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Goddess Saraswati-the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom is easily recognizable, as she is seen seated on a white lotus, with the Veena-ancient musical instrument in her two hands! The graceful image of this divine Goddess can be so uplifting, that just meditating on this image can create an enlightened feeling.

Saraswati in Sanskrit actually means that which continues and inspires like a beautiful woman! ĎSarasí means water or lake and Ďwatií means the one who possesses. Wati also means a woman. Thus, knowledge is continuous and flowing like water and interesting and powerful too!   

Saraswati is the consort of Lord Brahma the creator of the universe and thus she is creativity personified and is the Goddess of speech, arts, music, poetry and literature and all skills. Dressed in white or pinkish white, she depicts absolute purity in thoughts. The white lotus she is found seated on, speaks of the purity of the lotus bloom that grows even in murky waters and yet seems unperturbed by all the muck around it. Even as the dirty waters touch the leaves and petals of the lotus, they trickle off. Such is the texture of the lotus bloom! Blessed is the person who never lets his circumstances and surroundings corrupt him. Even as the lotus remains unsullied despite growing in the murky waters, let our souls remain steadfast in our duties and commitments.

The most remarkable feature that makes the icon of Goddess Saraswati stand apart, is the Veena- the ancient seven stringed Indian musical instrument. Interestingly, the Veena is compared to the human body with the spinal chord in the centre and the seven chakras represented by the strings of the Veena. Physical pain manifests itself when even a single chakra has a blockage of energy. The Fine-tuning of the seven chakras is necessary to facilitate a stress-free living.  Today, aura and chakra cleansing has gained much prominence, as scientific proof regarding the importance of the charkas has spread far and wide. The 24 frets of the Veena can be compared to the 24 cartilages of the spinal chord! There are 24 syllables in the Gayatri mantra too!

The seven strings of the Veena produce melody when tuned perfectly. In the absence of fine-tuning, only cacophony prevails.

In her other two hands, Goddess Saraswati is depicted as holding a book and a chain of beads. The four hands represent the four Vedas-the fountainhead of Hindu wisdom and knowledge. Seated beside her is a white swan, elegant and humble.

While knowledge is available aplenty, wisdom is the discernment that is needed to tread the right path.

The bead of chain on her third hand denotes that attainment of knowledge and enlightenment is a continuous process and vanity and over-confidence are snares one must be cautious about. A truly enlightened man is naturally humbled when he realizes that he is just a speck in the ocean of life!

The Goddess has a book on her fourth hand, denoting that the Goddess of wisdom is updating her knowledge too, indicating that the pursuit of knowledge is an ongoing process. Itís never too late to enlighten oneself!

A swan has the ability to separate milk form water, which again indicates, the necessity for humans to be discriminating between the right and the wrong, between the truth and falsehood, between knowledge and wisdom! A varied icon portrays a peacock, which the Goddess is seated on, instead of a swan. The peacock that is symbolic of outer beauty is subdued by the Goddess of wisdom, indicating that wisdom is far more appealing than physical or outward appearances.

The Goddess is worshipped during the nine day festival of Navratri and in some places in India during Basant Panchami-Spring. Saraswati is worshipped on the last three days of Navratri. In South India, on the ninth day, all books and musical instruments are placed wrapped in a silk cloth at the family alter and worshipped with flowers. Students abstain from studies on this day, as itís believed that the books and musical instruments await the Goddessís blessings! Moreover, this waiting period is a testing period too, where all seekers wait eagerly to pore through books and play the instruments. On the next day which is the tenth day, the books and instruments are unwrapped and worshipped. The tenth day also known as Vidyarambham meaning the day when learning commences, new students are initiated into learning new subjects, music or other fine art forms.

Students visit their Gurus, preceptors on Vidyarambham and seek their blessings.

Incidentally, Saraswati is as much revered in Bali, as in India! Similarly, the Balinese celebrate by placing books in the altar and read only after worship is completed. 

May Heavenís wisdom permeate our very senses and render beauty and rhythm to our existence. 


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