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Encyclopedia > Saraswathi
This article is about Saraswati, the Hindu goddess. There are separate articles about the Vedic Sarasvati River and Saraswati River, a small river in Haryana

In Hinduism, Saraswati (less frequently romanized as Sarasvati) is the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, science, speech, and all arts-- music, painting, dance and literature. In India today, Hindus still revere Sarasvati as a goddess who is a reflection of the greater Mother, or Devi, and female dynamic energy, or Shakti. Her festival is held in late January or early February and prayer, called puja, is conducted. Since she is the goddess of knowledge, students often present her their books and supplies before they begin classes and her image sometimes appears on school gates. She is also the central deity of Indian Classical Musicians. Her consort is Brahma.


Origins and context in Hinduism

Sarasvatī can be found in Vedic texts, such as Rig Veda, and in Puranic texts, such as Ramayana. She likely originated as a Vedic river goddess; the river which once shared her name no longer exists, but where the banks of these rivers are believed to have once been, the earliest writing in India has been found. As a water goddess, she symbolises fertility, and prosperity. In the Rig-Veda(6,61,7) Sarasvati is credited with killing the asura (demon) Vritra, who represents drought, darkness, and chaos. She is often seen as equivalent to the other Vedic goddesses like Vāk (divine word, also romanised as Vac), Savitri (Illumination) and Gayatri. In the Shakta tradition (worship of Shakti or Devī, the female aspect of the divinity), Sarasvati represents intelligence, consciousness and cosmic knowledge. In later Puranic literature Saraswati (Brahmī) becomes the consort of the creator god Brahma. Some texts place her as a foil to Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth.

Saraswati in contemporary India

In India today, Hindus still revere Saraswati as the Goddess of Knowledge. On special days in the Hindu calendar special pujas are arranged for, and she is present in representation in many educational centers. In Indian Classical Music Saraswati is the patron Goddess, Mother of Music, of some of the world's greatest instrumentalists, Hindu or Muslim, among them Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan. She is the consort of Brahma.

She is traditionally depicted in art as a beautiful woman with four arms in which she plays an ancient Indian stringed-instrument called a veena. She holds prayer beads and the Vedas and often a water pot, symbolizing plentitude. Generally she is shown wearing a white sari. Sometimes Sarasvati is seated on a lotus blossom, other times she is seated on or accompanied by a swan or a peacock.

The lotus represents Purity. The hands playing the Veena represent Talent and Dedication. Her other hands offer Knowledge (the book or scroll) and Wisdom (the pearls). She is accompanied by Beauty (the peacock) and Grace (the swan). Her book is usually shown as a scroll, or as a stack of rectangular sheets of old-type Indian writing paper cut from dried palm leaves.

Saraswati in other cultures

Besides her role in Hinduism, she was also, like the Hindu goddess Tara, absorbed from Vedic culture into the Buddhist pantheon and came to China via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. Now largely forgotten in China, she is still worshipped in Japan under the name Benzaiten. Other names for her include Sarada, Sharada, Vani.

Topics in Hinduism
Shruti (Primary Scriptures):

Vedas | Upanishads | Bhagavad Gita | Itihasa (Ramayana & Mahabharata) | Agamas

Smriti (Other texts):

Tantras | Sutras | Puranas | Brahma Sutras | Hatha Yoga Pradipika | Smritis | Yoga Sutra | Tirukural


Avatar | Brahman | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Ishta-Deva | Murti | Reincarnation | Samsara | Trimurti | Turiya

Schools & Systems:

Schools of Hinduism (Overview) | Early Hinduism | Samkhya | Nyaya | Vaisheshika | Yoga | Mimamsa | Vedanta | Tantra | Bhakti

Traditional Practices:

Jyotish | Ayurveda


Aarti | Bhajans | Darshan | Mantras | Puja | Satsang | Stotras | Yagnya

Gurus and Saints:

Shankara | Ramanuja |Madhvacharya | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda | Chinmayananda | Sivaya Subramuniyaswami


Vaishnavism | Saivism | Shaktism | Madhva | Smartism | Agama Hindu Dharma | Contemporary Hindu movements | Survey of Hindu organisations

External links

  • Detailed information about Goddess Saraswati at rochester.edu (http://www.courses.rochester.edu/muller-ortega/rel249/saraswati/)
  • Goddess Saraswati Mantra (http://www.rudraksha-ratna.com/articledt.php?art_id=168)

  Results from FactBites:
The Shktis or goddesses of Hinduism, Saraswathi (405 words)
Saraswathi river used to flow in western India through what is now the Thar desert.
Saraswathi is a river of knowledge that flows in the highest heavens of Brahma and descends into our minds through the doors of learning to become established in us through self effort.
Saraswathi is the goddess of light who dispels our ignorance and inner darkness through her grace.
Indian Skeptic Vol 3 No 10/2 (4151 words)
Orthodox Saraswathi was familiar with the practice of untouchability, she was not allowed to enter the house or mix with the rest of the family after touching others at school or outside her house till she took bath and changed her clothes.
Saraswathi too had an opportunity to attend the meeting where she was thrilled to have a glimpse of the great national leaders who attended the meeting and to listen to their inspiring speeches.
Saraswathi was inspired by the national spirit right from her childhood but her political aspirations and her eagerness for political freedom of the country started taking shape only after her coming into contact with Durgabai Deshmukh, the young revolutionary social and political worker of the time.
  More results at FactBites »



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