Learnings from the imagery and symbolism of Saraswati Devi

An image speaks a thousand words. Ancient Rishis understood this truth and represented a lot of wisdom in Hindu God imagery. Detachment, Learning, Creativity and a lot more is clearly represented in Saraswati Devi.

The Ancient Indian thought created images out of ideas that are being worshipped today as Gods. These images represent qualities that must be present in Human Beings to elevate themselves to higher levels of evolution.

Let us consider the symbology of Saraswati Devi here. It is interesting to note what the image really speaks here.

Saraswati Devi

Rock Solid Wisdom and Detached sense of being

The Goddess is represented as sitting on a rock. The rock depicts steadiness of the mind or of knowledge. The key to all activities in life is to reach that steady spot where one is not affected by the passing of life as it is. There maybe different episodes that presents itself in life; but remain steady come what may.

The white clothes adorned by the Devi represent the Sattva Guna in her. Sattva Guna is one of the three qualities (Gunas) that is represented in the Gita. This quality is one of subtlety and purity as compared to Rajas Guna (representing Passion and lots of Action) or with Tamas Guna (representing laziness and Sleep). In fact all three Gunas are needed in human beings. The question here is in what mix are these gunas really represented in us? A better mix of Satvic Qualities will go a long way, as represented by Saraswati Devi here.

A lotus is seen at her feet. The lotus flower grows from the Mud under water and blossoms just above the water level. But, the flower is mostly detached from water and is never wet on its surface. So, even if its origins are in mud and the environment is wet, the flower never reflects this. Also, the Devi is seen to be “footed” or placing her feet on this very detachment. So, blaming the circumstances or environment in which we are placed is graphically criticised here very clearly.

Discrimination and addressal of Imbalance.

There are two kinds of “vehicles” for the Goddess represented here – Swan and Peacock. The Swan represents discrimination. It has the capability to separate milk and water from a watery mixture of milk and consume the milk alone. This is also called “viveka” in Indian languages. Consider news that we listen to everyday. Are we really capable of filtering the news and taking in the core of the news? Can we forget the biases and such present in the news? This is represented by the swans. 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.  Saraswati 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. So, how do you decide to balance your “ride” between the discrimination and the imbalance? This question is asked by the symbology of Saraswati Devi.

The mind system

Four hands of the Devi represents manas (mind, sense), buddhi (intellect, reasoning), citta (imagination, creativity) and ahamkara (self consciousness, ego). These are the major functioning of the human thought. The feeling and thinking part of the human psyche are represented beautifully here. A good control over these four “hands” would result in the elevation of human system within ourselves. An out of control mind, intellect, imagination and ego is the key to all our troubles.

There is a veena she plays, which represents creative efforts within us. The veena shows arts, crafts, and technology. Also, it talks about the guru who tunes up the mind and intellect. So, the sense of ego that “I” am behind all my results in tech or arts is given to the Guru here. Again the Gita also points to the fact to forget that we are behind all our actions. It is the Brahman that guides our actions in the right way. There is a rosary that represents meditation and peace in her right hand. A book (veda) in her left hand represent learning and knowledge.

The image of the moon, the river, flowers, the trees, the time of the day pictured, the jewellery and all these details have further symbolical meanings. By looking at the image, a seeker is expected to get all these messages so quickly in one glance.

Isn’t this such a beautiful concept?

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