This article is part of a series where we look back in history at strong women – from real life, fiction, or the blending of both into legend – who blazed new trails, had great adventures, and stood up for what was right. They are the originals that our grandmothers and generations of women before admired and who became the stepping stones for us, the Geek Gals of today. We shall call these female forbearers our Classic Geek Gals.
I’d like to introduce to you our next Classic Geek Gal: Saraswati, Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom, and learning.
This particular article comes just in time for Saraswati Puja (also called Vasant Panchami or Basant Panchami), a festival held in honor of Saraswati that typically occurs in the months of January and February to welcome the transitioning of winter to spring. This festival takes place this year on Jan. 29 and on Feb. 16 in 2021. So get out your yellow clothes and saffron seasoning and join us for the seasonal celebration of a Classic Geek Gal: Saraswati!
Some things just make sense.
When we look at Classic Geek Gals, some have needed more explanation than others… but not Saraswati. If Geek Gals had their own deity, wouldn’t it be one who ruled over knowledge AND the creative arts? Brains, beauty, speech, and the flow of waters that purify us all: Saraswati represents everything geeky and feminine.
She loves music and art.
Saraswati is often depicted with a veena, a musical instrument that represents expressing knowledge through harmony. Musicians often pray to her before a performance, and it is said that she grants knowledge through music. In many pieces of art, “She holds in her hands a book (prose), a rosary of crystal beads (poetry) and a vina (music). Her final hand holds a pot of sacred water, which represents the purity of these three arts and their power to purify human thought” (from Kashgar).
Lotus Sculpture has a wonderful story about Saraswati and her music:
The Gandharvas were demigods who sprang from the fragrance of flowers. Once they stole the Soma plant whose inebriating and invigorating sap was much sought after by the devas. The theft of the Soma infuriated all the gods.
Saraswati promised to recover the soma plant. She went to the garden of the gandharvas and with her veena created enchanting tunes: the ragas and the raginis.
‘Give us this music,’ begged the Gandharvas.
‘Only if you give back the Soma plant to the devas,’ said the goddess.
The Gandharvas returned the Soma plant and learned how to play music from Saraswati. In time they became celestial musicians whose melodies had more power to rouse the mind than any intoxicant.
She loves knowledge and learning.
In other artwork Saraswati is shown holding a book and pen as symbols of knowledge and wisdom. During the festival held in her honor called Saraswati Puja, children are taught how to write the alphabet for the first time, as she is also considered the goddess of Sanskrit. From 4to40’s site: “Saraswati is believed to be the provider of knowledge that dispels ignorance and unhappiness. Saraswati is worshiped by seekers of knowledge especially students, scholars and scientists.”
She represents the true essence of purity and light.
Saraswati represents not just knowledge but a higher version of knowledge gained through experience and enlightenment. “In art, Saraswati is associated with the white lotus flower, as it symbolized the knowledge which she is constantly seeking. She is often also associated with a swan or hamsa to identify with her pure, innocent nature—as it is believed wisdom is best achieved through indiscriminate means. She is portrayed in yellow or white, and her primary festival (Saraswati Puja) is celebrated on the first day of spring” (from Ancient Origins).
Did you know that she saved the world?
In another great story from Lotus Sculpture, we learn about that time Saraswati saved the world:
Shiva was woken from his meditations and looked around to discover a world on the brink of corruption and being unsalvageable. Shiva decided it was time to wipe the slate clean. Shiva, the destroyer, opened his world destroying third eye attempting to destroy the three worlds.. Out came a terrible fire that threatened all existence.
There was panic everywhere. Saraswati calmly stated, ‘Do not worry. Shiva’s fire burns only that which is impure and corrupt.’;
She took the form of a river, and with her pure waters picked up the dreaded fire from Shiva Badavagni – the beast of doom.
‘So long as the world is pure and man wise, this terrible creature will remain on the bottom of the sea. When wisdom is abandoned and man corrupts the world, Badavagni will emerge and destroy the universe,’ foretold the wise goddess.
From Sivana Spirit, we end with a “prayer that is made to Goddess Saraswati is the “Saraswati Vandana” during her birthday, also known as Vasant Panchami, and translated in English below:
May Goddess Saraswati,
who is fair like the jasmine-colored 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.
Featured image credit: Chakrayog.com