The White Moon Gallery Presents

by Jade

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Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of wisdom, learning, arts, knowledge, performing arts, music, and speech.  According to Bansi Pandit (1), the Sanskrit word sara means ‘essence’ and swa means ‘self’.  Thus Saraswati means ‘the essence of self’.  She is represented in mythology as the divine consort of the Hindu Lord Brahma, creator of the universe.  Most commonly Saraswati is worshipped by students, scholars, teachers, scientists, artists, and all who are interested in knowledge.  Saraswati is the sister of Lakshmi and her name is also spelled Sarasvati.    According to most myths, Saraswati did not have children.  She is said to have a temper and is easily provoked and quarrelsome.  She has a very independent will and does not easily oblige to the male gods.

Legend says that Saraswati sprung from the forehead of her father Brahma.  Her mother is the Goddess Durga.  Brahma looked upon Saraswati’s beauty and desired to seek her as his bride.  Saraswati disliked his attentions and tried to avoid him, but wherever she moved, Brahma grew a head in that direction so he could see her.  Although Saraswati did elude him, legend claims that Brahma managed to marry her.  Legend also tells us that Brahma found Saraswati a bit too aloof, absent minded, and argumentative for his liking.  One time, he had arranged for an important fire ritual to the gods in which Saraswati’s presence was essential.  He warned Saraswati to make sure she was on time and did not tarry in getting ready for the event.  The holy hour came and went without Saraswati’s appearance.  When she finally arrived, Brahma was enraged, not to mention quite embarrassed in front of the gods.  He pleaded with the gods to give him another wife to replace the defiant Saraswati and was given Gayatri, the daughter of a sage.  I assume that Saraswati did not care about being replaced as she did not want Brahma’s attentions in the first place!

Saraswati is beautiful, with white skin and most often dressed in a white sari.  Her colors are white and yellow.  She has four arms, which represent four aspects found in human personality:

1. Mind (manas)

2. Ego (ahankara)

3. Intellect (buddhi)

4. Alertness (chita)

She is most often depicted seated on a lotus and used a white swan for transportation.  She is often seen holding a book and a rosary in her rear hands, while her front hands are busy playing a lute (veena).  A peacock is often seen sitting by her side.  According to Bansi Pandit , the symbolism behind these items illustrates the following spiritual ideas: (2)

v "The lotus is a symbol of the Supreme Reality, and a white lotus also denotes supreme knowledge.  By sitting on a lotus, Saraswati signifies that She is Herself rooted in the Supreme Reality, and symbolizes supreme knowledge.  The white color symbolizes purity and knowledge.  The white sari that the Goddess is wearing denotes that She is the embodiment of pure knowledge."

v "The four arms denote Her omnipresence and omnipotence.  The two front arms indicate Her activity in the physical world and the two back arms signify Her presence in the spiritual world.  The four hands represent the four elements of the inner personality.  The mind (manas) is represented by the front right hand, the intellect (buddhi) by the front left hand, the conditioned consciousness (chitta) by the rear left hand, and the ego (ahankara) by the rear right hand."

v "The left side of the body symbolized the qualities of the heart and the right side symbolizes activities of the mind and intellect.  A book in the rear left hand signifies that knowledge acquired must be used with love and kindness to promote prosperity of mankind."

v "The rosary signifies concentration, meditation, and contemplation, leading to samadhi, or union with God.  A rosary in the rear right hand representing ego conveys that true knowledge acquired with love and devotion melts the ego and results in liberation (moksha) of the seeker from the bondage of the physical world."

v "The Goddess is shown playing a musical instrument that is held in Her front hands, which denote mind and intellect.  This symbol conveys that the seeker must tune his mind and intellect in order to live in perfect harmony with the world.  Such harmonious living enables the individual to utilize acquired knowledge for the welfare of all mankind."

v "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."

v "A peacock is sitting next to Saraswati and is anxiously waiting to serve as Her vehicle.  A peacock depicts unpredictable behavior as its moods can be influenced by the changes in the weather.  Saraswait is using a swan as a vehicle and not the peacock.  This signifies that one should overcome fear, indecision, and fickleness in order to acquire true knowledge."

There is a great one day festival celebrated all over India in honor of Saraswati.  This festival occurs at the end of January (Paush) or in February (Magh).  It is called Saraswati Puja (Pooja) or Vasant Panchami.  The most important aspect of this day is that Hindu children are taught their first lessons/experience in reading and writing on this day.  Educational institutions organize special prayers for Saraswati on this day.  Although elaborate celebrations are held in temples, families also hold simple Saraswati Puja at home.


In the spirit of Saraswati Puja, I have created the following ritual.  This ritual can be done at any time you need Saraswati’s blessing on an intellectual project or need.  It can also be easily adapted to be a traditional Saraswati Puja if you celebrate it the end of January or the first part of February.  What a wonderful rite of passage into learning this can be if you have a preschooler at home!  You could also hold this ritual before each school year begins if you have young scholars at home.  This is only intended to be an outline for ritual and I suggest you ask the Goddess how you can personalize this for your own path or your child’s intellectual initiation.


  • Statute or picture of Saraswati
  • Flowers-white and yellow
  • Incense-almond, lavender, or rosemary for wisdom/clarity.  Cinnamon for creativity.
  • Foods-any type of berry and any sweet treat.
  • Matches for lighting incense and candles.
  • Candles-white and yellow.  Use as many or as few as you desire.
  • Any educational or artistic tools you would like to charge with Saraswati’s blessing.
  • Blank paper, small chalkboard, or white board.   A crayon, chalk, or dry erase marker if you are teaching a preschooler or older toddler their first letters or shapes like a circle, square, etc...


  • Find a space to hold this ritual and place your items on the altar, table, floor, or wherever you want to hold ritual.
  • Purify with incense.
  • Cast circle in your usual manner and invite Saraswati to join you.
  • Meditate on what you are wanting Saraswati to bless and focus your intent and visualize Saraswati touching and blessing yourself, your toddler/preschooler/young scholar if you are including them, and your tools.


If you are including a young scholar or preschooler, you can use your crayon and paper to first demonstrate how to draw a shape, letter, or word, and then invite them to try to copy it.  You could also do this "hand over hand" by actually placing your hand over the child’s hand and guiding the child in forming the shape, letter, or word.  If including an older child/scholar, you could share a wish or goal for them in their upcoming school year and invite then to do the same if they wish.  If working alone for your own need, I suggest you ask Saraswati for her blessing and enjoy the time with her.  Let your spirit guide what you say, if you say anything at all.  You can also do some actual brainstorming work on your particular project if you choose.  Next it is time to eat the berries and sweets to ingest Saraswati’s blessings internally.  Make sure to visualize her knowledge, creativity, and power entering your body. Finally open your circle and thank Saraswati for joining you.  Invite her to stay if she can but go if she must.

May the Goddess Saraswati bless, inspire, and help you on your journey!


(1)(2) Bansi Pandit


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