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Saraswatee Devee is the classic example of a goddess whose popularity has survived from Vaidik times to modern age. While many Vaidik goddesses such as Ushaa and Aranyani have simply disappeared in later Hindu tradition, Saraswatee Devee not only maintains her importance; she acquires additional attributes and her functions expand - from River goddess to goddess of Speech, Learning and Wisdom. She is always depicted as extremely beautiful, fair complexioned, with four arms, ever youthful and gracious looking, seating on a lotus flower by her swan and carrying a lute (Veenaa) in her two hands and a book and a rosary in her upper two hands. Her Veenaa's name is "Kachaapi". She is known as Brahmaanee, she is the Creator of the seven notes (Saat Sur).

There are a huge number of myths concerning Saraswatee. The Brahm Puraan says that the Devee created Saraswatee from her tongue, and from her shoulders the science of Love. Other Legend says that she sprung from the forehead of her father, Brahmaa, as did the Greek virgin goddess Athena who was born from her father, Zeusís head. As soon as Brahma looked at this beautiful woman, he desired her, even though she was his daughter. Saraswatee disliked the amorous attentions of this old god and kept dodging him, but whichever way she moved, Brahmaa grew a head in that direction to see her the better. As a result he grew four faces on four sides of his neck, and even a head on top of these four, so that she could not escape by moving upwards. But Saraswatee still eluded him.

Despite her association with the gods - particularly Brahmaa - Saraswatee Devee is never with Brahmaa. Rather, she is always described as being an independent woman and not obliging to the male gods. She stands alone.

There is a myth about her as how she purposely delayed her presence when Brahmaa Jee wanted to perform a major fire-sacrifice. Brahmaa and Saraswatee therefore never made any joint offerings to the Fire god as man and wife. Then he took a daughter of sage's daughter Gaayatree to act his wife and offer the Aaahuti in the Yagya. Despite much lore depicting Saraswatee as married to Brahmaa Jee, she never really behaved as his proper "consort". Most often, Saraswatee is depicting as living in a kind of self-imposed exile. Instead of channeling her devotion to her husband as prescribed by social norms (ie, as a good wife is above all a chaste wife), she uses her sexuality for the purposes other than providing for her husband's pleasure and bearing his children. Saraswatee instead sublimates her devotion and directly maintaining a social order via art and culture.

Saraswatee Devee's attributes come more from her own role as River goddess than her association with any particular Gods. The early Vaidik references make it clear that the Saraswatee River originated in heaven and flowed down to the Earth. She represents the ever flowing stream of celestial grace that purifies and fertilizes the Earth. Saraswati's earthly manifestation as a river is just a fractional revelation of her true being. This manifestation offers just the slightest hint of her awesome, heavenly, transcendent dimensions, and of reality in general.

Saraswati: The River and Water as Primordial Womb
The association of goddess and rivers or waters are not only confined to the Hindoo tradition, in major cultures such as Egypt and Mesopotamia also life creating waters are embodied as goddesses. Isis the Great goddess of Egypt began as River goddess.

In classical Hinduism, India herself is affirmed as the center of the world, the naval of the earth, and the special and sacred location of the Divine. Saraswatee River is an earliest example of the Hindu traditions of affirming the land itself as holy. Rivers with its waters began to assumed a sacred character especially in its religious ritual. The symbolism of water is rich and complex in the religious of the world, and among the many symbols of India endowed with spirituality, water is the most sacred, at once the purifier and the origin of the mystery. It is the real and imagined source of life . And the role of the water is clearly feminine.

Through this hymn (Rig Ved 10.125) we can see the association of Vaak and Water and an indication that waters are an aspect of Vaak. In Rig Ved 1.164.41-42, Vaak is the source of the primordial waters that form the subtle material matrix of creation.

Despite its constant reference in the Rig Ved, by the time of the Mahaabhaarat and the laws of Manu ( ca first to third centuries AD) Saraswatee had ceased to exist. Nothing is said in the Rig Ved of Saraswatee's disappearance. What is left are the Archeological evidences discovered all along the Ghaggar River, regarded by some as the ancient Saraswatee.

The three rivers - Saraswatee, Gangaa and Yamunaa used to meet at Prayaag (Allaahaabaad) long ago but now only Gangaa and Yamunaa are visible, while Saraswatee is only spiritually enlightened.

Many Scholars believe the disappearance of Saraswatee due to the the drying up of the River, which then lead to the migration of people eastwards towards Gangaa and Yamunaa and southwards from the Rann of Kutch and Pravar River valley along the Arabian Sea Coast. Another myth says of a curse.

Association With Different Deities

Association with Brahmaa Jee
(1) In Matsya-Purana, when Brahmaa, desiring to create the world, goes into meditation, his body divides into two halves : one male and the other female. Enraptured by his female half (who is Saraswatee) Brahmaa desires her, mates with her and together they create the demigod Manu, who in turn created the world.

(2) When Brahmaa undertakes the creation of the world through creative speech, the goddess Saraswatee is born in his mouth or tongue.

(3) Another legends tells the story of how Saraswatee sprang from the forehead of her father, Brahmaa. Brahmaa - when he saw the beauty of Saraswatee - desired her even though she was his daughter by logic. Saraswatee disliked the attention Brahma focused on her and tried to escape from him, but whichever way she moved, Brahmaa grew a head in that direction to see her better. Even when she moved upwards, Brahman grew another head on top. And despite Divine objection, he still married her. Vishnu and Shiv were so set against Brahmaa's marriage to Saraswatee that they uttered a curse that henceforth Brahmaa would cease to be worshipped as a God. In view of this, goddess Saraswatee is traditionally being worshiped in her own individual capacity, as the goddess of all knowledge and wisdom -without reference to her association with Brahmaa.

Association with Trimoorti (Shiv, Brahmaa and Vishnu)
Brahmaa, Vishnu and Shiv once had a conference to decide the proper punishment to Andhak (Son of Kashyap) who had attempted to steal the sacred Paarijaat tree from Heaven. When the three gods looked at one another, their combined energy formed a red, white and black brilliantly illuminated feminine form. This divine creation of the Tri-Dev further divided into three separate forms- the white one became Goddess Saraswatee, the red became Lakshmee and the black becomes Paarvatee.

Association with Vishnu/Prajaapati
In Skand Puraan, Saraswatee is described as having her origin from the Vishnu. She is said to be His tongue or to he held in his mouth.

Association with Krishn/Raadhaa
In Naarad Puraan, the third Pad of the first part (Poorv Khand) contains several materials which state that, at the highest level, Raadhaa is one with Krishn. She abides with Krishn in the same body, and there is no difference between them. At this highest level, it is said that Raadhaa gives rises to five goddess who are described as her five manifestations: Lakshmee, Durgaa, Saavitree, Saraswatee, and a second form of Raadhaa herself. Some interpretations say that there are eight Shakti (not five) and these Shakti are: Shree Devee, Bhoo Devee, Saraswatee, Preeti, Kriti, Shaanti, Tushti and Pushti.

Legends About the Saraswatee River
Several mythological legends surrounds Saraswatee river:

(1) In the Vaaman Puraan (Chapter 40)
A tale is told of two sages. Once enmity arose between the King Vishwaamitra and Sage Vashishth, because of Vishwaamitra's interference in the worship of Vashishth. Vashishth had his Ashram at Sathanu, a place where Lord Sthaanu (Shiv) had invoked Saraswatee and where Dweshwar had installed a Ling and a huge Saraswatee image. Vashishth used to worship there, which was not to the liking of Vishwaamitra. So Vishwaamitra asked Saraswatee to carry Vashishth in her waters, so that he could kill Vashishth. Saraswatee was distressed to undertake such an ordeal, but still Saraswatee gave the message to Vashishth. Vashishth agreed and assented to Saraswatee's waters carrying him downstream to Vishwaamitra. Upon seeing Vashishth, Vishwaamitra went in search of his dagger. Saraswatee, out of fear and hoping to save the Braahman from murder, submerged Vashishth in her waters. When he saw what Saraswatee had done, Vishwaamitra was enraged and cursed Saraswatee that she would only flow with blood, and only in the region of the demons. His curse became a boon for the demons, who drank blood and enjoyed themselves on the banks of Saraswatee.

In due course, some saints reached the spot and were astonished to see the fate of such sacred waters. On hearing the tale of Saraswatee, the saints prayed and visualized the formation of Sangam (ie the confluence of the rivers Gangaa, Yamunaa and Saraswatee at Prayaag, Ilaahaabaad). When all the demons had bathed in the confluence, they had got rid of their evil doings and became purified.

In another version of this story, when Saraswatee carried Vashishth to Vishwaamitra, Vashishth invited all the Gods and drew into her stream the water from the Arunaa River. When the Gods assembled, the image of the Goddess was installed and later a temple (the Saraswatee Temple in Pehowaa) was founded on the site. With the merger of the Arunaa River into Saraswatee, the waters of the cursed Saraswatee become immortal and the blood, which was food for the evil spirits, was purged away.

(2) In Another Myth
Demons snatched the book of learning from Saraswatee's hand when she came down from the hills to the plains of Thaanesar. The loss of the book put her to great shame and she became a river, which sank into the earth, to come out only at Sangam at Prayaag.

(3) In Mahaabhaarat (Aadi Parv)
Once there was a sage names Matinaar, who performed a sacrifice lasting for twelve years on the banks of the Saraswatee. At the conclusions of the sacrifice, Saraswatee river appeared before him in the form of a beautiful woman and together they produced a son named Tanshu. Through a long line of descendants, Tanshu was an ancestor of King Shaantanu, who married Gangaa and had a son from her - Devavrat (Bheeshm).

(4) In Mahaabhaarat (Shalya Parv 51)
Once Dadheechi was doing Tap that Indra sent Alambooshaa Apsaraa to disturb Muni's Tap. As often happens under such circumstances, Muni could not contain himself and his semen fell into Saraswatee iver on whose bank he was doing his Tapasyaa. The River picked it up, nurtured it with care, and it developed into a fetus. When the time came, Saraswatee brought forth the child to Dadheechi who named him as Saaraswat on the name of Saraswatee.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/03
Updated on 03/07/14