Saraswati Vandana

Goddess Saraswati is a manifestation of Adhya Shakti, the divine feminine power of all creation, affectionately viewed by Her devotees as Divine Mother. Among Her many qualities and manifestations, She is the source of all knowledge, science and art. Her name refers to the One who is like a flowing river of Self-knowledge. She is worshiped not only by yogis and sadhus but also by musicians, dancers and scholars. The modern-day clash of art and science does not exist where the understanding of Divine Mother’s creative principle is present. She is prayed to for knowledge of the Self, purity, artistic expression, scientific knowledge, and the spiritual receptivity necessary to learn from the guru. Her lunar day of worship (Saraswati Puja) takes place in January-February (February 12th in 2016). This day is also Vasant Panchami, which is celebrated as the first day of Spring in India. Part of the ceremonial offerings on this day are items of learning and skill, such as tools, books and instruments. Song and dance are important on this day. A joyous day indeed for the Goddess of creation and art! 

Her more ancient names, Vani or Vaak, can be found in the earliest Vedic scriptures. Their meaning relates directly to the voice, which is the primary instrument in the human body that can express sound, music and speech—including the wisdom and mantras uttered by the gurus and sages. 

In the various depictions of Saraswati, such as statues and paintings, She holds the Vedas, symbolizing that She is the source of all teaching and the guru tattva (the principle of guru that flows through all sincere teachers and gurus). She also holds the veena, an ancient stringed instrument, as a symbol of Her oneness with naad brahma, the holy sound of the Aum vibration. Saraswati takes this essence of Aum and creates hundreds of raga melodies and songs that express all possible emotions—this is music, the melodic and rhythmic creation of Saraswati. The esoteric significance of the veena relates to Saraswati's control of the vibrations that flow through the nadi, which are the energetic pathways of subtle currents in the body, such as the idapingala and sushumna in the spine. Her upper right hand holds a japa mala, or rosary of prayer beads, symbolizing the devotional utterance of the holy mantra that is given by the guru. In some depictions, such as the one heading this article, She holds an elephant goad, which She uses to urge the devotee to move forward in spiritual progress. She holds these in Her right hand to show that spiritual progress is more important (right hand) than even the acquisition of knowledge (which she holds in Her left hand). Another interpretation of this is that one's effort is more important than even the knowledge and grace imparted by the guru.

A white silk sari adorns her sacred body, symbolizing the sattva guna, or quality of absolute purity. She rides the hansa, swan, whose white feathers are never soiled, even when wading through polluted waters. The peacock is always nearby, representing beauty and the play of Nature. Saraswati's beauty and power are subtle and divine, and we humbly contemplate and adore Her, yet never fully perceive Her.

The following verses were written in India by an unknown devotee of the Goddess, describing Her many attributes. Inspired by these words, I composed a chant in the raga Hamsadhwani ("Call of the Swan") as a vandana, or devotional offering, to Saraswati. It has become one of the standard chants for all Sangita Yoga students and functions. Listen or Download Naren’s Song ‘Saraswati Vandana’ Here: iTunes    Amazon Bandcamp Spotify

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Saraswati Vandana

Paramahansa Yogananda wrote that the seeds of truth expounded in scripture are covered by "the hard shell of language and ambiguity." But through the guidance of a true guru one can use the "nutcracker of intuitive perception" to open the shells and find within the seed of truth.

With these words in mind, I offer the following translation by Lopamudra Bose. I encourage serious seekers to look for further understanding and knowledge from authentic and qualified sages and their writings.

Original Text: Traditional
Language: Sanskrit
Translation by: Lopamudra Bose 

Click Here For Pronunciation Guide

jaya jaya he bhagavati sura bhārati
tava caraṇau praṇamāmaham

Victory! Victory to the Goddess of learning, music and the arts! We bow at Your feet.

nāda bramha mayi jaya vāgīṣvari ṣaraṇam te gatcāmaḥ

Goddess of speech, permeated with Nada Brahma (Aum, the Sound of God) We take refuge in Your presence.

tvamasi ṣaraṇya tribhuvana dhanya
sura muni vandita caraṇa

navarasa madhura kavita mukhara
smita ruci rucira bharaṇa

You protect the three worlds, all seek shelter in You. You are worshiped by gods and sages alike. You are sweetened by the honey of the nine rasa (nine emotions of drama and music). Your face and form manifest beauty and delight.

āṣīnābhava mānasa hanse
kunda tuhina ṣaṣi dhavale

hara jaḍatām kuru bodhi vikāṣam
ṣtita pankaja tanu vimale

You ride the beautiful Swan from the holy Lake Manasarovar. You are fair as the moon, pure white as the jasmine blossom. Overcome all of our obstacles! Expand our wisdom like an opening lotus bud.

lalita kalāmai ġñāna vibhāmai
veeṇa pustaka dhāriṇi
matira ṣtām no tava pada kamale
ai kunṭha viśa hāriṇi

Mother of all art forms, Beholder of all knowledge, holding in Your hands all books of wisdom and the divine veena (ancient stringed instrument), we bow at Your lotus feet. Remove from us all that is impure.

jaya jaya he bhagavati sura bhārati
tava caraṇau praṇamāmaham

Victory! Victory to the Goddess of learning, music and the arts! We bow at Your feet.