The Trimurti is the basis of the Hindu spiritual teaching which makes it possible to clarify the manifested world in which we evolve: Brahma represents the creative principle, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer who allows renewal.
However, the active principle, the Shakti, the creative energy, is manifested by the feminine side of the Hindu divinity: for Brahma, it is Saraswati: she is both his daughter and his wife.
Most of the time, her birth is taught as coming from the scissiparity of a Brahma egg which is an asexual mode of reproduction (division of the organism).
But Saraswati can also be born from Brahma's mouth.
Thus according to the texts and the evolution of Hinduism, her origin and functions vary.
In Vedic times, she was the personified goddess of the river Saraswati (now extinct), venerated like the Ganges today and symbol of fertility: she became the wife of Vishnu who offered her to Brahma. In the Rig Veda, her name means "the one that flows from the mountains to the ocean". Saras meaning 'flowing', she symbolizes fluidity in all its forms.
It is interesting to note, once again, that Hinduism tries by all means to transmit to us the concept of perpetual change that animates the manifestation.
Thus if Brahma and his Shakti represent creation, they also embody movement: nothing is fixed, the manifestation is the expression of the energy that constantly circulates. The Trimurti represents the three primordial forms, but Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva carry within themselves (as does everyone else) the entire cycle of life: death/birth.
Saraswati, Goddess of the Word
Under this name, Saraswati is also called Vac, the goddess of the word: from the verb is born all things. Saraswati is therefore at the origin of all forms, she is the beloved mother. Like Brahma, she is honoured as the progenitor, the one by whom everything is created, everything happens.
Thus she is called Vâgdevi, the goddess of the word, Vâgeshvari, the mistress of the word, or Savitri, the inciterator, Bhâratî, the eloquence, Jaganmâtâ, the mother of the world.
Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge
To this originel speech is associated the Knowledge. She transmits the Vedas to men (on this occasion called Vedamâta, the mother of the Vedas).
She therefore represents wisdom and intelligence. She illuminates, she is the light that dispels the darkness that materializes in ignorance. She embodies the Absolute as much as Brahma. She is then called Mahâ Vidya, the transcendental Knowledge.
Moreover, there is no wrathful aspect to her, it is temperance that dominates and in this she represents the peaceful aspect of existence, the weighting: a form of balance, the counterpart of the creative, bubbling and impulsive energy.
In Hinduism, she is the one who taught Sanskrit (the sacred language) to men as well as writing.
Saraswati, Goddess of Arts and Creation
Her role in the genesis of the world has led to her place as the mother of the arts: poets, writers, musicians... honour and venerate her.
She embodies harmony, temperance, a form of gentleness and peace. She evokes refinement.
Photo credit: Shankargallery
The Shape of Saraswati
Under the image of a very beautiful woman, Saraswati is often depicted standing (or sitting), dressed soberly and wearing few jewels, her face imbued with softness and serenity.
Her attributes are the lotus, Padma, which symbolizes purity, beauty and perfection. He is the mother's breast, the matrix from which all things come. It is the seat of the feminine principle, the Shakti.
The lotus gives a flower of all beauty, whereas it comes from a swampy, dark and even repulsive environment: it therefore represents the possibility of transformation, of elevation.
She plays the Lute, Vina which provides harmony.
Photo credit: Shankargallery
She has from two to eight arms and sometimes carries a bow, a club, a trident, weapons symbolizing the supremacy of knowledge over ignorance. Or the conch, the bell, emblems of her function in the creation of the primordial world.
Sometimes a ploughshare recalling her quality of fecundity or a rosary representing vigilance, a necessary quality of the spiritual seeker, appear at her side as well as the hook to direct the elephants.
Her colour is white, symbol of peace. Colour also of the swan which is her mount (the swan indicates knowledge and discernment, the ability to separate the good from the bad. Legends say that the swan is able to separate milk from water! Because of its shape, it evokes grace and beauty). Sometimes she is accompanied by the peacock: a majestic bird with magnificent plumage that struts about: it represents appearance, superficiality, vanity, in short, gross ignorance. Saraswati by riding it embodies knowledge, the mastery of primordial impulses.
The cult of Saraswati
Of course, Saraswati is particularly venerated by all the professions linked to learning and knowledge: teachers, students... but her cult goes far beyond that, for she symbolizes Knowledge, in the most spiritual sense, that is to say the Absolute.
In the transmission of spiritual teaching, in daily life, many pujas (rituals) are celebrated in favour of Saraswati: white dominates in the offerings of the faithful: milk, coconuts, white flour cakes, flowers...
However, during the festival dedicated to her, Vasanta Panchami, which marks the arrival of spring (in fact celebrated 40 days before, the fifth day of the rising moon of the month of Magha (February): a transition period between two seasons) as a reminder of her attributes of creativity, fertility, fecundity, the dominant colour is yellow, reminiscent of the mustard flower, heralding renewal. Saris, accessories, sweets, garlands of flowers... everything is marked with yellow. Books, notebooks, pens, musical instruments are obviously particularly honoured and placed on the altar in front of Saraswati. The schools participate actively and the young children learn their first words that day.
Photo credit: Drakoheart
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