Mother Saraswati, also known as Sārada (giver of essence), Vāgīsvari (goddess of speech), Mahāvidyā (knowledge supreme), and so on, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. Considered as the quintessence of knowledge, arts, sciences, crafts, and skills, she is depicted as pure white in color. Clad in white apparel and seated on a white lotus, she holds in her four hands – a Vīṇā (lute), japamālā (rosary), and pustaka (book).
While the book in her hand symbolizes Vedas, representing the universal, divine, eternal, true knowledge as well as forms of learning, the rosary represents the power of meditation, inner reflection, and spirituality. She plays the lute, to show the need for the cultivation of fine-arts and harmony. Due to her association with the swan, she is also referred to as Hamsavāhini (one who has a swan as her vehicle). Though this is most common, there is a variation where a peacock is also shown as her carrier vehicle. While the swan, which is supposed to possess the power of separating milk from water, stands for wisdom, the peacock with its beautiful plumage, stands for the world in all its glory. However, both the material and spiritual knowledge is necessary for our progress, as the Isha Upanishad states:
विद्यां चाविद्यां च यस्तद्वेदोभय सह ।
अविद्यया मृत्युं तीर्त्वा विद्ययामृतमश्नुते ॥
vidyāṃ cāvidyāṃ ca yastadvedobhya saha |
avidyayā mṛtyuṃ tīrtvā’mṛtamaśnute ||
(Isha Upanishad, 11)
“He who knows both vidya and avidya together, overcomes death through avidya and experiences immortality by means of vidya.”
While vidya (spiritual illumination) liberates us from Maya, avidya (signifying secular knowledge like sciences and arts of the world) should not be neglected. It’s because, as H. H. Swami Mukundanada ji elucidates, “the knowledge of material sciences is necessary for the maintenance of the body, while the spiritual knowledge is necessary for the manifestation of the internal divinity within us.”
It is for this reason that the Radha Krishna Temple in Allen, celebrated Vasant Panchami, the festival dedicated to Mother Saraswati. Children with their parents got together and worshipped mother Saraswati and performed abhishekam. All the children prayed for wisdom and knowledge by chanting 108 names of Mother Saraswati. Placing their books & musical instruments at the feet of Mother Saraswati, the children sought her blessings. “Living away from Bharat, it is difficult to teach the significance of this festival and Saraswati puja to the children. But today, they got to learn and celebrate it, at Radha Krishna Temple” said Kirti Sharma expressing her delight.
May Mother Saraswati bless all of us with lots of devotion and wisdom!