Monday, April 1, 2013

Goddess Saraswathi (सरस्वती)

Goddess Saraswati
  Goddess Saraswati (
सरस्वती) is the Goddess of wisdom and learning. Saraswati is the one who gives the essence (sara) of our own self (swa). She is considered as the personification of all knowledge - arts, sciences, crafts and other skills. She has a beautiful and elegant presence, is pure white in colour, clad in a white sari, seated on a white lotus, representing purity and brilliance. She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning; mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has the sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus (a symbol of true knowledge) in the second. With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on the veena.
  Goddess Saraswati  is the consort of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. Scripture says that when Brahma resolved to create this world, he went into deep thought. In the course of his contemplation, there appear a hollowed mark on his forehead. After a few moments there is a girl emerged from that celestial sign. Lord Brahma asked: "Who are you?" The girl replied: "My birth has been from your contemplation. Pease give me work." Lord Brahma asked her to live on the tongue of people and regulate their speech as "Vageshwari", the goddess of speech. While Brhma is the lord of creation, Saraswati is the goddess of creativity. She is the personification of wisdom, learning, intelligence, music and art. As the incarnation of speech, she presides over  knowledge.
 The Rigvedic hymns dedicated to Saraswati mention her as a mighty river with creative, purifying, and nourishing properties. Veda says that the path of knowledge has the power to dispel ignorance of what is permanent and what is passing. Celebrating Saraswati is a call to the higher mind, the beginning of a deep desire to understand the purpose and meaning of life.
 Goddess Saraswati Puja this year on February 15, 2013 


Goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful, white -skinned goddess, dressed in pure white often seated on a  swan (carrier)  or on a white  lotus. She is mainly associated with the color white, which signifies the purity of true knowledge.She is not adorned heavily with jewels and gold, dressed modestly - representing her preference of knowledge over worldly material things.
  Saraswati depicted wearing white cloths. because the colour white is a symbol of the purity of true knowledge which she bestows on the seeker. Similarly, her association with the swan and the peacock too stress the wisdom aspect.  The swan is said to have the ability to separate milk from water and drink milk only, which is a metaphor of the way a seeker has to continually discriminate between what is real and permanent and what is transient. 

Goddess Saraswati (सरस्वती)
  the Goddess of wisdom and learning.
या देवी सर्वभूतेषु सरस्वतीरुपेण संस्थिता |
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः || 

The peacock's vanity at its own beautiful plumage is a reminder of how a true seeker of knowledge has to learn to detach himself from the body by understanding the transitory nature of physical appearance. 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 4 vedas, the  sacred books of Hindus. She is shown to hold the following in her four hands:

1 In First hand a  pustaka (sacred Vedas) , representing the universal, divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as her perfection of the sciences and the scriptures.
 2. In Second hand a akshamala (garland of crystals to meditate), representing the power of meditation and spirituality.
 3. In Third hand a kamandalu (pot of sacred water), representing creative and purificatory powers, or the smooth flow of knowledge, like water, stored in a pot.
 4. In Fourth hand , a musical instrument (Veena) that represents her perfection of all arts and sciences.
  The vahana (carrier) is a  white swan is often located next to her feet. Swan, in Sanskrit, is called "Hamsa", hence Goddess Saraswati is also referred to as Hamsa-vahini,. It is said that if the  sacred swan  offered a mixture of milk and water, he will drink the only milk. Thus swan symbolizes discrimination between the good and the bad or the eternal and the evanescent. The swan and her association with the lotus flower also point to her ancient origin. 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 eternal truth. 

Saraswati's different forms

 MahaSaraswati  is the presiding Goddess of the Final episode of Devi Mahatmya. Here she is a part of the trinity of MahaKali, MahaLakshmi and MahaSaraswati. She is depicted as eight armed.  MahaSaraswati destroyed Sumbha and other asuras. 

  MahaNeel Saraswati (Mahavidya Neel Saraswati)

  Mahaneel Saraswati, or NeelSaraswati, is another form of Mahavidya Tara  or UgraTara, or Ugrajataa. This form is mainly associated and has a mixture of the Mahaayana and the Vajraayana sects of Buddhism. Goddess Tara is said to be Vaak-siddhi-pradayini (bestower of the different mystic powers of speech).

Matangi (Mahavidya)

  Matangi or Mahavidya or Rajasyamala has a dark emerald complexion and has three eyes, holding the veena, and is the another (Tantric) form of the Goddess Saraswati. The Goddess Meenakshi at Madurai is worshipped as Matangi.  

Saraswati's mythological stories
   In the Rig-Veda (6,61,7), Saraswati is credited, in association with Indra, with killing the serpentine being Vritraasura, a demon which hoarded all of the earth's water and so represents drought, darkness, and chaos. She is often seen as equivalent to other Vedic goddesses such as Vak, Savitri, and Gayatri. Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts, and power. She is not only worshipped for secular knowledge, but for the true divine knowledge essential to achieve moksha. She is also referred to as Shonapunya, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘one purified of blood’. In some Puranas (like Skanda Purana) she is associated with Shiva and in some Tantras with Ganesha.
   According to Brahma Vaivarta Purana 2.6.13-95 Vishnu has three wives, who constantly quarrel with each other, so that eventually, he keeps only Lakshmi, giving Ganga to Shiva and Saraswati to Brahma.
   Brahma created the universe with the help of Saraswati. Brahma was the guardian of the cosmos. He too needed Saraswati’s support to sustain the cosmos. Using her knowledge he instituted and maintained dharma, sacred laws that ensure stability and growth in society. Brahma also needed the help of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, who gave him the wherewithal to ensure cosmic order. The question arose: who did Brahma need more? Lakshmi or Saraswati? Wealth or knowledge? The goddesses argued, “Knowledge does not fill an empty stomach.” Said Saraswati. “Wealth keeps man alive but gives no meaning to life.” Said Saraswati. “I need both knowledge and wealth to sustain the cosmos. Without knowledge I cannot plan. Without wealth I cannot implement a plan. Wealth sustains life; the arts give value to life. Thus both Lakshmi and Saraswati are needed to live a full life. 

Saraswati River
   It is said that the Vedic Saraswati River  was formed by the present headwaters of the Yamuna River. In ancient times, after they had left the Himalayan foothills, the waters of the Yamuna turned west. The Sutlej river joined the Saraswati somewhere near Bahawalpur. Thus  the wide river Saraswati emptied into the Rann of Kutch, which at the time was a more integral part of the Arabian Sea.  Along the course of the Saraswati, the Harappan Civilization developed. The earliest known examples of writing in India have been found in the ruined cities that line the now dry riverbed of the ancient waterway.
   Between 2000 B.C. and 1700 B.C., seismic activity caused the waters of the river's two main sources to change course. The Sutlej moved course westward and became a tributary of the Indus River. The Yamuna moved course eastward and became a tributary of the Ganges. The tremendous loss of water which resulted from these movements caused the once mighty river to become sluggish and dry up in the Thar Desert without ever reaching the sea. Without any water for irrigation or transportation, the dense population of the river basin soon shifted east with the waters of the Yamuna to the Ganges River valley. Late Vedic texts record the river as disappearing at Vinasana (literally, "the disappearing"), and as joining both the Yamuna and Ganges as an invisible river.
  Recently, archaeologists using satellite images have been able to trace the course of the river. A small channel of water flows near Kurukshetra. A nearby signboard denoting the former path of the once great Saraswati River can be seen along the main highway
Saraswati Puja (festival )
  Saraswati Puja is performed on the 5th day of Magha month of Hindu Calendar (This year on February 8,, 2011). In the eastern part of India, Odisha,West Bengal, Bihār and Assam, Saraswati Puja is celebrated in the Magha month. It coincides with Vasant Panchami or Shree Panchami or. the 5th day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha. This year Vasant Panchami  on February 15, 2013
  On the Saraswati Puja day, books and all musical instruments are ceremoniously kept near the goddess 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. In major part of India  Navratri is associated with Goddess Durga, but down South is celebrated as Saraswati Puja.
  The goddess's abode is mentioned as being in the state of Kashmir, among the Himalayas. Her favorite fruit is supposed to be the apple. In hindu mythology, great significance is attached to offering honey to this goddess, as honey is representative of perfect knowledge.

 Goddess Saraswati Vandana
  Yaa Kundendu tushaara haaradhavalaa, Yaa shubhravastraavritha
 Yaa veenavara dandamanditakara, Yaa shwetha padmaasana
 Yaa brahmaachyutha shankara prabhutibhir Devaisadaa Vanditha
 Saa Maam Paatu Saraswatee Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadyaapahaa
English Translation:
"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."
  या देवी सर्वभूतेषु सरस्वतीरुपेण संस्थिता |
  नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ||

  Goddess Saraswati and Yoga
  Saraswati gives the essence of one’s self. She provides us with the mundane and spiritual knowledge of our lives. She is a representation of the science of life, or the Vedanta, which attempts to unravel the essentials of human existence and the universe concealed within. She points to the ultimate aim of human life which is to realize the true nature of the self even if it requires an enormous amount of determination, perseverance and patience. The knowledge that Saraswati renders through continual worship, devotion and discipline is one of an integral vision in which both temporal and spiritual levels of study are meditated upon, practiced and developed.  She is the impeller of true, sweet speech, she is the creative process with the syllable, ‘OM.’ She is the potent quality of sound.
 There is a Triveni-Sangam (confluence of three) within our subtle-body ( Sukshma- Sharira ). There is a  Triveni at the spot between our eyebrows, the ajna-chakra, which is the actual prayaga. He whose mind  passes through this Chakra, becomes one with the Absolute. The three vital Nadis concur at this point - Ida, Pingala and Sushumna . Normally people breathe through Ida or Pingala , the left or the right nostril but the perfect yogins breath through the Sushumna which cannot be perceived by others. Sushumna is Saraswati,who is antah-Salila whereas the other two are Yamuna and Ganga respectively.
  Goddess Saraswati in other Religions
  Jainism: In Jainism, Sarawati has been given many titles, a  Dispeller of Darkness and Ignorance, The Remover of Infatuations, The Destroyer of Miseries and The Bestower of Knowledge. In Janism, she also stands as a symbol of purity.Ancient Tamil works such as the Manimekalai and Tiruvachakam, as well as Jain literary texts like the Bhagavati Sutra and Saraswati Kalpa extol her as the guiding deity of learning.
  Buddhism: In early Buddhist mandalas, various divinities were depicted of Mahayana Buddhism. In those early Buddhist mandalas, Saraswati is located in the south-west of the innermost circle, between Brahma and Vishnu, symbolizing her close connection with these two deities. In Buddhism, Sarasvati is the Bestower of Knowledge, Intelligence & Memory; and she confers wisdom and learning upon her worshippers. She possesses many forms within Buddhism, including Vajra-Saraswati, Vajrana-Saraswati, Vajra-Sarada and Mahasaraswati. During a period of Tantric dominance within Buddhism, many of the Mahayana Buddhist texts were transmitted through the Himalayan passes to Nepal, Tibet, Java, China and eventually Japan. 

  Goddess Saraswati temples
  Goddess Saraswati Key shrines in India are at Kootanur in Tamilnadu, Shringeri and Gadag in Karnataka and Basara in Andhra Pradesh. An ancient temple, referred to as the Sarvajna Peetha, is believed to have existed in Kashmir atop the Takht-i-Sulaiman hill.


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