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Saraswati Temples

By

Tamarapu Sampath Kumaran

Southern News Bureau


59, 1st Main Road, Besant Nagar
CHENNAI – 600090 INDIA
About the Author:

Mr T Sampath Kumaran is a freelance writer. He regularly contributes articles on


Management, Business, Ancient Temples, and Temple Architecture to many leading
Dailies and Magazines.

His articles are, popular in “The Young World section” of THE HINDU
His e-books and articles on Hindu deities, Festivals, Nature, and different cultures of
people around the world are educative and of special interest to the young.

He was associated in the production of two Documentary films on Nava Tirupathi


Temples, and Tirukkurungudi Temple in Tamilnadu.
Saraswati Temples
Saraswati is the Goddess of learning, knowledge, and wisdom. The Sanskrit
word sara means "essence" and swa means "self." Thus Saraswati means
"the essence of the self”. Saraswati or Brahmmani or Brahmatani is the
mother goddess of practising knowledge and music, the spouse of the creator
Lord Brahma Since knowledge is necessary for creation, Saraswati
symbolizes the creative power of Brahma as knowledge is necessary for
creation.
Saraswati is regarded as the Goddess of knowledge and the arts. Saraswati
represents consciousness and wisdom. Saraswati is also regarded as
“Vaagdevi”, the goddess of sound and speech. Saraswati is revered as the
dispeller of chaos and confusion.

Saraswati is worshipped as the consort of Brahma the creator. Legend has it


that Brahma the creator acquired the power to think and create only through
the power of Saraswati and that it was Saraswati that enabled Brahma to
listen to the “naadabhrahmam” the primordial sound which is revered as the
source of all creation.

As per Hindu mythology Goddess Saraswati is generally depicted with four


arms, wearing a white sari and seated on a white lotus. She holds a rosary
on her top right hand and the Vedas, on the left, playing veena with the front
two hands. A swan is depicted as Her vehicle and a peacock standing gazing
at Her. As per puranas this symbolism illustrates the following spiritual ideas:

By sitting on a lotus, Saraswati signifies that She is Herself rooted in the


Supreme Reality, and symbolizes supreme knowledge, as the lotus in general
symbolyses the Supreme Reality, and a white lotus in particular denotes
supreme knowledge. The white color also indicates purity and knowledge.
The white sari that the Goddess is wearing denotes that She is the
embodiment of pure knowledge.

The four arms denote Her omnipresence and omnipotence. The four hands
represent the four elements of the inner personality, of mind, the intellect,
the conditioned consciousness, and the ego.

A book in Her hand signifies that knowledge acquired must be used with love
and kindness to promote prosperity of mankind. The rosary signifies
concentration, meditation, and contemplation, and the true knowledge
acquired with love and devotion melts the ego resulting in liberation
(moksha) of the seeker from the bondage to the physical world.

The depiction of the Goddess playing veena conveys that the seeker must
tune his mind and intellect in order to live in perfect harmony with the world.
Such harmonious living enables the individual to utilize acquired knowledge
for the welfare of all mankind.

The swan is believed to have a sensitive beak that enables it to distinguish


pure milk from a mixture of milk and water. A swan as Her carrier indicates
that one must acquire and apply knowledge with discrimination for the good
of mankind. Knowledge that is dominated by ego can destroy the world.
A peacock depicts unpredictable behavior as its moods can be influenced by
the changes in the weather. Though the peacock is depicted as if anxiously
waiting to serve as Her vehicle, 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.
The now extinct river Saraswati, once an integral part of Vedic culture is
associated with Saraswati the Goddess of knowledge. Legend has it that
when Shiva opened his third eye, the flame that emanated threatened to
destroy everything in its path. Only Saraswati the source of wisdom was
unperturbed by the potence of the flame, owing to her firm understanding
that the flame would only destroy what was impure. She then took the form
of a river, carried the flame deep into the sea and transformed it into a fire
breathing mare and declared that the creature of destruction would stay
underground as long as wisdom was sought after and that it would surface if
this search was totally abandoned.

There are not many temples exclusively for Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati
temples dot the whole stretch of India and also in places like Tibet, Java,
Japan and China. She is worshipped not only by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists
but also by people all over the world. The most ancient temple of Saraswati
is in Kashmir.
Mahaakavi Kaalidasa composed Syaamala Dandakam in praise of
Syaamalaamba.

Goddess Saraswati is deemed to have born on Sudha Panchami in Maagha


(February according to the English calendar). Hence celebrations to mar her
birthday on Vasantha Panchami take on in all the Saraswati temples. She is
also worshipped in the form of a book during Dussehra on Sapthami or
seventh day when Moola Nakshatra is on the ascent.

Notable temples dedicated to Goddess Saraswati are:

• Saraswati temple at Pushkar, Rajasthan

Saraswati Temple is a well known mythological landmark in Pushkar. Literally


the name Saraswati means 'the flowing one'. In the Rig Veda Saraswati
symbolizes a river deity and is connected with fruitfulness and refinement.
There are shrines for Saraswati and Brahma.
Many artists, writers and other individuals involved in creative activities have
since ages come on pilgrimage to Pushkar to ask for the inspiration of
Brahma and Saraswati.
Special prayers and Homams are being conducted daily by the devotees.
• Saraswati Ambal Temple at Koothanur, near Tanjavur in Tamilnadu.

This temple is associated with Ottakoothar, the Tamil poet. It is believed that
the poet Ottakoothar erected the shrine very early in the 2nd Millennium

As per the legend, a devotee desirous of knowledge performed severe


penance at the Saraswati shrine seeking Her blessings. Saraswati took the
form of a courtesan and materialised before him and expressed her desire to
bless him. The devotee refused to accept her blessings, not knowing who she
was. Hearing of this incident, Ottakkoothar rushed to the spot and
recognising the identity of the courtesan, the poet prostrated before her
seeking her blessings. Only after this incident, the fame of Ottakkoothar
spread throughout the Tamil land. In fact, the name Koothanur derives from
the poet's name Ottakoothar.

On full moon nights, children are brought here in droves and the word "Om"
is written on their tongues, with a stick dipped in honey. It is believed that
such children blossom into fine orators, poets and musicians.
• Basar Saraswati Temple in Adilabad District of Andhrapradesh
Situated on the banks of Godavari River this temple is dedicated to Goddess
Saraswati, called Gnana Saraswati. It is believed that Maharshi Valmiki
installed the image of Saraswati here; another legend says that Veda Vyasa
did penance on the banks of Godavari and used to bring fistful of sand daily
after bath to make the idol of Goddess Saraswati and installed the idol of the
deity.

Pilgrims come to pay their homage to the 'Goddess of Wisdom'. Basant


Panchami and Navaratri are the major festivals observed at the temple.
'Akshara Gnana' is a special ritual, in which devotees bring their children to
the temple. The significance of the ritual lies in the fact that it marks the
formal starting of child's education. The child is given little bit of turmeric
paste to taste, believing that it will clear his/her vocal chords for better
learning.

• Saraswathi temple, also known as the Mookambiki Temple is situated


in North Paruvur a small town in Kerala
According to legends, a local Thampuran (ruler) in Paravur was a great
devotee of Goddess Mookambika. He used to visit the Kollur temple in
Mangalore every year to pay homage to the goddess. But when he became
too old, his health worsened and he could no longer undertake the long
journey to Kollur. The goddess appeared to the sad devotee in a dream and
ordered him to build her idol near his palace so that he can have daily
darshan of the goddess. Thampuran followed her instructions and built a
temple at Paravur and installed the Goddess.

Aksharabyam is being done in this temple.

All the centers of learning are considered as Her temples.

- Tamarapu Sampath Kumaran