Saraswati is the Goddess of leaming, knowledge, and wisdom. The Sanskrit word sara means "essence" and swa means "self." Thus Saraswati means "the essence of the self." Saraswati is represented in Hindu mythology as the divine consort of Lord Brahma, the Creator of the universe. Since knowledge is necessary for creation, Saraswati symbolizes the creative power of Brahma. Goddess Saraswati is worshipped by all persons interested in knowledge, especially students, teachers, scholars, and scientists.

In Her popular images and pictures, Goddess Saraswati is generally depicted with four arms (some pictures may show only two arms), wearing a white sari and seated on a white lotus. She holds a book and a rosary in Her rear two hands, while the front two hands are engaged in the playing of a lute (veena). Her right leg is shown slightly pushing against Her left leg. She uses a swan as Her vehicle. There is a peacock by Her side gazing at Her. This symbolism illustrates the following spiritual ideas:

  • The lotus is a symbol of the Supreme Reality, and a white lotus also denotes supreme knowledge. By sitting on a lotus, Saraswati signifies that She is Herself rooted in the Supreme Reality, and symbolizes supreme knowledge. The white color symbolizes purity and knowledge. The white sari that the Goddess is wearing denotes that She is the embodiment of pure knowledge.
  • The four amms denote Her omnipresence and omnipotence. The two front amms indicate Her activity in the physical world and the two back arms signify Her presence in the spiritual world. The four hands represent the four elements of the inner personality. The mind (manas) is represented by the front right hand, the intellect (buddhi) by the front left hand, the conditioned consciousness (chitta) by the rear left hand, and the ego (ahankara) by the rear right hand.
  • The left side of the body symbolizes the qualities of the heart and the right side symbolizes activities of the mind and intellect. A book in the rear left hand signifies that knowledge acquired must be used with love and kindness to promote prosperity of mankind.
  • The rosary signifies concentration, meditation, and contemplation, leading to samadhi, or union with God. A rosary in the rear right hand representing ego conveys that true knowledge acquired with love and devotion melts the ego and results in liberation (moksha) of the seeker from the bondage to the physical world.
  • The Goddess is shown playing a musical instrument that is held in Her front hands, which denote mind and intellect. This symbol conveys that the seeker must tune his mind and intellect in order to live in perfect harmony with the world. Such harmonious living enables the individual to utilize acquired knowledge for the welfare of all mankind.
  • Two swans are depicted on the left side of the Goddess. A swan is said to have a sensitive beak that enables it to distinguish pure milk from a mixture of milk and water. A swan, therefore, symbolizes the power of discrimination, or the ability to discriminate between right and wrong or good and bad. Saraswati uses the swan as Her carrier. This indicates that one must acquire and apply knowledge with discrimination for the good of mankind. Knowledge that is dominated by ego can destroy the world.
  • A peacock is sitting next to Saraswati and is anxiously waiting to serve as Her vehicle. A peacock depicts unpredictable behavior as its moods can be influenced by the changes in the weather. Saraswati is using a swan as a vehicle and not the peacock. This signifies that one should overcome fear, indecision, and fickleness in order to acquire true knowledge.
Literally SarasvatI means 'the flowing one'. In the !J..gveda she represents a river and the deity presiding over it. Hence, she is connected with fertility and purification. Here are some of the names used to describe her: Sarada (giver of essence), VagIsvarI (mistress of speech), BrahmI (wife of Brahma), Mahavidya (knowledge supreme) and so on. It is obvious that the concept of SarasvatI, developed by the later mythological literature is already here. The 'flow¬ing one' can represent speech also if taken in an allegorical sense. Hence SarasvatI represents power and intelligence from which organized creation proceeds.

She is considered as the personification of all knowl¬edge-arts, sciences, crafts, and skills. Knowledge is the antithesis of the darkness of ignorance. Hence she is depicted as pure white in colour. Since she is the represen¬tation of all sciences, arts, crafts and skills she has to be extraordinarily beautiful and graceful. Clad in a spot¬less white apparel and seated on a lotus seat, she holds in her four hands a VIQa (lute), Ak~amala (rosary) and Pus taka (book). Though these are most common, there are several variations. Some of the other objects shown are: Pasa (noose), Ailkusa (goad), Padma (lotus), Trisula (trident), Sailkha (conch), Cakra (discus) and so on. Occasionally she is shown with five faces or with eight hands. Even three eyes or blue neck are not uncommon. In this case she is the MahasarasvatI aspect of Durga or ParvatL
Though no separate carrier vehicle is mentioned, Harhsa or swan, the vehicle of Brahma, her spouse, is usually associated with her also. In popular mythological literature and pictures, a peacock is also shown as her carrier vehicle.

Coming to the symbology: Being the consort of Brahma the creator, she represents his power and intelli¬gence, without which organized creation is impossible. To show that this intelligent power is stupendous and abso¬lutely pure, she is pictured as white and dazzling.

As usual, the four arms show her unimpeded power in all directions or her all-pervasiveness.
Being the goddess of learning, it is but proper that SarasvatI is shown holding a book in her left hand. The book represents all areas of secular sciences. Mere intellec¬tual learning, without a heart tempered by higher feelings, sentiments and emotions, is as dry as saw-dust. So she holds a VIQa (lute) on which she actually plays, to show the need for the cultivation of fine-arts. Then there is the Ak~amala (rosary) held in the right hand. This symbolises all spiritual sciences or Yoga including Tapas ( austerities), meditation and Japa (repetition of the divine name). By holding the book in the left hand and the rosary in the right hand she is obviously teaching us that spiritual sciences are more important than secular sciences.

The peacock with its beautiful plumage stands for this world in all its glory. Since the attractions of the world lead the spiritual aspirant astray, the peacock can actually sym¬bolise A vidya (ignorance or nescience). On the other hand the swan, which is supposed to possess the peculiar power of separating milk from water, stands for Viveka (wisdom, discrimination) and hence for Vidya (knowledge). Though it is true that Vidya or Paravidya (spiritual illumination)

Goddess Saraswati (Saraswathi) Names

 Name Of Goddess Name Meaning
BharathiSaraswatiGoddess of knowledge and education
GayathriSaraswatiMother of the vedas
GyanadaSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
HamsiniSaraswatiOne who rides a swan
KadambariSaraswatiFemale cuckoo
MahaswetaSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
MedhSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
MedhaSaraswatiIntellect, Goddess Saraswati
PavakiSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
ShardambhaSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
ShutradeviSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
VagishwariSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
VanishriSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
VanmayiSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati
VeenavaniSaraswatiGoddess Saraswati

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