Saraswati: Everything You Need to Know

Saraswati: Everything You Need to Know September 30, 2014

For Navratri this year (2014), October 2nd is the day to worship Saraswati…

Saraswati (Saara-swa-ti) is the Goddess of art, music, philosophy, creativity, wisdom and learning. She is the consort of Brahma.

Why Worship SaraswatiStories * Symbolism * Holidays * How She Is Worshiped * Mantras and Bhajans

Why Worship Saraswati

It is good to pray to Saraswati before tests or when seeking to become knowledgeable about something new. She gives blessings to people in pursuit of knowledge or creative pursuits. She can free one from lethargy and ignorance.

Stories

There are many origin legends for Saraswati. They all seem to involve her coming from Brahma in some way. As his clone (he split himself in two), or from his forehead, or from his mouth, or from his thigh, or from his rib. (Interesting to note parallels with other myths such as Athena born from a forehead and Eve born from a rib).

Once Shiva saw the world filled with evil. He decided to clean it and opened his third eye from which came a great fire. Saraswati took the form of a river and absorbed the fire. She took it into the sea where it formed a fire-spitting creature called Badavagni. Saraswati declared, “As long as man is wise, the animal will remain here, but if man becomes corrupt, this beast will destroy the world.”
– http://www.kidsgen.com/fables_and_fairytales/indian_mythology_stories/sati.htm#mWpXY3yjmdUixVdO.99

Here is one version of a story in which Saraswati enrages her husband and is replaced by Gayatri: http://mustardbrain.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/the-story-of-saraswati/

The “Shatarupa” in Brahma’s story is said to be Saraswati, who can take many forms.

Some more stories here:  http://shaktisadhana.50megs.com/Newhomepage/Resource/essays/saraswatidevi2.html

Symbolism

-She is associated with the Vedas and with Brahma (who is also associated with the Vedas).

Two swans are depicted on the left side of the Goddess. A swan is said to have a sensitive beak that enables it to distinguish pure milk from a mixture of milk and water. A swan, therefore, symbolizes the power of discrimination, or the ability to discriminate between right and wrong or good and bad. Saraswati uses the swan as Her carrier. This indicates that one must acquire and apply knowledge with discrimination for the good of mankind. Knowledge that is dominated by ego can destroy the world. –http://www.koausa.org/Gods/God10.html

-The flowing water often around her shows the flow of knowledge

-Her beauty shows the appeal of wisdom

-Meaning of her name: “The essence of Self” or “Sara means an ocean. Swa means one’s own. Ti means the personification or embodiment. Saraswati is the embodiment of one’s own ocean of experience.” http://www.shreemaa.org/saraswati-puja-for-children-book/

Holidays

Vasant Panchami  (Fifth day of spring) also called Basant Panchami

Saraswati’s birthday is the time to begin new studies. Traditionally children begin to learn reading and writing formally on this day. It happens around late January/February and is seen as a spring ritual (though where I live in America, snow is likely still on the ground!)

Depending on the region, it is traditional to dress one’s self and the murtis of the Goddess in either white or yellow. Yellow is an important color on this day and often yellow food and yellow flowers and yellow sweets are offered.

A Saraswati puja (see below) should be done within “Panchami Tithi” which is an astrological timing. (This site has a ritual that it says is the Panchami Tithi: http://timesofhindu.com/panchami-tithi-shraddh-5th-day-of-pitru-paksha/)

Some people do rangoli decorations in front of the Goddess, which is intricate patterns made of colored sand or rice powder (I’ve been known to do it with sidewalk chalk). Images of fish are considered auspicious.

In some areas Pitr-tarpan is performed, which is ancestor worship.

In some areas it is known as the festival of kites and people crowd the skies with colorful kites!

Vasant Panchami starts the 40 day count down to Holi, another spring festival.

Navratri

Navratri is a nine-night festival in the fall to celebrate the female divine energy in various forms. See http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu/2013/09/welcome-goddesses-happy-navratri/

The Sri Chakra Puja is appropriate to use during Navratri to worship Saraswati particularly on the seventh day, which is an auspicious number to her.

How She Is Worshiped

Sri Chakra Puja

You Will Need:

  • White clothes in silk or cotton (a gold border is preferred)
  • Picture of Ma Saraswati
  • A Sri Chakra (see below. Either purchase a metal one or print this out and laminate)
  • A silver or brass plate (avoid steel or plastic)
  • Ghee Lamp with five or seven lights
  • Incense sticks
  • Food (such as rice pudding with milk and sugar, plain milk, or other milk sweets)
  • White rice
  • White silk or cotton cloth
  • Japa beads (optional)
  • Milk or panchamruta (a mixture of milk, yogurt, cow ghee, honey, and sugar)
  • Pure water
  • White sandalwood powder, white rice grains, silver flowers, white flowers and/or white pearls or crystal beads (optional)

1) Bathe and dress in clean white clothes (the gold border is said to retain the energy of the puja in the subtle body) 2) In the altar room sit facing east. Place the image of Ma Saraswati in front of you and the Sri Chakra in front of that on the metal plate

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Chakra

3) Light the lamp and keep it lit through out. Offer two or three sticks of incense by lighting them and waving them in a clockwise direction in front of the image.

4) Offer food by placing it in front of the altar

5) Chant Samputita Sri Suktam while pouring the milk or panchamruta over the Sri Chakra (Interestingly, this chant is addressed to Lakshmi, but the instructions say to use it). Here is a good video of the chant with transliteration and translation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vd6xbQDTYs

Hiraņya varnám hariņīm suvarna-rajata-srajám Chandrám hiranmayīm lakshmīm jatavedo ma avaha|(1)

Tám ma ávaha játavedo lakśhmīm anapa gáminīm Yasyám hiraņyam vindeyam gám aśvam puruśhán aham|| (2)

Aśhwa-pūrvám ratha-madhyám hasti náda prabódhiním Śhriyam devím upahvaye śhrír ma devír jushatám| (3)

Kám sósmitám hiranya prákárám árdrám jvalantím triptám tarpayantím Padme sthitám padma-varnám támihópahvaye śhriyam|| (4)

Chandrám prabhásám yaśhasá jvalantím śhriyam lóke deva justám udárám Tám padminim-ím saranam aham prapadye’ alakshmír me naśyatám tvám vrne| (5)

Ǎditya varne tapasó dhijátó vanaspatis tava vrikshó’ tha bilvah Tasya phalani tapsá nudantu mayántaráyás cha báhya alakshmíh|| (6)

Upaitu mám deva-sakah kírtis cha maniná saha Prádūr bhūtó’ smi rashtre’ smin kírtim riddhim dadátu me| (7)

Kshut pipásá-amalám jyesthám alakshmím náshayámy aham Abhūtim asamriddhim cha sarván nirnuda me grihat|| (8)

Gandha dvárám durá dharşhám nitya-pushtám karíshiním Iśhvarígm sarva bhūtánám tám ihó pahvaye śhriyam| (9)

Manasah kámam ákūtím vácah satyam ashímahi Paśhūnágm rūpam annasya mayi śríh shrayatám yaśhah|| (10)

Kardamená praja-bhūtá mayi sambhava kardama Śriyam vásaya me kule mátaram padma-máliním| (11)

Ǎpah srijantu snigdháni chiklíta vasa me grihe Nicha devím mátaram śhriyam vásaya me kule|| (12)

Ardám pushkariním pushtim pingalám padma máliním Chandrám hiran-mayím lakshmím játavedó ma ávaha| (13)

Ǎrdhám yah kariním yashtim suvarnám hema-máliním Sūryám hiran-mayím lakshmím játavedó ma ávaha|| (14)

Tám ma ávaha játevedó lakshmím anapa gáminím yasyám Hiranyam prabhūtam gávó dásyó aśván vindeyam purushan aham|| (15)

Ǒm mahá-devyai cha vidmahe, vishnu-patnaiya cha dhímahi Tanno Lakshmíh prachódayát || (16)

Ǒm Shántih, Shántih, Shántih.

6) Wash the Sri Chakra with pure water and set aside for a moment.

7) Fill the metal plate with white rice and cover with the white cloth to create a seat to lay the Sri Chakra on.

8) Chant the Sri Maha Saraswati Mantra 108 times (use the japa beads to count)

Om aim shriim hriim sarasvati devyai nam-ah. Sarva jnana siddhim kuru kuru sva-ha (Variations here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4AbqzSbBZE and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9gNfn2vzuA)

9) While doing this chanting, offer the other white items, such as sandalwood powder, rice grains, and flowers.

10) Wave the lamp (with five or seven ghee flames) in a clockwise direction in front of the Sri Chakra.

11) Consume the prasadam food (any that cannot be eaten should be disposed of naturally outdoors and not thrown in the garbage)

Make sure you complete this puja without interruption and keeping the mind focused on Saraswati.

-Modified from http://www.karunamayi.org/News/documents/NavaratriSaraswatiPuja.pdf

General Saraswati Puja

You Will Need:

  • Image or idol of Goddess Saraswati
  • A white cloth (vastram)
  • Flowers – louts, lilies or jasmine.
  • Mango leaves or other decorations
  • Turmeric
  • Kumkum
  • Uncooked rice mixed with turmeric (akshata)
  • Fruits
  • Books or tools to be blessed

1) Decorate the Goddess image with flowers, garlands, and cover with a white cloth (if you are using a picture, place the white cloth on a tray near the image)

2) Pray to Sri Ganesha first with a quick and simple prayer

3) Light a lamp

4) Offer flowers, light incense, and chant mantras to the Goddess

5) Put the books, tools, or other objects out before the idol

6) Sprinkle some flowers on the objects and you can apply a small dot of turmeric and kumkum, but it does stain

7) Offer flowers and akshata to the deity

8) Offer any food that you have for prasadam (fruits, etc.)

9) Meditate or chant for a few moments.

-Modified from http://www.hindu-blog.com/2008/09/how-to-do-or-perform-saraswati-puja.html

Vasant Puja Ritual

  • The idol is in white, symbolizing purity. The sari of the Deity is white or yellow dyed in the natural dye made from “Shiuli” flowers.
  • The place where Saraswati is seated is all decorated with fresh flowers and rangoli and the design of a fish is considered auspicious.
  • A flat low stool made of wood is covered with yellow cloth and the idol is placed on it, facing towards the east.
  • The face of the idol remains covered till the priest begins chanting of mantras at   the commencement of puja.
  • A green coconut is placed in an earthen pot with a red checked cotton cloth called “Gamocha”.
  • Besides the actual puja flowers there are also the most significant flower called Palash that is used in the ceremony.
  • Students place their books and pen in front of the goddess to seek blessings on this auspicious day.
  • The offerings made to the goddess consist of fruits- most significant are berries from the wild plum tree. Other fruits include tapioca. Sweets must include puffed rice, jaggery and yogurt.
  • Family members bathe early and dress in yellow attire before assembling in front of the Goddess.
  • The earthen pot is tied with a string which is untied on the next day by the priest before visarjan or the immersion ceremony.
  • A havan is done by the priest using special wood, ghee, joss sticks and incense. A diya or lamp is lit beside the prasad.
  • Aarti is performed by the priest twice in day, in the morning and then again in the evening.
  • Nobody touches books on that day as it is believed that the goddess is blessing the books.

– See more at: http://www.festivalsofindia.in/vasantpanchami/Puja.aspx

It is auspicious to offer honey to Saraswati, as it represents the purity of learning and the sweetness of perfect knowledge.

Mantras and Bhajans

Yaa Kundendu tushaara haaradhavalaa, Yaa shubhravastraavritha|
Yaa veenavara dandamanditakara, Yaa shwetha padmaasana||
Yaa brahmaachyutha shankara prabhritibhir Devaisadaa Vanditha|
Saa Maam Paatu Saraswatee Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadyaapahaa||

Pranam Mantra

Om Saraswati Mahabhagey, Vidye Kamala Lochaney |

Viswarupey Vishalakshmi, Vidyam Dehi Namohastutey ||

Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey |

Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey ||

Saraswati Vandana Mantra

Yaa Kundendu tushaara haara-dhavalaa, Yaa shubhra-vastra’avritaa

Yaa veena-vara-danda-manditakara, Yaa shweta padma’asana

Yaa brahma’achyuta shankara prabhritibhir Devai-sadaa Vanditaa

Saa Maam Paatu Saraswati Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadya’apahaa.

Shuklaam Brahmavichaara Saara paramaam Aadhyaam Jagadvyapinim,

Veena Pustaka Dhaarineem Abhayadaam Jaadya’andhakaara’apahaam

Haste Sphaatika Maalikam Vidadhateem Padmasane Sansthitaam

Vande taam Parmeshwareem Bhagavateem Buddhipradaam Shardam.

 Mata Saraswati Mantra

 

Saraswati namastubhyam
Varade kamaroopini l
Vidyarambham karishyami,
Siddhirbhavatu me sada

More Saraswati mantras here: http://www.prophet666.com/2011/03/saraswati-worship.html

 


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