowledge is allpowerful51 She is always seated next to a streamclean flowing river. She is very fond of hamsathe white swan and peacock. The swan isconsidered as her vahana (hamsa vahini)sometimes she is also shown riding the peacock(mayur vahini)The white color associated with goddessrepresents absolute truth and purity of trueknowledge. The scarcity of jewels suggests herpreference of knowledge over the worldlythings as gold and money. This might be onereason of goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswativery rarely coming together. Besides denotingfour sides her four arms also represent the fouraspects of human personality in learningnamely mind (mana), intellect (buddhi),alertness (chitta), and ego (ahankara). 1 1
  11. 11. 1The lotus represents supreme knowledge inactivity. It is a symbol of evolution anddetachment. It makes its way through the oceanof life by rising above its surface–it is the pathfrom the outer being to the inner being.She is offering Vedas to her devoteessuggesting she is the composer of Vedas and allthe knowledge with letters. Placing it in the lefthand means that acquisition and application ofknowledge should be controlled by the softerside of the human personality. Saraswati givesthe essence of one’s self. She provides us withthe divine and spiritual knowledge of our lives.She is a representation of the science of life, orthe vedanta, which attempts to unravel theessentials of human existence and the universeconcealed within. She points to the ultimateaim of human life which is to realize the truenature of the self even if it requires anenormous amount of determination,perseverance and patience.The rosary or mala represents the poetic form,it also symbolizes concentration or themeditative process involved in the acquisitionof knowledge.Veena represents the eternal cosmic music. TheVeena points to the collective sound of all ourthoughts and actions as it is manifest as musicin the cosmic universe. It marks the withdrawal 1 1
  12. 12. 1of the senses and the focus needed to attainknowledge. Placing the left hand on top of theveena closer to the heart shows that knowledgeshould be used for the good of others. Placingthe right hand on the bottom shows thatnegative knowledge should be kept undercontrol. The veena points to the potential forthe negative and positive purposes ofknowledge–the choice is left to the person as towhich type of knowledge is used. In fact thereis a special type of veena called Saraswativeena. The Saraswati veena is considered asone of the oldest instruments known to themankind.The sacred water flowing in the river representspurity of thought and action and her closeassociation with the river Saraswati. TheSaraswati River is one of the chief Rig Vedicrivers mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. TheNadistuti hymn in the Rig-Veda mentions theSaraswati between the Yamuna in the east andthe Sutlej in the west, and later Vedic texts likeTandya and Jaiminiya Brahmanas as well as theMahabharata mention that the Saraswati driedup in a desert. According to some; goddessSaraswati was originally a personification ofthis river, but later developed an independentidentity and meaning. 1 211
  13. 13. 1Devi Saraswati is very fond of Hamsa a symbolof paramahamsa a person with perfectdiscrimination. As the swan is supposed toseparate milk from the water paramahamsa aresupposed to take only the Brahman the realityin life discarding all the maya or illusionaltogether.Peacock represents arrogance and pride and bymounting the peacock the goddess tells toovercome arrogance and pride of knowledgeand skills.Other names of SaraswatiBharati – eloquence; Mahavidya – transcendentknowledge; Vac – speech; Mahavani –transcendent word; Arya – the noble one;Brahmi – power of the immense being; wife ofBrahma Kamadhenu – the wish cow;Bijagarbha – womb of the seed or womb of theelements of speech; Vacdevi – divinity ofspeech; Vinapani – the one that holds the vina;Sarada – giver of essence; Satarupa-with sevenforms; Vageshvari – goddess of speech; andGayatri- song or hymn.FormsSaraswati is worshiped in three main forms inHinduism namely maha Saraswati, MahavidyaNila Saraswati Sarada devi. 1 2211
  14. 14. 1Saraswati is well known in a variety of otherreligions outside of Hinduism. She appears inJainism and Buddhism, and has made her wayfrom India to Japan as well as to other placesaround the world. Thurathadi in Burmese,Biancaitian in Chinese, Surasawadee in Thaiand Benzaiten in Japan.In Jainism, Saraswati has been given manytitles, a few of these include: The dispeller ofdarkness ignorance, the remover ofinfatuations, the destroyer of miseries and thegiver of Knowledge. As in Hinduism, she alsostands as a symbol of purity.In the transition from early (Theravada)Buddhism to Mahayana Buddhism, manyelements of Hinduism were transplanted intoBuddhism. In early Buddhist mandalas, variousdivinities were depicted of MahayanaBuddhism. In those early Buddhist mandalas,Saraswati is located in the south-west of theinnermost circle, between Brahma and Vishnu,symbolizing her close connection with thesetwo deities. In Buddhism, Saraswati is the giverof knowledge, intelligence, memory; and sheconfers wisdom and learning upon herworshippers. She possesses many forms withinBuddhism, including Vajra-Sarasvati, Vajrana-Sarasvati, Vajra-Sarada and Mahasarasvati.During a period of Tantric dominance within 1 2F11
  15. 15. 1Buddhism, many of the Mahayana Buddhisttexts were transmitted through the Himalayanpasses to Nepal, Tibet, Java, China andeventually Japan.In Tibet, she is known as Vajra-Sarasvati and isoften depicted as carrying a thunderbolt (vajra).In Japan, the goddess Benten is seen as amanifestation of Saraswati. Her full name inJapanese is Dai-Ben-Zai-Ten or the GreatDivinity of Reasoning Faculty. She is believedto bestow power, happiness, riches, long life,fame and reasoning powers. In later times shecame to be regarded as one of the seven deitiesof good fortune. A myth in Japan speaks of ahideous pond dwelling serpent that terrorizedthe villages and devoured the children for milesaround. Benten could not bear to witness suchdestruction. Therefore she stirred up anearthquake and hovered above the serpent’s lairin the dust clouds. At first Benten was filledwith hate but the serpent king wooed her withsoft and tender words until her heart wasmelted, and–making him promise to mend hissavage ways–she married him. It is interestingto note that Benten, as goddess of speech waswon by words. 1 211
  16. 16. 1Temples dedicated to SaraswatiThere are two ancient Saraswati temples; one inBasara and the other in Kashmir.BasaraSituated 50 Kms from Nizamabad at Basara, onthe banks of river Godavari, the Sri GyanaSaraswati temple is the main temple in SouthIndia dedicated to the goddess of learning.According to the legend Maharishi Vyasa andhis disciples and sage Suka decided to settledown in a cool and serene atmosphere after theKurukshetra war. In the quest for the peacefulabode, he came to Dandaka forest and pleasedwith serenity of the region selected this place.After his ablutions in the river GodavariMaharishi Vyasa used to bring three fistful ofsand and place it in three small heaps and madeimages Sarada, Lakshmi, Kali with his mysticpower and later conducted prayers. This idolmade of sand has its face smeared withturmeric. Eating a little bit of this turmericpaste, it is believed, will enhance one’s wisdomand knowledge. The idol of Saraswati at Basarais holding a pot of sacred water representingcreative and purification powers. 1 211
  17. 17. 1How ever, according to Brahmandapuranam,Adikavi Valmiki installed Saraswati and wroteRamayana here. There is a marble image ofValmiki and his samadhi near the temple. It isbelieved that this temple is one of the threetemples constructed near the confluence ofManjira and Godavari rivers by Ashtrakutas.According to another school of thought‘Bijialudu’ a Karnataka king, who ruled theprovince of Nandagiri with Nanded as hiscapital in the sixth century, constructed thetemple at Basara. The image of Lakshmi standsbesides Goddess Saraswati in the sanctumsanctorum. Due to the presence of Saraswati,Lakshmi and Kali, Basara is considered as theabode of the divine trinity on the Bank of theRiver Godavari.Now a days there is heavy rush of pilgrimscoming to Basara to perform “Aksharaabhyasam” for the children. Many people, infact, take their kids to Basara for “Aksharaabhyasam” before commencing formal schooleducation. Special poojas and celebrations areheld at the temple during Maha Sivaratri,beginning 15 days before (Vasantha Panchami)and continuing 3 days after the festival. DeviNavarathrulu is celebrated for ten days. SinceMaharishi Vyasa spent considerable time inprayers, the place was then called “Vasara” and 1 2
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  19. 19. 1turned into Basara due to the influence of theMarathi language in the region.Sharada PeethWas the famous temple of the goddessSaraswati (Sharda) in Northern Kashmir on thebanks of what is known as the Neelum river inPakistan and Kashmir (referred to asKishenganga river in India) Its ruins are now inthe Neelum District of Pakistan AdministeredKashmir near the Line of Control (LoC).Kashmir was sometimes called Sharada Deshbecause of this temple.The place was once a celebrated centre oflearning headed by Kashmiri Brahmins. It is atthis temple that Sankaracharya received theright to sit on the Sarvajnanapeetham (throne ofwisdom). It was a centre of great Sanskritscholars and Kashmiri Pundits and was afamous centre of Buddhism and laterHinduism. Sharada script and Takri (fromwhich Gurmukhi is derived) is supposed to beoriginated from the Sharada Peeth. Originallymore widespread, its use became later restrictedto Kashmir, and it is now rarely used except bythe Kashmiri Pundit community for ceremonialpurposes. 1 211
  20. 20. 1There are other temples dedicated to Saraswatiin Deupatan, Kamalakshi, Thimi, Bhadrakaliand Swyambhu, Neel Saraswati at Gairidhara,in the Kathmandu Valley. Saraswati Temple inRoorkee, Prthudakeshwara Temples in Pehowa,Haryana were built by the Marathas in honor ofSaraswati. Saradamba Temple is there inSringeri.Saraswati Puja and festivalsSaraswati Puja is celebrated with enthusiasm invarious parts in India in festive moodSaraswati Puja in Eastern IndiaIn the eastern part of India, West Bengal, Biharand Assam, Saraswati Puja is celebrated in theMagha month (January-February). It coincideswith Vasant Panchami i.e. the 5th day of thebright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha.This Panchami is also known as SaraswatiDay, because it is believed that on this day thegoddess was born. People place books near theGoddess statue or picture and worship theGoddess. Book reading is not allowed on thisday.The color yellow is given special importanceon Vasant Panchami. On this day, Saraswati isdressed in yellow garments and worshipped.People prefer to wear yellow clothes on this 1 211
  21. 21. 1holy day. Sweetmeats of yellowish hue aredistributed among relations and friends. Thegoddess is also offered honey on this day.Some people feed Brahmins, some performPitri-Tarpan (ancestor worship) and manyworship Kamadeva, the god of love on this day.However, the most significant aspect of thisday is that children are taught their first wordson this day, for it is considered an auspiciousday to begin how to read and write. Educationalinstitutions organize special prayer forSaraswati. The great Indian guru Pandit MadanMohan Malviya laid the foundations of theworld class academic institution of KashiHindu Vishwa Vidyalaya on Vasant Panchami.Saintly people and individuals inclined towardsspiritual progress attach great importance to theworship of goddess Saraswati. As a practice,only educated people and men of principleworship goddess Saraswati for spiritualenlightenment. In their opinion, there can be nocomparison between the king and the learned orthe spiritually advanced. The king is honoredwithin his kingdom, whereas the learned isrespected or worshipped throughout the world. 1 211
  22. 22. 1Ritual worship of Saraswati in the BengalitraditionThe idol is in white, symbolizing purity. Thesari of the deity is white or yellow dyed in thenatural dye made from “Shiuli” flowers. Theplace where the idol is kept for the puja isdecorated with rangoli and the design of a fishis considered auspicious. A flat low stool madeof wood is covered with yellow cloth and theidol is placed on it, facing east. Then, the faceof the idol remains covered till the priest beginschanting the mantras at the commencement ofthe puja. A green coconut is placed on anearthen pot with a red checked cotton clothcalled “Gamcha”. For the actual puja, flowersare used but the most significant is the Palashor flame of the forest and marigold flowers.Students place their books in front of thegoddess. The offerings to the goddess aremainly fruits: most significant are berries fromthe wild plum tree. Other fruits include tapioca.Sweets must include puffed rice, jaggery andyogurt. Family members bathe early and dressin yellow attire and assemble in front of theGoddess. The earthen pot is tied with a stringwhich will be untied only on the next day bythe priest before Bisarjan. A havan puja is doneby the priest using special wood, ghee, josssticks and incense. There absence of a burntsmell signifies the success of the puja. A diya 1 211
  23. 23. 1or lamp is also kept lit along with the prasad. Ahandful of flowers particularly marigolds andflame of the forest are given to each devotee tooffer to the goddess as “pushpanjali”–Pushp,meaning flowers and Anjali meaning offering.The offering is done in batches of devoteeswho repeat mantras after the priest. Arati isperformed by the priest in the morning andagain in the evening. This is done whilechanting Sanskrit slokas and accompanied bythe blowing of conch shells and the beating ofdrums. The lit lamp used during the Arati ispassed around for each devotee to warm his/her hand and touch their heads. Nobodytouches books on that day. This signifies thatthe goddess is blessing the books placed infront of her that day.Saraswati Puja in South IndiaIn the southern states of India, Saraswati Puja isconducted during the Navaratri. In Tamil Nadu,Saraswati Puja is conducted along with theAyudha Puja (the worship of weapons, andimplements including machines). On the ninthday of Navaratri, i.e. the Mahanavami day,books and all musical instruments areceremoniously kept in front of the GoddessSaraswati early at dawn and worshipped withspecial prayers. No studies or any performanceof arts is carried out; as it is considered that the 1 F11
  24. 24. 1Goddess herself is blessing the books and theinstruments. The festival concludes on the tenthday of Navaratri (Vijaya Dashami) and theGoddess is worshipped again before the booksand the musical instruments are removed. It iscustomary to start the study afresh on this day,which is called Vidyarambham (literally,Commencement of Knowledge).In Kerala, the last three days of the Navaratrifestival, i.e. Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami arecelebrated as Saraswati Puja. The celebrationsstart with the Puja Veypu (Placing forWorship). It consists of placing the books forPuja on the Ashtami day. It may be in one’sown house, in the local Nursery School run bytraditional teachers, or in the local temple. Thebooks will be taken out for reading, afterworship, only on the morning of the third day(Vijaya Dashami). Children are happy sincethey are not expected to study on these days.On the Vijaya Dashami day, Kerala celebratesthe Ezhuthiniruthu or Initiation of Writing forthe little children before they are admitted tonursery schools. This is also calledVidyarambham. The child is made to write forthe first time on the rice spread in a plate withthe index finger, guided by an elder of thefamily or by a reputed teacher. The little oneswill have to write “Hari Shri Ganapataye 1 F211
  25. 25. 1Namah” and recite the same to mark theauspicious entry in to the world of education.In some parts of Maharashtra especiallyvidarbha region Saraswati, also known asSharada Devi, is worshiped in the form of idolsitting on peacock. The festival is known asShardotsav after Navaratri festival.Saraswati vandana and its meaningIt is believed that every intellectual workshould begin with Saraswati vandana and theblessings of the goddess. Saraswati vandana isa beautiful hymn composed in Sanskrit whichdepicts Saraswati in a beautiful manner. At theend; a boon is asked by the devotees of thisgoddess of knowledge for the protection andremoval of all the lethargy “Ya Kundendu Tushaara Haara Dhavalaa Ya Shubhra Vastraavrita Ya Veena Vara Danda Manditakara Ya Shveta Padmaasana Ya Brahma Achyutaha Shankara Prabrithibhih Devai Sadaa vandita Saa Maam Paatu Saraswati Bhagavati Nishyesha Jyaadyaapaha” 1 FF11
  26. 26. 1 Meaning “Oh Goddess Saraswati, Who is fair as a jasmine flower The moon or a snow flake, Who is dressed in white And whose hands are adorned by veena Who is seated on a white lotus, To whom Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara pray, Please protect us and remove our mental inertia” Om! Peace Peace Peace…. 1 F11