You are here: SriPedia - Knowledge Base

SriPedia Saraswati

Home || Portal | Printer Friendly || Search:

1. The significance of Saraswati in Sri Vaishnava Sampradhaaya

In the post-Vedic mythology, Saraswati is recognized as the goddess of Speech and the wife of Brahma, the son of Vishnu.

In Vedas, Saraswati is part of a triad. The other two are: Bharathi and Ila. Bharathi is recognized as the wife of one of the Adityas and Ila is recognized as the wife of Vishnu or Maha Lakshmi. In Kanchipuram, Sthalapuranas refer in this context to Brahma"s Yajna to gain the blessings of Sriman Narayana to take the Archa form of Varaadraja.

2. Goddess sarasvathi as a vedic triumvirate for vedic speech

In Vedic parlance , division of doctrines , divinities into a three fold classification is very popular . ChanandhOgya Upanishad refers to this three-fold partition for those with names and forms :taasAm thrivritham thrivritham ekaikam karavANIthi ( Ch.U: VI.3.2-3) . This means : This aforesaid Brahman entering these deities as the individual Self , which is THE SELF, evolved the differentiation of the (various ) names and forms( naama roopa VyAkaravANithi).

These three fold differentiation for Vedic Speech according to the Vedam is :

IDA , Sarsvathi and Bhaarathi . Here IDA is praiseworthy speech ; Sarasvathi is the speech full of Knowledge ; Bhaarathi is the speech full of Vedic lore as understood from the following manthram of Yajur Vedam :

tisrO dEvIrbahirdhagum sadhanthviDA Sarasvathi Bhaarathi MahI gruNAnA -- Yajur Vedam : Canto 28.19

( Meaning ) : May IDA orILA , Sarasvathi and Bhaarathi or MahI , three mighty forms of speech (eulogies ) fill this sathas ( Yaaga sAlA ).

AitrEya BrAhmANam points out distinctly that Sarasvathi is the Divine Speech ( Ait.Br. II.24; III.1,2) . She is the Goddess of the Word in a symbolic sense .

The word Sarasvathi also refers to the Supreme Brahman as well . The commentators have agreed with this intrepretation of the Lord's name as Sarasvathi on the basis of conviction that there can not be any one associated with Brahma VidyA or supreme knowledge that redeems us .It has been pointed out that " Our Lord has manifested Himself in His creation and in His word ( Vedams ) as Knowledge Personified " ( Saras: prasmasithA jn~AnaadhaayO guNA vidhyanthE yasyaam saa SARVA VIDHYAA PRAAPIKAA VAAK ).

3. Derivation of the Word Sarasvathi

The word takes its birth from the root " Sr" , (gathou) meaning to move or to flow. When the particle mathup is added , we get the word "Sarasvathi" . Saras also means knowledge of transcendental kind and the One in whom such knowledge is sustained is Sarasvathi .The connection to Supreme Brahman and Sarasvathi is hinted at Rg. Vedic Manthram :

SarasvathIm dEvayanthO havanthE SarasvathIm adhvarE thAyamAnE I SarasvathIm sukruthO ahvayantha SarasvathI dhAsushE vaarya dhAth II

(Meaning ) :" Men aspiring for transcendental knowledge invoke the Lord Sarasvathi ; when one aspires to undertake sacred works for the good of all (adhvaraa), they also invoke SarasvathI . This Sarasvathi blesses all of them who dedicate themselves for the noble ends. "

4. Other vedic references to the three fold forms of speech

ILA SarasvathI MahI tisrO dEvIrmaYObhuva: barhi:m seedhanthvasthridha: --Rg Vedam : I.13.9

(Meaning ) : May the three undecaying Goddesses , givers of the delight of enlightened speech , ILA , SarasvathI and Mahi , sit down upon the sacred grass ( ThUppul ) of this Yaj~nam .

5. The many names of sarasvathi

Bharathi --Eloquence MahA VidyA -Transcendent Knowledge Maha VaaNi- Transcendent Word AaryA--The Noble and revered One Braahmi-- The power behind the immense One Kaama DhEnu- The wish granting Cow Bija Garbhaa-- Womb of the elements of divine speech

KarapAtri's Sri Bhagavathi Tattvam and Harsha CharithA give a beautiful decription of Sarasvathi Devi as a beautiful Goddess clad in white and sitting on a white lotus with a VeeNA , Pusthakam , Japa MaalA and ankusam and occasionally with a conch and a bow et al ( VishNU Chinnams in general and that Of Sri HayagrIvA in particular) .

6. Her AarAdhanam

On the Sarasvathi PoojA day , books , Sri Sookthis and musical instruments are dusted , placed on an altar and She is invoked and saluted as the embodiment of Vedic speech and Divine Knowledge by many .

The paramikAnthins follow the direction of Swami Desikan and recognize Her as having the power of Divine Speech due to the anugraham of Sri HayagrIva BhagavAn . They perform a special AarAdhanam for BhagavAn HayagrIvA ( VaajI vakthrA VaasydEvasya Moorthy: )that day .Their reasoning is that Sarasvathi , DakshINA Moorthy and Sages VyaasA , ParAsarA and VaalmIki shine as great ones due to a small speck of the power of Sri HayagrIvan .

Saraswathi"s anger at her husband and the effort to destroy her husband's Yajna as a Fast flowing river (Vega Vaahini) and the Lord's hampering of that effort through his role as a dam to arrest the flow of Saraswati and the intended consequences. In one of the Divya Desams of Kanchi associated with this legend, Saraswati, the daughter-in-law is standing at the feet of the reclining Lord seeking His pardon for the Aparaadham.

In the post-Vedic Purana period, Sarawati is also recognized as one of the Sapta Sindhus (Vitasta, Indus, Asikni, Parushni, Vipaasha, Sutudri and SARASWATI.)

In the Vedic parlance, Saraswati is not a river , but Vedic Speech couched in Seven meters(Gayatri, Trishtup, Jagati, Brihati, Anushyup, Ushnik and Pankti). Seven Sister rivers or Vedic Speech is also understood as the organs , which "convey " knowledge: Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and tongue.

The Mythology is a post-Vedic Development. The Vedas and Brahmanaas recognize Saraswati as the DIVINE SPEECH (Aitreya Brahmaanam II.24, III .1,2 ) .The Rig Vedam in Particular recognizes Saraswati at many places as the Divine Speech associated weith revealed Knowledge( RV X.17.7, I.13.9, X.110.8,I.22.10,.I.3, 11-12) .

Yajur Vedic Verse(XXVII. 19) praises the divine speech and recognizes its three different aspects as Ida(Priaseworthy Speech), Saraswati (a speech full of divine Knowledge) and Bharathi (a speech replete with Vedic Lore).

Another Yajur vedic verse( VIII.43 )describes the eleven qualities of noble and divine Saraswati as a woman and pays Tribute to Her::Praisewrthy (Ideh), Delightful (Ranteh), Worshipful (Havyeh), Lovable( Kaamyeh), Plesuregiving (Chandreh), Well known for virtuous qualities and inviolable (Jyothiradhiteh), Full of divine knowledge (SARASWATI) ,Mahi (adorable), Visruthi (Knower of the Vedas and worthy of respect) . This mantra seeks the blessings of the Lady of 11 noble qualities .

Yet another verse of Yajur Veda(XXIX.8) Prays : " May Bharati ,the speech of Adityas, illuminate your Yajna; May Saraswati, the speech of Rudras ,be our helper. May Ida, the speech invoked in accord by the Vasus give us happiness. May these three Goddesses place us amongst the immortals ". The reference to Adityas, Rudras and Vasus are to three types of Celibiates. These three intellectual forces are beseeched to guide us and be the source of our Comfort elsewhere in Yajur Veda .

Atharva Veda also recognizes Saraswati as the manifold streams of knowledge and blessings of this and the other world.

Devaraja Yajvan, the commentator of Yaska"s Niruktam derives the word Saraswati as "Sarah Prasaranamasyaastithiti ". ,i.e. Sarawati is the one , whose expanse is this creation. This concept is backed by the Rg Vedic Verse(X.17.7) quoted above:

" Men aspiring for transcendental knowledge invoke the LORD Saraswati; When one aspires to undertake sacred works for the good of all (Adhvara), they also invoke Saraswati. This Saraswati blesses all of them , who dedicate themselves for noble ends." This fits with the Intrepretation of Aurobindo who equates Saraswati to the Vedic Rtam , the truth -consciousness principle..

The link between man's limited mind and vast Cosmic mind/ intelligence/speech (Saraswati= Rtam Brihat) is implied in the invocation of the Vedic Naama of Saraswati according to these scholars.

The short statement of the Link between Saraswati and Sri Vaishnavism in my humble opinon is that of the Niruktam definition, which identifies Saraswati as the entire expanse of creation as the body of the Lord Sriman Narayana.

Here are two salutations to Saraswati from the Rg Veda:

"Saraswati ,the inspirer of those who delight in truth, the instructress of the right- minded ,has accepted our sacrifice(SandhyaVandhanam?)." Rg Vedam I.3.11

"Saraswati makes manifest by Her acts a mighty river and in Her own form enlightens ALL understandings." Rg Vedam I.3.12

Sarasvathi manthram is one of the Pancha PraNavams ( AIM pronounced as AYM ) . Saarsavatha PrayOgam is eloquent speech blessed by Sarasvathi Devi .Sarasvathi also means flowing water ( Knowledge) .The DhAthu "Rayi" forming the word Sarasvathi means , "Water" or "Wealth" .

7. Post-Vedic period

Sarasvathi Devi is the consort of BrahmA at the post-vEdic , PurANic level . The Lord of Creation and son of PadmanAbhA is wedded to Knowledge (Sarasvathi ) .Many of the stories referred to in BrahmaNAs and PurANAs regarding the creation and the origin of mankind center around the figure of Chathurmukhan , the HiraNya Garbham ( the golden embryo ) Brahmaa and His consort (Sarasvathi) , their progeney PrajApathis , Maanasa puthrAs like NaaradhA , Sanath KumArA et al , SvAayambhuva Manu ( one of the great law givers) , MatsyAvathAram , et al .If BrahmA is the source of Knowledge (VedAs) as a result of Sri HayagrIva BhagavAn's blessings and initiation , then Sarasvahti is considered as manifestation of that Knowledge itself .She represents the union of power and intelligence from which organized creation arises .

She is worshipped as BrahmaNi in SandhYavandhanam . She is involed here as SandhyAdhi Devathai . In each of the SandhyAs , Sarasvathi is invoked at different directions to receive our salutations:

Morning: Sarasvathyai Nama: ( North ) Noon: Sarsavathyai nama: ( West ) Evening: Sarasvathyai Nama: ( South ) The prefix of PraNavam goes before the vandhanams.

Vardha Tantram (574) explains the significance of Her manthram: Aimm( Iymm ) .This bhIjAksharam "AI" represents Sarasvathi . The nasalization (imm) means the removing of pain from avidhyA . The purpose of doing the Japam of this Pancha PraNavam is for the acquiring of knowledge and wisdom , mastery over words and the power of speech .

There will be no RaamAyaNam without Sarasvathi . BrahmA says in Baala KhAndham to Sage VaalmIki :

slOka yEvAsthvayam baddhO naathra kaarya vichAraNA macchandhAdhEva tE Brahman PRAVRUTTHEYAM SARASVATHI ( Srimadh RaamAyaNam : Bala KhANDam-canto2 .31)

(Meaning): Let the metrical commposition be conducive to your glory alone.You need not brood over this anymore. Through My will alone , has this speech ( sarasvathi) flowed from your lips .

Here the reference is to the SlOkam , Maa nishAdha--", which spontaneously flowed from Sage Valmiki's lips, when he saw the painful death of one of the Krouncha Pakshi dampathis by a unfeeling hunter near his tapOvanam .

There will be no YathOkthakAri PerumAL , VeghA Sethu SthOthram or Kanchi VaradarAjan incarnating as the palan of BrahMA's Yajnam withourt Sarasvathi .

She is the personification of the Vegavathi river , who flowed in fury over Her husband's insult and the Lord incarnated as the Sethu ( aNai or Dam ) to stop His daughter intent on destroying the Yajnam at Hasthigiri done by His son .First came ThiruvehhA EmperumAn ( YathOkthakaari) and next came Kaanchi VaradarAjan . Swami Sri Desikan salutes this Lord in VegA sethu sthuthi :

yEkam Vegavathi madhyE Hasthi sailE cha dhrusyathE upAya pala bhAvEna svayam vyakatham param na: ( Slokam 1)

Next Swami says , here stopped the flow of Sarasvathi:

" yathra Saarasvatham srOthO visrAmayathi visrungalam ".

That is why at this divya desam , Sarasvathi stands with anjali at the foot of the reclining Lord offering Kaimkaryam to Her father in law to overcome the apachAram .

Without additional quotations from the sources , let me say that Sarasvathi Pooja is an important tradition . Lord HayagrIvan's small portion of sakthi ( sakthi lEsam ) provides the power for Vaak dEvi , DakshiNA mUrthy and Sage VyAsA :

 ---dEvI SarojAsana dharmapathnI
 ---spuranthi sarvE tava sakthi lEsai: 
 ......Sri HayagrIva SthOthram : SlOkam 7

Credits: V.Sadagopan

Home || Portal | Printer Friendly || Search: