"May Goddess Saraswati,
who is fair like the jasmine-coloured moon,
and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops;
who is adorned in radiant white attire,
on whose beautiful arm rests the veena,
and whose throne is a white lotus;
who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me.
May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance."
Yesterday we celebrated the feast of Saraswati Puja. It happened that I was listening to the renowned Tamil scholar, Suki Sivam, explain the significance of the puranas and how one should look for the deeper layer of knowledge that every story in the purana imparts. He explained the various symbolism that we see in the iconic representation in the image of Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the mother of the Vedas, and chants to her, called the 'Saraswati Vandana' often begin and end Vedic lessons.
In this article I would like to provide not only the gist of what was told by Suki Sivam but also a cosmic view of this powerful symbolism.
The image that we see of Goddess Saraswati is that she is seated on a white lotus, She has four arms and holds the Veena in two hands and has palm leaf scroll in another. The fourth arm is seen in some images to hold a prayer bead of transparent stones and in some a small sceptre. She wears a white sari and has for her vehicle the white swan and accompanying peacock. Her necklace is made of transparent crystalline beads.
The image of this Goddess of knowledge reflects various aspects of both the quality of knowledge and wisdom and at the same time the attributes of the source or giver of this knowledge.
In classical explanation the four arms represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. But I feel there is another reason why there are four arm assigned to this image, All human learning and knowledge is derived from the four dimensional space-time. The embodiment of this space-time is the body of the Goddess and hence the origination of this knowledge is within the deeper aspects of the domain and not in the perceptual domain of space-time.
The Veena, as a string instrument, is the vibrational source of reverberating energy. Manifest consciousness is the resonance of hyper-dimensional energy of the cosmos. Hence this symbolism represents the higher aspect of learning from a source both within and beyond the perceptual domain of the senses.
In the ancient times during the evolution of Vedic teaching the role of woman was equal to that of men. This we can see in Chandogya Upanishad and in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
Gargi Vachaknavi was a renowned Vedic sage as illustrated in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. When they taught it was customary to wear a white sari to symbolize the purity of both their knowledge and their individual self. This is why the Goddess of knowledge wears white. White is the only colour which is the resultant of non-retention. The pure light spectrum when it falls an object and the object reflects and radiates all that it receives, then a perception pure whiteness results.
The scripture in the hand represents the Vedas or the primordial knowledge.
The sceptre represents authority to impart the true knowledge as well as the pure crystalline prayer beads and the necklace which the Goddess wears, represents the quality of purity and resonance. We know that pure quartz crystal, based on its structure, resonates to a specific frequency. So also any devotee or seeker of spirit empowering knowledge can tune into Divine wisdom depending his or her individual frequency or capacity.
The lotus which is the seat of the Goddess represents the Sahasrara chakra which is the seat and entry point of the cosmic energy or cosmic consciousness.
This beautiful symbolism must enable us to venerate in a more meaningful way the divine feminine, the Sophia, without which our human existence is meaningless.
Love to you all.