At the beginning of creation there was chaos all over. Brahma did not know how to bring order. While thinking over the problem he heard a voice say that knowledge could help him achieve order.
So from Brahma’s mouth emerged the magnificent figure of Saraswati- the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Dressed in white, she rode on a swan, with books in one hand and the veena, a musical instrument, in the other.
By way of sense, thought, understanding, and communication she helped Brahma see how to change chaos into creation. When she played the veena, he heard the soothing music amidst the roar of commotion. Chaos started taking shape; the sun, the moon, and the stars were born. The oceans filled and seasons changed. The joyous Brahma then named Saraswati, Vagdevi, the goddess of speech and sound. Thus Brahma became the creator of the world with Saraswati as his source of wisdom.
Saraswati: Connection to Yoga
Sarasvati 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 Sarasvati 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. Therefore, she allows one to exist in the material world while striving for the plane of Brahman. The connection one forms with Sarasvati is one with words and music, which are the very source of the cosmos, the Brahman. She is the impeller of true, sweet speech, she is the creative process with the syllable, ‘OM.’ She is the potent quality of sound. Sarasvati is the ocean of understanding, the consciousness which vibrates with different types of knowledge. She is the cause of all movements, the source of spiritual light, remover of all ignorance and promoter of knowledge. Students that are here to discover, invent and create a new world fall under Sarasvati’’s grace, that is why we must be open and disciplined to acquire the knowledge which she can give to us. Sarasvati shows that human destiny involves the refinement of nature. Being fully human necessitates molding, enhancing and refining the natural world to make it habitable. Artistic creation as well as knowledge of the sciences epitomize human culture; integrated knowledge refines the world into something beautiful and special.
Saraswati: Rituals and Festivals
Ritual worship of Saraswati in the Bengali Tradition: The idol is in white , symbolizing purity. The sari of the Deity is white or yellow dyed in the natural dye made from “Shiuli” flowers. The place where the idol is kept for the puja is decorated with Rangoli and the design of a fish is considered auspicious. A flat low stool made of wood is covered with yellow cloth and the idol is placed on it, facing East. Then, the face of the idol remains covered till the priest begins chanting the mantras at the commencement of the puja. A green coconut is placed on an earthen pot with a red checked cotton cloth called “Gamcha”. For the actual puja, flowers are used but the most significant is the Palash or flame of the forest and marigold flowers. Students place their books in front of the goddess. The offerings to the goddess are mainly fruits: most significant are Berries from the wild plum tree. Other fruits include tapioca. Sweets must include puffed rice, jaggery and yogurt. Family members bathe early and dress in yellow attire and assemble in front of the Goddess. The earthen pot is tied with a string which will be untied only on the next day by the priest before Bisarjan. A havan puja is done by the priest using special wood, ghee, joss sticks and incense. There absence of a burnt smell signifies the success of the puja. A diya or lamp is also kept lit along with the prasad. A handful of flowers particularly marigolds and flame of the forest are given to each devotee to offer to the goddess as “pushpanjali”Pushp, meaning flowers and Anjali meaning offering. The offering is done in batches of devotees who repeat mantras after the priest. Arati is performed by the priest in the morning and again in the evening. this is done while chanting sanskrit slokas and accompanied by the blowing of conch shells and the beating of drums. The lit lamp used during the Arati is passed around for each devotee to warm his/ her hand and touch their heads. Nobody touches books on that day. This signifies that the goddess is blessing the books placed in front of her that day. Basant Panchami: is celebrated on the fifth lunar day of the month of Magh, which is between the moths of January and February. It is also celebrated as Shikshapatri Jayanti. On this day, yellow is the predominant color as all are garbed in bright yellow clothes. This has to do with the onset of spring and the blooming of yellow mustard flowers in the fields. There is a great deal of festivity with the flying of colorful kites. It also happens to be the second most popular festival in Lahore, Pakistan and the incorporation of this traditionally hindu festival into modern Islamic culture has an interesting story behind it.
Temples Dedicated to Saraswati
There are Saraswati temples in Deupatan, Kamalakshi, Thimi, Bhadrakali and Swyambhu, Neel Saraswati at Gairidhara, among others in the Kathmandu Valley. Saraswati Temple in the University of Roorkee. Prthudakeshwara Temples in Pehowa, Haryana. They were built by the Marathas in honour of Saraswati. Saradamba Temple in Sringeri. Sarada Temple in the Neelam Valley in Kashmir. Basar: Situated 50 Kms from Nizamabad at Basara ,on the banks of river Godavari, the Sri Gnana Saraswathi Temple is the only temple in South India dedicated to the Goddess of Learning.
Saraswati: Connection to Other Religions
Sarasvati is well known in a variety of other religions outside of Hinduism. She appears in Jainism and Buddhism, and has made her way from India to Japan as well as to other places around the world. In Jainism, Saravsvati has been given many titles, a few of these include: The Dispeller of Darkness & Ignorance, The Remover of Infatuations, The Destroyer of Miseries and The Bestower of Knowledge. As in Hinduism, she also stands as a symbol of purity. In the transition from early (Theravada) Buddhism to Mahayana Buddhism, many elements of Hinduism were transplanted into Buddhism. In early Buddhist mandalas, various divinities were depicted of Mahayana Buddhism. In those early Buddhist mandalas, Sarasvati is located in the southwest 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 VajraSarasvati, VajranaSarasvati, VajraSarada and Mahasarasvati. 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. In Tibet, she is known as VajraSarasvati and is often depicted as wielding a Thunderbolt (vajra). In Japan, the goddess Benten is seen as a manifestation of Sarasvati. Her full name in Japanese is DaiBenZaiTen or The Great Divinity of Reasoning Faculty. She is believed to confer power, happiness, riches, long life, fame and reasoning powers. In later times she came to be regarded as one of the seven deities of good fortune. A myth in Japan speaks of a hideous pond dwelling serpent that terrorized the villages and devoured the children for miles around. Benten could not bear to witness such destruction. Therefore, she stirred up an earthquake and hovered above the serpent’s lair in the dust clouds. Descending, she called it forth. At first Benten was filled with loathing. But the serpent king wooed her with soft and tender words until her heart was melted, and making him promise to mend his savage ways she married him. It is interesting to note that BenTen, as goddess of speech was won by word