Goddess Saraswati symbolises learning, wisdom, discrimination and harmony, enabling one to attain enlightenment
Words: Madhuri. Y
Navarātri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durgā. According to vedic scriptures, Goddess Durgā, a symbol of power, is worshipped in nine different forms and is therefore termed Nava-durgā. Each goddess has a different form and a special significance. In Hinduism, Mother Durgā represents the embodiment of shakti, who killed the demon Mahishāsura, who could not be defeated by any god or man. She is the epitome of divine feminism.
The nine-day festival is also a time for personal introspection. Many keep fast for nine days, which helps in mind and body purification. It is also believed that this is the time to kill the demon within us and let the divine stay. All of us have Mahishāsurs within, which need to be removed to give way to the divine. Keeping fast and concentrating on MāDurgā helps remove toxins and purify our body as well as mind.
Like in any other part of the country, the Navarātri (Navratri) is celebrated with much devotion in south India too. Down south the festival is celebrated in a little different way. Friends and relatives are invited to look at the kolu – exhibition of various dolls. With lot of enthusiasm young girls create kolus.
Goddesses Lakshmi, Durgā and Saraswati are worshipped for three days each. The first three days of the festival are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the next three days to Durgā, and the last three days to Saraswati. Gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets are exchanged between relatives, friends and neighbours.
Goddess Saraswati means the essence of the self, sara meaning essence and swa meaning self. Clad in white, she sits on a white lotus and rides a white swan. She is the symbol of learning and her four hands represent the four heads of Brahma, manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), chitta (thought) and ahankara (ego).
The book in her hand stands for the Vedas, which represent knowledge and learning. The rosary stands for meditation and reflection. The pot of water stands for the ability to purify and discriminate. The Veena stands for the harmony that emerges from wisdom and knowledge.
Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom and in this capacity, she is the consort of Brahma, the creator of the universe. Clad in white, she symbolises purity and clarity. It is believed that a swan has the ability to separate milk from water and drink only the milk.
Hence, the white swan is symbolic of the ability to discriminate. The goddess is seated on a white lotus in full blossom which stands for pure consciousness, that is god consciousness. All knowledge is said to lie in this space.
Goddess Saraswati’s depiction implies that wisdom lies within us. Once we learn to discriminate and separate the important things from the smaller ones, greater clarity emerges and we can become part of the pure consciousness and hence, live in joy and harmony.
When we make children write their first letters on the day of Saraswati Puja and pray to the goddess, it is simply the outward manifestation of our prayer. The real prayer is invoking her blessings in reaching the state of pure consciousness that is enlightenment.