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Saraswati: All you need to know about Her, Her worship

Etymology, theology and iconography of Saraswati, described with rituals for Her puja in this exhaustive exposition a day before Vasanta Panchami

Saraswati (or Sarasvatī) is the goddess of knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom and learning. She is one of the Tridevi, along with the goddesses Lakshmi and Parvati. The word “Saraswati” is a sandhi (संधि) or fusion of saras (सरस्) meaning “pooling water”, but also sometimes translated as “speech”; and vati (वती) meaning “she who possesses”. Originally associated with the river or rivers known as Saraswati, this combination, therefore, means “she who has ponds, lakes, and pooling water” or occasionally “she who possesses speech”. It is also a Sanskrit composite word of sarasu-vati (सरसु+अति) which means “one with plenty of water”.

In some interpretations, “Sara” is translated as “Essence”, and “Sva” is translated as “Self”. Thus, the name Saraswati would translate to “She who helps realize the essence of self” or “She who reconciles the essence (of Parabrahman) with one’s self”.

Saraswati appears as a reference to a river as well as a significant deity in Rigveda. In initial passages, the word refers to River Sarasvati and is mentioned as one among several northwestern Indian rivers such as the Drishadvati. Saraswati, then, connotes a river deity. In Book 2, the Rigveda describes Saraswati as the best of mothers, of rivers, of goddesses.

अम्बितमे नदीतमे देवितमे सरस्वति

Rigveda 2.41.16

Translation: “Best of mothers, the best of rivers, best of goddesses, Saraswati.”

Linguistic variants of Saraswati

In the Devanagari script, her name is rendered as सरस्वती. In Telugu, Saraswati is also known as Chaduvula Thalli (చదువుల తల్లి) and Shārada (శారద). In Konkani, she is referred to as Shārada, Vīnapani, Pustakadhārini, Vidyādāyini. In Kannada, variants of her name include Sharade, Sharadamba, Vāni, and Vīnapani in the famous Sringeri temple. In Tamil, she is also known as Kalaimagal (கலைமகள்), Nāmagal (நாமகள்), Kalaivāni (கலைவாணி), Vāni (வாணி) and Bhārathi (பாரதி).

In the Tiruvalluva Maalai, a collection of fifty-five Tamil verses praising the Kural literature and its author Valluvar, she is referred to as Nāmagal and is believed to have composed the second verse.

In India, she is locally spelt as সৰস্বতী in Assamese, সরস্বতী in Bengali, സരസ്വതി in Malayalam, சரஸ்வதி in Tamil, and ସରସ୍ଵତୀ in Odia. Outside Nepal and India, she is known in Burmese as Thurathadi (သူရဿတီ, pronounced [θùja̰ðədì] or [θùɹa̰ðədì]) or Tipitaka Medaw (တိပိဋကမယ်တော်, pronounced [tḭpḭtəka̰ mɛ̀dɔ̀]), in Chinese as Biàncáitiān (辯才天), in Japanese as Benzaiten (弁才天/弁財天) and in Thai as Suratsawadi (สุรัสวดี) or Saratsawadi (สรัสวดี).

Other names of Saraswati

Saraswati is known by many names in ancient Hindu literature. Some examples of synonyms for Saraswati include ब्राह्मणी (Brahmani: the power of Brahma), ब्राह्मी (Brahmi: goddess of sciences, this happens to be the name representing several ancient Indian scripts as well), भरदी (Bharadi: goddess of history), वाणी (Vani) and वाची (Vachi), both referring to the flow of music/song, melodious speech, eloquent speaking respectively, वर्णेश्वरी (Varnesvari: goddess of letters), कविजिह्वाग्रवासिनी (Kavijihvagravasini: one who dwells on the tongue of poets). Goddess Saraswati is known also as विद्यादात्री (Vidyadatri: the goddess who provides knowledge), वीणावादिनी (Vīnavadini: the goddess who plays the vīna, the musical instrument held by Goddess Saraswati), पुस्तकधारिणी (Pustakadharini: the goddess who carries a book), वीणापाणी (Vīnapani: the goddess who carries a vīna in her hands), हंसवाहिनी (Hamsavahini: the goddess who sits on a swan) and वाग्देवी (Vagdevi, the goddess of speech).

Other names are अंबिका (Ambika), भारती (Bharati), चंद्रिका (Chandrika), देवी (Devi), गोमती (Gomati), हंससना (Hamsasana), सौदामिनी (Saudamini), श्वेतांबरा (Shwetambara), सुभद्रा (Subhadra), वैष्णवी (Vaishnavi), वसुधा (Vasudha), विद्या (Vidya), विद्यारूपा (Vidyarupa), and विंध्यवासिनी (Vindhyavasini).

She is addressed also as शारदा (the one who offers sāra or the essence), शारदा (the one who loves the autumn season), वीणापुस्तकधारिणी (Vīnā-Pustaka-Dhārini: the one holding books and a Vīna), वागेश्वरी (Vāgeshvari: both meaning “goddess of speech”), वाणी (Vāni: speech), वरदानायकी (Varadanāyaki: the one bestowing boons), सावित्री (Sāvitri: consort of Brahma) and गायत्री (Gāyatri: mother of Vedas).

Theology of Saraswati

Mentioned first in the RgVeda (ऋग्वेद, also spelt as Rig Veda or Rigveda), the oldest Veda, Saraswati has remained significant as a goddess from the Vedic period through the modern period of Hindu traditions.

Saraswati is treated on par with the river Ganges by modern religious Hindus. In hymns of Book 10 of Rigveda, she is declared to be the “possessor of knowledge”. Her importance grows in the Vedas composed after Rigveda and in Brāhmanas, and the word evolves in its meaning from “waters that purify”, to “that which purifies”, to “vācha (speech) that purifies”, to “knowledge that purifies”, and ultimately into a spiritual concept of a goddess that embodies knowledge, arts, music, melody, muse, language, rhetoric, eloquence, creative work and anything whose flow purifies the essence and self of a person.

In Upanishads and Dharmashastras, Saraswati is invoked to remind the reader to meditate on virtue, virtuous emoluments, the meaning and the very essence of one’s activity, one’s action.

Sources from scriptures

Vedas: Saraswati is mentioned several times in the Rigveda, with a number of tributes offered to her. An example:

इ॒मा जुह्वा॑ना यु॒ष्मदा नमो॑भि॒: प्रति॒ स्तोमं॑ सरस्वति जुषस्व।
तव॒ शर्म॑न्प्रि॒यत॑मे॒ दधा॑ना॒ उप॑ स्थेयाम शर॒णं न वृ॒क्षम्॥
इमा जुह्वाना युष्मदा नमोभिः प्रति स्तोमं सरस्वति जुषस्व।
तव शर्मन्प्रियतमे दधाना उप स्थेयाम शरणं न वृक्षम्॥

Rigveda, 7.95.5

“Presenting to you, Sarasvatī, these oblations with reverence (may we receive from you affluence); be gratified by our praise and may we, being retained in your dearest felicity, ever recline upon you, as on a sheltering tree.”

Brahmanda Purana: The birth of Saraswati from the mind of Brahma is described in the Brahmanda Purana. Brahmā, while getting ready for Creation and thus in meditation of the sattvaguṇa (sublime quality), began swelling up in his mind wherefrom a girl was born. Brahmā asked her who she was.

The goddess answered:

I am born from you. You assign me a seat and duties.” Then Brahmā told her that her name was Sarasvatī and ordained that she should stay on the tip of everybody’s tongue. You dance especially on the tongues of learned people. You should also exist on earth in the form of a river, and assuming a third form you should live in me too.

Brahmanda Purana, Chapter 43

Sarasvatī agreed to this.

Bhagavata Purana: It describes Saraswati as originally being one of the three wives of Vishnu, along with Lakshmi and Ganga. In the midst of a conversation, Saraswati observed that Ganga playfully kept glancing at Vishnu, behind Lakshmi and her back. Frustrated, Saraswati launched a furious tirade against Ganga, accusing her of stealing Vishnu’s love away from her. When Ganga appealed to her husband to help her, he opted to remain neutral, not wishing to participate in a quarrel between his three wives, whom he loved equally.

When Lakshmi attempted to soothe Saraswati’s anger by reasoning with her, the jealous goddess grew angry with her as well, accusing her of disloyalty towards her. She cursed Lakshmi to be born as the Tulasi plant upon the earth. Ganga, now enraged that Lakshmi had been cursed because she had defended her, cursed Saraswati that she would be incarnated as a river on earth. Saraswati issued the same curse against Ganga, informing her that sinful men would cleanse themselves of their sins with her water.

As a result, Vishnu proclaimed that one part of Saraswati would remain with him, that another would exist as a river on earth, and that another would later become the spouse of Brahma.

Matsya Purana: The Matsya Purana describes the story of Saraswati becoming the consort of Brahma. It states that the creator deity had fallen in love with the woman who had emerged from his own mind. Noticing his amorous glances, she turned to the right side of the deity. The deity produced a new face towards his right. When she appeared on his other two sides, two new faces emerged in these directions. In a last resort, she leapt into the sky. A fifth face emerged from Brahma, looking upwards. Conceding her defeat, she consented to become the deity’s consort.

Ramayana: When Ravana, along with his brothers, Vibhishana and Kumbhakarna, performed penance in order to propitiate Brahma, the creator deity offered each a boon. The devas pleaded with Brahma to not grant Kumbhakarna his boon. Brahma called upon his consort Saraswati and instructed her to utter that which the devas desired. She acquiesced, and when the rakshasa spoke to invoke his boon, she entered his mouth, causing him to say, “To sleep for innumerable years, O Lord of Lords, this is my desire!”. She then left his form, causing him to reflect upon his misfortune.

Mahabharata: In the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata, Saraswati is called the mother of the Vedas, and later as the celestial creative symphony who appeared when Brahma created the universe.

In Book 2 of Taittiriya Brahmana, she is called “the mother of eloquent speech and melodious music”. Saraswati is the active energy and power of Brahma.

She is mentioned in many minor Sanskrit publications such as Sarada Tilaka of the 8th century CE as follows,

May the goddess of speech enable us to attain all possible eloquence,
she who wears on her locks a young moon,
who shines with exquisite lustre,
who sits reclined on a white lotus,
and from the crimson cusp of whose hands pours
radiance on the implements of writing, and books produced by her favour.

Saraswati, Sharada Tilaka

Saraswati became a prominent deity in Buddhist iconography – the consort of Manjushri in the 1st millennium CE. In some instances such as in the Sadhanamala of the Buddhist pantheon, she has been symbolically represented similar to regional Hindu iconography, but unlike the more well-known depictions of Saraswati.

The oldest known Saraswati-like relief carvings are from Buddhist archaeological sites dated to 200 BCE, where she holds a harp-style vīna.

An illustration from 1700 CE
An illustration from 1700 CE

Saraswati is revered also in Jainism as the goddess of knowledge and is regarded as the source of all learning. She is known as Shrutadevata, Sharada and Vagisvari.

Saraswati is depicted in a standing posture with four arms, one holding a text, another holding a rosary and the remaining two holding the Veena. Saraswati is seated on a lotus with the peacock as her vehicle. Saraswati is also regarded as responsible for the dissemination of Tirthankaras’ sermons.

The earliest sculpture of Saraswati in any religious tradition is the Mathura Jain Saraswati from Kankali Tila dating 132 CE.

As a river

Rigveda says Saraswati was a river goddess, a manifestation of Goddess Sarasvati representing fertility and purity. There are three hymns in the Rigveda dedicated to River Saraswati. A Rigvedic prayer also describes her as “the best of mothers, of rivers and of goddesses”.

The story of Saraswati becoming a river is mentioned in the Srishti Khanda of Padma Purana as well as in Skanda Purana, in the second of which, post-Tarakamaya War, the devas dropped their arsenal of weapons at the hermitage of Dadhichi. When they sought the return of these weapons, the sage informed them that he had imbibed all of their power with his penance, and offered his own bones instead, which could serve as the source of new weapons. Despite the objections of the devas, the sage sacrificed himself, and his bones were employed in making new arms by Vishvakarma. The sage’s son, Pippalada, upon hearing these events, sought to wreak his vengeance on the devas by performing a penance. A mare emerged from his right thigh, which in turn gave birth to a fiery man, Vadava, who threatened to be the doom of all of creation.

Vishnu convinced Vadava that his best course of action would be to swallow the devas one by one and that he should begin by consuming the primordial water of creation, which was the foremost of both the devas and the asuras. Vadava wished to be accompanied to the source of these waters by a virgin, and so Saraswati was dispatched for his purpose, despite her reluctance. She took him to Varuna, the god of the ocean, who then consumed the being. For good measure, Saraswati transformed into a divine river, flowing with five channels into the sea, making the waters sacred.

The Padma Purana says that there was a terrible battle between the Bhargavas (a group of Brahmanas) and the Hehayas (a group of Kshatriyas). From this, an all-consuming fire called Vadavagni was born, which threatened to destroy the whole world. In some versions, a sage named Auva created it. Indra, Vishnu, and the devas visited Saraswati, requesting her to deposit the fire in the western ocean, in order to protect the universe.

Saraswati told Vishnu that she would only agree to assist them if her consort, Brahma, told her to do so. Brahma ordered her to deposit the Vadavagni in the western ocean. Saraswati agreed, and accompanied by Ganga, she left Brahmaloka and arrived at Sage Uttanka’s ashrama. There, she met Shiva, who had decided to carry Ganga. He gave the Vadavagni in a pot to Saraswati and told her to originate from the प्लक्ष tree. Saraswati merged with the tree and transformed into a river. From there, she flowed towards Pushkara. Saraswati continued her journey towards the ocean and stopped once at Pushkarini, where she redeemed humans from their sins. At last, she reached the end of her journey and immersed the fire in the ocean.

Iconography: Virtues you appreciate when you worship Saraswati in a certain form

Painting by Raja Ravi Varma
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma

Her iconography generally shows her with four arms, holding a book, a rosary, a water pot and a vīna (Indian string instrument). Each of these items has a symbolic meaning.

Saraswati is depicted mostly as a beautiful woman dressed in white, often seated on a white lotus, which symbolises light, knowledge and truth. She embodies not only knowledge but also the experience of the highest reality. Her iconography is typically in white themes from dress to flowers to swan, the colour symbolising the सत्त्वगुण or purity, discrimination for true knowledge, insight and wisdom.

Her dhyana mantra describes her to be as white as the moon, clad in a white dress, bedecked in white ornaments, radiating with beauty and holding a book and a pen in her hands (the book represents knowledge).

She is generally shown to have four arms, but sometimes just two. When shown with four hands, those hands symbolically mirror her husband Brahma’s four heads, representing मनस (mind, sense), buddhi (intellect, reasoning), चित्त (imagination, creativity), and अहंकार (self-consciousness, ego).

Brahma represents the abstract, while she represents action and reality.

The four hands hold items with symbolic meaning – a पुस्तक (book or script), a माला (rosary, garland), a water pot and a musical instrument (vīnā). The book she holds symbolises the Vedas representing universal, divine, eternal and true knowledge as well as all forms of learning. A माला of crystals, representing the power of meditation, inner reflection, and spirituality. A pot of water represents the purifying power to separate right from wrong, the clean from the unclean, and essence from the inessential. In some texts, the pot of water is symbolism for soma – the drink that liberates and leads to knowledge.

A mural of Saraswati in Kerala
A mural in Kerala

The most famous feature of Saraswati is a musical instrument called वीणा, representing all creative arts and sciences and her holding it symbolises expressing knowledge that creates harmony.

Saraswati is associated also with anurāga, the love for and rhythm of music, which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in speech or music.

A hamsa – either a swan or a goose – is often shown near her feet. It is a sacred bird which, if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink the milk alone. It thus symbolizes the ability to discriminate between good and evil, essence from the outward show, and the eternal from the evanescent. Due to her association with the swan, Saraswati is referred to as Hamsavāhini also, which means “she who has a hamsa as her vehicle”. The swan is also a symbol of spiritual perfection, transcendence and moksha.

Sometimes, a चित्रमेखला (also called मयूर, peacock) is shown beside the goddess. The peacock symbolises colourful splendour, the celebration of dance, and – as the devourer of snakes – the alchemical ability to transmute the serpent poison of self into the radiant plumage of enlightenment.

Rituals

Some Hindus celebrate the festival of Vasanta Panchami (the fifth day of spring, also known as Saraswati Puja and Saraswati Jayanti in many regions of India) in her honour. They mark the day by helping young children learn how to write the letters of the alphabet on that day. The goddess is also revered by believers of the Jain religion of west and central India, as well as some Buddhist sects.

Saraswati is revered as a feminine deity with healing and purifying powers of abundant, flowing waters in Book 10 of the Rigveda, as follows:

अपो अस्मान मातरः शुन्धयन्तु घर्तेन नो घर्तप्वः पुनन्तु |
विश्वं हि रिप्रं परवहन्ति देविरुदिदाभ्यः शुचिरापूत एमि ||

Rigveda 10.17

Translation: “May the waters, the mothers, cleanse us,
may they who purify with butter, purify us with butter,
for these goddesses bear away defilement,
I come up out of them pure and cleansed.” (translated by John Muir)

How you worship Saraswati would depend on what sampradāya of Hinduism you belong to and, sometimes, on your region.

Temples

There are many temples dedicated to Saraswati around the world. Some notable temples include the Gnana Saraswati Temple in Basar on the banks of the River Godavari, the Wargal Saraswati and Shri Saraswati Kshetramu temples in Medak, Telangana. In Karnataka, one of many Saraswati/Sharada pilgrimage spots is Shringeri Sharadamba Temple. In the Ernakulam district of Kerala, there is a famous Saraswati temple in North Paravur, namely, Dakshina Mookambika Temple North Paravur. In Tamil Nadu, Koothanur hosts a Saraswati temple at Koothanur in Tamil Nadu about 25 km from Tiruvarur. In her identity as Brahmani, additional Saraswati temples can be found throughout Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. Jnaneshwari Peeth in Karki village of coastal Karnataka also houses a temple dedicated to Saraswati, where she is known as Jnaneshwari.

A carved murti of the crowned goddess Sharada from late-9th century Kashmir
A carved murti of the crowned goddess Sharada from late-9th century Kashmir

The ancient Sharada Peeth in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir is one of the oldest surviving temples of Saraswati.

Festivals

One of the most famous festivals associated with Goddess Saraswati is the Hindu festival of Vasanta Panchami. Celebrated on the 5th day in the Hindu calendar month of Magha (month), it is also known as Saraswati Puja and Saraswati Jayanti in India.

In West Bengal, Assam, Odisha and Tripura, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped on Vasanta Panchami. Hindus celebrate this festival in temples, homes and educational institutes alike.

Saraswati Puja in north, west, and central India

In Bihar and Jharkhand, Vasanta Panchami is commonly known as Saraswati Puja. On this day, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped in schools, colleges and educational institutes as well as in institutes associated with music and dance. Cultural programmes are also organised in schools and institutes on this day. People especially students worship Goddess Saraswati also in pandals (a tent made up of colourful clothes, decorated with lights and other decorative items). In these states, on the occasion of Saraswati Puja, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped in the form of a murti made up of soil. On Saraswati Puja, the murti is worshipped by people and prasad is distributed among the devotees after puja. Prasad mainly consists of būndi (motichūr), pieces of carrot, peas and Indian plum (ber). On the next day or any day depending on religious condition, the murti is immersed in a pond (known as Murti Visarjan or Pratima Visarjan) after performing a Havana (immolation), with full joy and fun, playing with abir and gulal. After Pratima Visarjan, members involved in the organisation of the puja eat khichdi together.

In southern India
Saraswati in Karnataka
In Karnataka

In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the last three days of the Navaratri festival, that is Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami, are celebrated as Saraswati Puja.

The celebrations start with the Puja Vypu (Placing for Worship). It consists of placing the books for puja on Ashtami. It may be in one’s own house, in the local nursery school run by traditional teachers, or in the local temple. The books are taken out for reading, after worship, only on the morning of the third day (Vijaya Dashami). It is called Puja Eduppu (Taking [from] Puja). On the Vijaya Dashami day, Kerala and Tamil Nadu celebrate the Eḻuthiniruthu or “Initiation of writing” for children, before they are admitted to nursery schools. This is also called Vidyarambham. The child is often ritually taught to write for the first time on rice spread in a plate with their index finger, guided by an elder of the family, or by a teacher.

Dancing Sarasvati with eight hands (above) is depicted in three panels of the Hoysaleswara temple, Halebid Karnataka (c. 1150 CE)
Dancing Sarasvati with eight hands (above) is depicted in three panels of the Hoysaleswara temple, Halebid Karnataka (c. 1150 CE). One of these is shown above. She is in a classical Indian dance posture, and in one of her eight hands, she holds a pen, a palm leaf manuscript, a musical instrument and the tools of major arts. The shilpins thus depicted her as the goddess of knowledge and all arts.

During the Navaratri festivities, on the seventh day, which coincides with the Moola nakshatra (which is considered to be the goddess’ birth star), the goddesses of various temples are decorated and worshipped in the form of Mahasaraswati, in honour of the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, arts, and learning. Students throng these temples in large numbers and receive books, pencils, pens, and other learning equipment such as “Devi prasadam“. “Aksharabhyasa”, the ceremony of initiating a child into the process of learning, is held on a large scale across these temples.

In other parts of India

In Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka, Saraswati Puja starts with Saraswati Avahan on Maha Saptami and ends on Vijayadashami with Saraswati Udasan or Visarjan.

In 2018, the Haryana government launched and sponsored the annual National Saraswati Mahotsav in its state named after Saraswati.

Recognition outside India, which suggests the vast expanse of Hinduism in ancient and mediaeval times

Indonesia

Watugunung, the last day of the Pawukon calendar, is devoted to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Although it is devoted to books, reading is not allowed. The fourth day of the year is called Pagerwesi, meaning “iron fence”. It commemorates a battle between good and evil.

Saraswati is an important goddess in Balinese Hinduism. She shares the same attributes and iconography as Saraswati in Hindu literature of India – in both places, she is the goddess of knowledge, creative arts, wisdom, language, learning and purity. In Bali, she is celebrated on Saraswati day, one of the main festivals for Hindus in Indonesia. The day marks the close of the 210-day year in the Pawukon calendar.

On Saraswati day, people make offerings in the form of flowers in temples and sacred texts. The day after Saraswati day, is Banyu Pinaruh, a day of cleansing. On this day, Hindus of Bali go to the sea, sacred waterfalls or river spots, offer prayers to Saraswati, and then rinse themselves in that water in the morning. Then they prepare a feast, such as the traditional bebek betutu and nasi kuning, that they share.

The Saraswati Day festival has a long history in Bali. It has become more widespread in the Hindu community of Indonesia in recent decades, and it is celebrated with theatre and dance performances.

China

Veneration of Saraswati migrated from the Indian subcontinent to China with the spread of Buddhism, where she in known as Biàncáitiān (辯才天), meaning “Eloquent Devī”, as well as Miàoyīntiān (妙音天), meaning “Devī of Wonderful Sounds”. She is commonly enshrined in Chinese Buddhist monasteries as one of the Twenty-Four Devas, a group of protective deities who are regarded as protectors of the Buddhist dharma. Her Chinese iconography is based on her description in the Golden Light Sutra, where she is portrayed as having eight arms, one holding a bow, one holding arrows, one holding a knife, one holding a lance, one holding an axe, one holding a pestle, one holding an iron wheel, and one holding ropes. In another popular Buddhist iconographic form, she is portrayed as sitting down and playing a pipa, a Chinese lute-like instrument.

Tibet

She is known here as the Goddess of Music (དབྱངས་ཅན་མ, dbyangs can ma or yang chen ma), or the Tara of Music (དབྱངས་ཅན་སྒྲོལ་མ, dbyangs can sgrol ma or yang chen dröl ma), considered the consort of Mañjuśri, Buddha of Wisdom, she is one of the 21 Taras.

Saraswati is the Divine Embodiment & bestower of Enlightened Eloquence & Inspiration, patroness of the arts, sciences, music, language, literature, history, poetry and philosophy, all those engaged in creative endeavours in Tibetan Buddhism. She is considered the peaceful manifestation of Palden Lhamo (Glorious Goddess). In the Gelugpa tradition, Palden Lhamo is known as Magzor Gyalmo (the Queen who Repels Armies) and is a wrathful emanation of Saraswati while being a protector. Saraswati was the yidam (principal personal meditational deity) of 14th-century Tibetan monk Je Tsongkhapa. He composed a devotional poem for her. She is believed in the Tibetan tradition to have accompanied him on his travels, as well as regularly engaging in conversations with him.

Japan
image 8
Benzaiten, the Saraswati of Japan

The concept of Saraswati migrated from India, through China to Japan, where she appears as Benzaiten (弁財天). Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries. She is often depicted holding a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute musical instrument.

She is enshrined in numerous locations throughout Japan such as Kamakura’s Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine or Nagoya’s Kawahara Shrine; the three biggest shrines in Japan in her honour are at the Enoshima Island in Sagami Bay, the Chikubu Island in Lake Biwa and the Itsukushima Island in Seto Inland Sea.

Cambodia

Saraswati was honoured with invocations among Hindus of Angkorian Cambodia, suggesting a tenth-century and another eleventh-century inscription. Brahma and She are referred to in Cambodian epigraphy from the 7th century onwards, and she is praised by Khmer poets for being the goddess of eloquence, writing, and music. More offerings were made to her than to her husband Brahma. She is also referred to as Vagisvari and Bharati in Yasovarman-era Khmer literature.

Thailand

In ancient Thai literature, Saraswati (สุรัสวดี) is the goddess of speech and learning and consort of Brahma. Over time, Hindu and Buddhist concepts of deities merged in Thailand. Icons of Saraswati with other deities of India are found in old Thai wats. Amulets with Saraswati and a peacock are also found in Thailand.

Myanmar

In Burma, the Shwezigon Mon Inscription dated to be of 1084 CE, near Bagan, recites the name Saraswati as follows,

“The wisdom of eloquence called Saraswati shall dwell in the mouth of King Sri Tribhuwanadityadhammaraja at all times”.

Translated by Than Tun

In the Buddhist arts of Myanmar, she is called Thurathadi (or Thayéthadi).  Students in Myanmar pray for her blessings before their exams.  She is also believed to be, in the Mahayana pantheon of Myanmar, the protector of Buddhist scriptures.

Method

Parts of the following rituals should be performed by the male worshipper’s wife. This applies particularly to the application of sindūr on the goddess’s forehead. Men are advised not to do this part. Only a married woman is entitled to apply sindūr on another married woman or even Mother Goddess. Or the husband of the woman or the male consort (Brahma) of the goddess can do it.

The murti, if made of clay, may get damaged during ablutions. A brass murti is preferred in the case where the worshipper wants to skip no step of the puja.

Saraswati murti
The material used for this murti appears to be ‘gunmetal’, a type of bronze not prescribed for puja

Sanctify the water of the Ganga at the place of worship of Goddess Saraswati. Keeping the statue or picture of Saraswati Mata in front, light incense lamps, incense sticks, guggal in front of them, so that the communication of positive energy in the environment increases. After this start worship.

Mantra to purify posture

“ॐ अपवित्र: पवित्रोवा सर्वावस्थां गतोऽपिवा। य: स्मरेत् पुण्डरीकाक्षं स बाह्याभ्यन्तर: शुचि:॥”

With these mantras sprinkle kush or yellow flower 3-3 times on yourself and on the aasan, then do aachaman by chanting Aachaman Mantra

ॐ केशवाय नम:, ॐ माधवाय नम:, ॐ नारायणाय नम:

Then wash your hands, chant the posture purification mantra again.

ॐ पृथ्वी त्वयाधृता लोका देवि त्यवं विष्णुनाधृता। त्वं च धारयमां देवि पवित्रं कुरु चासनम्॥

Apply sandalwood on the forehead. Say the mantra by applying Shrikhand sandalwood with the ring finger.

चन्दनस्य महत्पुण्यम् पवित्रं पापनाशनम्, आपदां हरते नित्यम् लक्ष्मी तिष्ठतु सर्वदा।

Sankalp Mantra for Vasants Panchami Saraswati Puja

With sesame seeds, flowers, intact sweets and fruits in hand

यथोपलब्धपूजनसामग्रीभिः माघ मासे बसंत पंचमी तिथौ भगवत्या: सरस्वत्या: पूजनमहं करिष्ये।

While reciting this mantra, keep the material kept in front of Mother Saraswati. Now worship Ganapati.

Vasanta Panchami Ganapati worship method

Meditate on Ganapati by taking flowers. Spell

गजाननम्भूतगणादिसेवितं कपित्थ जम्बू फलचारुभक्षणम्। उमासुतं शोक विनाशकारकं नमामि विघ्नेश्वरपादपंकजम्।

Invoke Ganapati by taking akshat in hand

ॐ गं गणपतये इहागच्छ इह तिष्ठ।

Having said this, keep it intact in the vessel.

Chant with the holy water held in your right palm

एतानि पाद्याद्याचमनीय-स्नानीयं, पुनराचमनीयम् ॐ गं गणपतये नम:।

Apply red sandalwood paste

इदं रक्त चंदनम् लेपनम् ॐ गं गणपतये नम:

Say “श्रीखंड चंदन” and apply श्रीखंड चंदन। Apply sindur, chanting:

इदं सिन्दूराभरणं लेपनम् ॐ गं गणपतये नम:।

Offer दूर्वा and bel leaves to Ganesha. Adorn Ganesha with yellow clothing while chanting

इदं पीत वस्त्रं ॐ गं गणपतये समर्पयामि।

Mantra while offering प्रसाद (prasada) to Ganapati

इदं नानाविधि नैवेद्यानि ॐ गं गणपतये समर्पयामि।

Mantra for offering sweets to Ganapati

इदं शर्करा घृत युक्त नैवेद्यं ॐ गं गणपतये समर्पयामि।

After offering prasada, perform ablutions.

इदं आचमनयं ॐ गं गणपतये नम:।

Offer paan and betel nuts

इदं ताम्बूल पुगीफल समायुक्तं ॐ गं गणपतये समर्पयामि।

Take a flower and offer it to Ganapati, saying

एष: पुष्पान्जलि ॐ गं गणपतये नम:॥

Now offer your prayers to Navagrahas, beginning with Surya. The mantras here will be the same as those dedicated to Ganesha, except that the word “Ganapati” or “Ganesha” will be replaced by the name of the graha you are praying to.

Tie the sacred red thread around the कलश. Put a betel nut, दूर्वा, अक्षत and a coin inside the कलश and then place mango leaves on the vessel around its ‘neck’.

Cover a coconut with a cloth and place it on the कलश.

Take an akshata and a flower in hand and invoke Varuna

ॐ त्तत्वायामि ब्रह्मणा वन्दमानस्तदाशास्ते यजमानो हविभि:। अहेडमानो वरुणेह बोध्युरुशंस मान आयु: प्रमोषी:।

The mantra above is alternatively chanted as

अस्मिन कलशे वरुणं सांगं सपरिवारं सायुध सशक्तिकमावाहयामि, ओ३म्भूर्भुव: स्व:भो वरुण इहागच्छ इहतिष्ठ। स्थापयामि पूजयामि॥

Now, repeat the mantras of Ganesha Puja by replacing the name “Ganesha” or Ganapati” with Varuna, Indra, Agni, Vayu (Pavana) and Bhudevi.

Mantra for meditating on Saraswati

या कुन्देन्दु तुषारहार धवला या शुभ्रवस्त्रावृता।
या वीणावरदण्डमण्डितकरा या श्वेतपद्मासना।।

या ब्रह्माच्युतशंकरप्रभृतिभिर्देवैः सदा वन्दिता।
सा मां पातु सरस्वती भगवती निःशेषजाड्यापहा।।

शुक्लां ब्रह्मविचारसारपरमांद्यां जगद्व्यापनीं।
वीणापुस्तकधारिणीमभयदां जाड्यांधकारपहाम्।।

हस्ते स्फाटिक मालिकां विदधतीं पद्मासने संस्थिताम्।
वन्दे तां परमेश्वरीं भगवतीं बुद्धिप्रदां शारदाम्।।

Mantra for establishing Saraswati in your household

Take akshata in your hand and say

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः सरस्वती देव्यै इहागच्छ इह तिष्ठ।

Leave the akshata. Take some water in the right palm and chant

एतानि पाद्याद्याचमनीय-स्नानीयं, पुनराचमनीयम्।

Bathe the Saraswati murti with the mantra

ॐ मन्दाकिन्या समानीतैः, हेमाम्भोरुह-वासितैः स्नानं कुरुष्व देवेशि, सलिलं च सुगन्धिभिः।। ॐ श्री सरस्वतयै नमः।।

Apply red sandalwood paste and ask your wife to apply sindur to the goddess while you or she chants or you chant

इदं रक्त चंदनम् लेपनम्। इदं सिन्दूराभरणं॥

Then say

ॐ मन्दार-पारिजाताद्यैः, अनेकैः कुसुमैः शुभैः। पूजयामि शिवे, भक्तया, सरस्वतयै नमो नमः।। ॐ सरस्वतयै नमः, पुष्पाणि समर्पयामि।

Chanting the above, offer a floral garland to the goddess.

Chant

इदं पीत वस्त्रं समर्पयामि

while offering a yellow sari to Saraswati. Then offer sweets, saying

इदं नानाविधि नैवेद्यानि ॐ सरस्वतयै समर्पयामि

and

इदं शर्करा घृत समायुक्तं नैवेद्यं ॐ सरस्वतयै समर्पयामि

which means the sweets must contain sugar and ghee.

Then perform an ablution on the murti, saying,

इदं आचमनयं ॐ सरस्वतयै नम:।

Offer a betel leaf and a betel nut to Devi, saying,

इदं ताम्बूल पुगीफल समायुक्तं ॐ सरस्वतयै समर्पयामि।

Take a flower and offer it to the goddess, saying,

एष: पुष्पान्जलि ॐ सरस्वतयै नम:।

Then, take a flower, smear some white sandalwood paste on it and with अक्षत, keep it on your books and other study material you have placed at the feet of Saraswati.

Perform arati and then distribute the प्रसाद among all devotees who attended the puja.

Swadharma
Swadharmahttps://swadharma.in/
Swadharma is a one-stop web destination for everything Hindu. We will cover history, theology, literature and rituals of all sects of Hinduism one by one besides news of the state of the Hindu community worldwide through videos, podcasts, reports and articles.

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