We have been delving into some of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, today let me introduce you to Saraswati, also spelled Sarasvati. She is the consort to the Hindu God Brahma and in many articles is considered one of the most ancient Goddesses.
She is the Hindu Goddess of Wisdom, Music, Drama and Learning. She invented writing, the Sanskrit language and music. As Sanskrit is also a sacred language, Sarasvati is also linked to gaining spiritual liberation through the practice of mantra (the repetition of sacred sounds). Musicians pray to her before performing and students ask for her help before taking a test. It is no surprise that Saraswati is especially revered by both students and teachers. At the beginning of spring her image is taken out in a jubilant procession. She is also a popular Goddess in both Jain and Buddhist mythology.
The birth of Saraswati – There are once again many versions of Sarasvati and Brahma, but this is my favourite.
In the beginning there was much chaos. Everything existed in a formless, fluid state. “How do I bring order to this disorder?” wondered Brahma, the Creator. “With Knowledge” said Saraswati as she emerged from his mouth. She was heralded by a peacock, with sacred books in her hand. “Knowledge helps man find possibilities where once he previously just saw problems.” Under her guidance, Brahma acquired the ability to sense, think, comprehend and communicate. He began looking upon chaos with eyes of wisdom and therein saw the beautiful potential that lay therein.
Brahma then discovered the melody of “mantras' words that are repeated in meditation. In his joy he named Saraswati “Vagdevi, goddess of speech and sound”. The sound of mantras filled the universe with energy, or “prang”. Things began to take shape and the cosmos acquired a structure: the sky dotted with stars rose to form the heavens; the sea sank into the abyss below, the earth stood in between.
Gods became Lords of the celestial spheres; demons ruled the nether regions, humans walked on earth. The sun rose and set, the moon waxed and waned, the tide flowed and ebbed. Seasons changed, seeds germinated, plants bloomed and withered, animals migrated and reproduced as randomness gave way to the rhythm of life. Brahma thus became the “Creator” of the world with his consort Saraswati as his “wisdom”.
Saraswati was the first being to come into Brahma's world, and Brahma began to look upon her with eyes of desire. She turned away from him saying “All I offer must be used to elevate the spirit, not indulge in the senses”. Remember Brahma having four heads so Saraswati would never be out of his sight? Brahma was undaunted by the curse and continued to gaze his lustful looks upon Saraswati. He then gave himself a 5th head to enhance his gaze even more! This Goddess came to be known by many as “alluring yet fleeting” as every form she took to try and run away from Brahma, he countered with the same form but as a male, and their chase seemed endless.
Saraswati became angered by his display of unbridled passion and she cursed Brahma. “You have filled the world with longing that is the seed of unhappiness. You have fettered the soul in the flesh. You are not worthy of reverence. May there be hardly any temple or festival in your name!” His action motivated by desire confined consciousness and excited the ego. It disturbed the serenity of the cosmos and roused Shiva, Hindu God of Destruction! Shiva sensed her discomfort and in a fit of rage became “Bhairava”, Lord of Terror! His eyes were red, his growl menacing. He lunged towards Brahma and with his sharp claws, wretched off Brahma's fifth head. The violence finally subdued Brahma's passion.
Brahma's cut head seared through Bhairava's flesh and clung to his hand sapping him out of all his strength and driving him mad! The lord of Terror ranted and raved losing control of his senses. Saraswati, pleased with Bhairava's timely action, rushed to his rescue. With her gentle touch she nursed him like a child, restoring his sanity.
Brahma sobered by his encounter with the Lord of Terror sought an escape from the maze of his own desire. Saraswati revealed to him the doctrine for his own liberation. Brahma sought to conduct a fire sacrifice (yagna) to cleanse himself and start anew once again. In order for this to happen he needed the assistance of his wife. Brahma chose Saraswati to be his wife and thus they were finally reconciled. There are yet more story's that I think you would enjoy, so do take a minute and check out Saraswati.
Saraswati is fair skinned and dressed in white to symbolize pure illumination. She is pictured riding in a swan or a goose and has four hands. In one she holds a sacred scripture, in another she holds prayer beads (as she is the source of spiritual knowledge, too); her other two hands hold a string star shaped instrument called the veena of which she plays the music of love and life. She transcends the cravings of the flesh and rejoices in the powers of the mind as the patron of pure wisdom. She embodies all that is pure and sublime in nature.
Saraswati is one of the goddesses among the Tridevi, which is the feminine counterpart of the Tridevs in Hinduism. Goddesses in Tridevi – Saraswati, Parvati and Lakshmi, the Gods of the Tridev – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Saraswati Puja is observed on the day of Basantapachami, which is also the first day of spring. Devotees wake up early in the morning and pay homage to her temples hoping to be blessed with wisdom and knowledge. Many Hindu houses have a shrine where there are images and statues of differed Gods and Goddesses. These provide a focus for prayer and provide a link to the Deities. Puja's are performed which involved the lighting of special oil lamps, reciting mantras and other religious verses and offering of the relevant incense, food and flowers.
There are only two temples of Brahma in India; on at Pushkar, Rajasthan and the other in Kumbhakonam, Tamil Nadu.