The Wisdom of Saraswati Puja

Saraswati is usually depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in white, with vina, a musical instrument, rosary, the lotus flower and the swan. She is the first of the three great deities revered in Hinduism, along with Lakshmi and Durga. Sarasvati was always associated with fertility and prosperity.

In the post-Vedic, having lost her status as a river god, her name was associated with the literary and visual arts and was made the wife of Brahmā, to further elevate her symbolism, as the personification of creativity and knowledge. Saraswati was started to be worshiped as the goddess of knowledge and the arts, literature, music, painting and poetry.

The main festival in honor of Saraswati falls during Navaratri particularly in South India, the Saraswati Puja is a deeply felt ceremony. The last three days of Navaratri, from Mahalaya, are dedicated to the goddess and in the ninth day of Navaratri on Mahanavami, all books and musical instruments are collected near the statues of the goddess and worshiped with special prayers.

Nobody is allowed to study or practice any arts on this day. The puja ends on the tenth day of Navaratri on Vijaya Dashami and the goddess is worshiped again before proceeding to take away the books and instruments. It is a tradition that this day is spent studying and practicing the arts, and it is known as vidya aarambham or beginning of knowledge.

In Bengal, however, she is worshiped during the Vasant Panchami, which falls in late January or early February in a similar pattern of South India. In ancient times in the pre-Vedic period, it was the time of worship of the god of love Kamadeva, to celebrate the union of Gods and Goddesses and was considered the auspicious time for marriages.

Children are not allowed to eat berries before the festival as people believe that after winter solstice bo berry should be consumed from the bush, for they were now poisonous, since the demons had spit on it, or sprayed another body fluid over it.

In Pushkar, in Rajasthan, there is a temple dedicated to her on a higher mountain than the temple of Brahma. Saraswati Vandana or Saraswati Kundendu Ya is the most famous hymn dedicated to the goddess Saraswati.

Sarasvati has its origins in the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas. The hymns of the Rig Veda dedicated to Sarasvati cite it as a mighty river and is identified with the river Helmand which flowed from the sacred mountain Hara Berezaiti. It was apparently part of the Seven Rivers, although the seven rivers are never mentioned explicitly. It is described, appreciated and revered as a great and powerful river, just as the Indus.

The Avestan Harahvaiti is linguistically an exact cognate of the Sanskrit Sarasvati. Along the Sarasvati would then be born and developed civilizations of Harappa and Saraswati-Sindhu. After an exceptional drought that lasted for 300 years from 2200 to 1900 BC Sarasvati gets completely dried up.

The goddess Saraswati is also venerated by the believers of the Jain religion. In Buddhism, Saraswati is known as a protective deity guarding the teachings of Gautama Buddha, offering protection and assistance to his followers.

Just like Tara, even the worship of Saraswati was absorbed from the Buddhist pantheon, and in particular in the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section dedicated to her. Through the first translations in Chinese, it spread to China, where she is now mostly disappeared, and from here in Japan where the goddess is still venerated by the name of Benzaiten. Saraswati is worshiped in Myanmar as Thuyathati and is very revered in Burmese Buddhism, especially before tests and exams.

The white color, the association with the swan, the waters and healing and creativity make her feel very close to the Irish Goddess Brigid. Spring Equinox, marks the beginning of Spring in the Wheel of the Celtic calendar, and the ancient people they used to give welcome to the awakening of nature, turning to their Goddess of Light, which for Northern Europe was Brigid, the triple Goddess of fine arts, sacred fire and healing sources.