Volume: 21 Roudra year- Chitra, Vaikasi April, May- 1980
Vol No. 3, 4

We observe Saraswathi Poojai on the day of the Maha Navami (the ninth day), during Navaratri. Saraswathi is the sister of Paramashiva; Parvati Devi is the sister of Mahavishnu. The Vedas describe Paramashiva as having matted locks, bearing the crescent moon on his head, possessing an eye on the forehead, and having a form of crystalline purity. In his aspect as Dakshinaamoorthy, the Lord who bestows jnaanam (wisdom), he is described as bearing a string of crystals (sphatikam) and a book in his hands. The Vedas proclaim that it is this Sadaashivamurthy who is the Lord and Custodian of all knowledge and skill. All these attributes are also associated with Saraswathi. The book, the string of crystals, the white hue, the crescent moon, matted locks, the eye on the forehead, and the bestowing of wisdom – all these attributes are common to both Shiva and Saraswathi. Desire, the cause of confusion, is an obstacle to Jnaana, the source of clarity. The third eye, which burns up Kaama (Desire), aids the attainment of wisdom. Though the rays of the sun light up the world, they also heat it up. On the contrary, the cool rays of the moon shower light while at the same time bringing respite from heat. The crescent moon is especially indicative of growing knowledge. The crystal signifies blemishlessness.
Therefore, all these attributes are common to Ishaana, the custodian of wisdom, and to Saraswathi, whose very form is wisdom. Vaani Devi, who explodes dvandvas (binaries/contraries) and brings clarity, is also called Shaaradaa. Just as there is the Kamakoti Peetam in Southern India at Kanchipuram, which is hailed as the best among cities (nagareshu kaanchi), the Shaaradaa Peetam has been established in the Northern part of India, in the valley of Kashmir, which is like the radiant face of Mother India. In the Sharadkaalaa (autumnal season), the whole land is peaceful, radiant and temperate. In the months of Pankuni and Chittirai (mid March-mid May), places like Delhi, Kashi and Prayag, in North India, reel under a heat that is several times fiercer than that which is felt in the South. Similarly, the winter in the month of Maarkazhi (mid December-mid January) is much colder in North India than in the South. In the months of Vaikaasi and Aani (mid May-mid July), there is a heavy, incessant downpour in the central provinces of the country around the Vindhyas and in the Coorg and Malayala regions of the Sahya mountains. In contrast to all this, during the Shukla Paksha (the bright phase) of Aashvija, when the sharadritu (autumnal season) begins, common weather conditions prevail over the whole of the Indian subcontinent, in all places such as Kashmir, Hastinapura, Kashi, Kolkatta, Kanchipuram, Coorg, and Kanyakumari. All climatic differences between the North and the South cease to exist, leading to a state of temperateness. All contradictions or extremes, such as heat and cold, are dispelled. During this time, there is a state of balance, with the appearance of white clouds, a mild sun, and the glow of the Sharadkaala moon after sunset. Thus, the whole world presents itself as the crystalline form of Saraswathi, the Goddess of Knowledge.
When the frenetic activities of the external world cease, the internal world can also be brought to a state of equilibrium, integrating the external and the internal, thus easily attaining to a state of Grace. For example, we know that our elders begin the day by remembering Harinaarayana and end it by worshipping at Shiva temples, wearing the sacred ash on their forehead and remembering Shiva. Of the three cosmic activities of Shrishti, Sthithi and Samhaara, Paramashiva is associated with the last when he dons the role of the Samhaaramoorthy. The word ‘samhaara’ should not be wrongly interpreted as ‘destruction’. The word should be understood, in its Vedic sense, as referring to the absorption of the originless cosmos into its own Causal State. In a state of deep slumber, the sensory energies of all creation are drawn inward into the Self. Similarly, at the end of the cosmic cycle, all the spheres of cosmic life are drawn into and are contained within the Shivaswaroopa. Just as at the end of the cosmic cycle, at the end of every day all perturbations of the mind are allayed. All sound is silenced. The cattle return to their own pens and the birds to their own nests. It is at this time of the day that the Shivaswaroopa reigns.
At the time of cessation of activity in the world of nature, people who wish to attain Supreme Bliss (Ananda) and Calm by turning inward the bird-like mind – which usually ranges over the world – nurture a thought to establish their mind firmly in the Self and be absorbed in the Shivaswaroopa. This thought attains fruition effortlessly and with ease at such a time. This is the reason why the wise are engrossed in the Shivaswaroopa at twilight. Isn’t it natural and easy for a sailor to sail westward when the easterly winds blow? On the same analogy, when the world attains to a state of balance and is steeped in whiteness, peace and awareness, it is but natural that the devoted worship Goddess Saraswathi, the very embodiment of these qualities, to attain wisdom and illumination.
The Rituals involved in Sarawathi Worship
Sarawathi is specially worshipped on the day of Saraswathi Poojai, which falls in the bright phase in the month of Aashvija (the waxing phase that follows the New Moon in the month of Purattasi) on the day of the star Moolam. A white silk cloth is to be spread over a peetham (a plank), on which are to be placed all the books in the house in the form of a mandalam (a geometrical pattern with ritual significance). Goddess Saraswathi is to be invoked into this formation. Before this invocation, one has to visualize Sarawathi in one’s heart through meditation. Then, this visualized form is to be carried above to the crown in a mental process. One is to further transform this into an effulgent form through meditation and is to experience this effulgence emerging out with one’s breath. This radiant form is to be invoked into the mandala formed by the books, with offerings of flowers and aksatha (auspicious unbroken grains of rice). While meditating, one has to visualize Sarawathi as described in the following verse:
Namaskritya jagatpoojyaam shaaradaam vishadaprabhaam|
Sitapadmaasanaam deveem tryambakeem shashibhushanaam||


I pay obeisance to Goddess Shaaradaa, who is seated on a white lotus, has three eyes, bears the crescent moon, and glows with a white radiance.
I meditate upon Goddess Sarawathi, who is seated on a throne of Omkara, as the very essence of Omkara, wearing white garments as pristine as clear glass, with a visage comparable to the autumnal moon, and who is the embodiment of the Naadabrahman (the primordial sound). Then one is to invoke the goddess chanting the following verse:
Atraagachha jagat-dhvandhve sarvalokaikapoojite|
Mayaa kritaamimaam poojaam sangruhaana saraswathi||

We pray to you to reside in this mandala formed by the books. O Goddess, who is worshipped universally, please accept this small worship of mine.
The goddess is to be invoked on the day of the Moolam, and a short worship is to be performed. Again a simple worship is to be performed on the day of the Pooraadam star.  When Uthiraadam star falls on Mahanavami (the Ninth day), a special worship is to be performed. This would involve offering of aasanam (a seat), paadyam, argyam, aachmaneeyam*, madhu bhargam ( a mixture of honey and curds), panchaamrutha snaanam (anointing the deity with a mixture of fruits, honey, ghee, milk and curds), vastrayugmam (a pair of clothe), upaveetham (sacred thread), aabharanam (ornaments), kunkumam (vermilion), anjanam (colliriyum), sandal paste, akshata, flower garland, doopam (incense), lamp, naivedya (food), taamboolam (betel leaves and nut), camphor, flower, pradakshina (circumambulation), and namaskara (prostration before the deity).
Then the following eight names are to be chanted with offerings of the flowers mentioned:
Name to be chanted                                        Flower to be offered
Sarawathyai Namah                                         Erukku
Bhaarathyai Namah                                         Shanbaga
Vaakdevyai Namah                                         Punnai
Maatrukaayai Namah                                       Nandiyaavartham
Chaturmukha Priyaayai Namah                                   Paadiri
Hamsaasanaayai Namah                                              Kandankattiri
Vedashaastraartha tattvajnaayai Namah                       Arali
Sakala Vidyaathidevataayai Namah                 Tumbai

Dhorbhiryuktaa chaturbhis-sphatikamanimayeem-akshamaalaam dadhaana
Hastenaikena padmam sitamapi cha shukam pustakam chaaparena|
Bhaasaa kundendushankha-sphatikamaninibhaa bhaasamaana samaanaa
Saa me vaagdevateyam nivasatu vadane sarvada suprasanna||

May the goddess Saraswathi – who holds a string of crystals, a book, a white lotus and a parrot in her four arms, and who shines with a pristine radiance comparable to that of the kunda flower, the crescent moon, the conch and crystal beads – reside forever in my speech. In some slokas, the white lotus is replaced by the veena.
Chaturdashasu vidyaasu ramate yaa saraswathi|
Saa devi kripayaa mahyam jihvaasiddhim karotu cha||

May the godess Saraswathi , who is the essence of bliss in the fourteen branches of knowledge, bestow upon me the perfection of speech through her grace.

The fourteen branches of knowledge are:
The four vedas, the six angas of the vedangas (Shiksha,  Vyakarana, Chandas, Niruktam, Jyothisham, Kalpasutra), the four subsidiary angas, the eighteen puranas, the Nyaya shastram, the Mimamsa shastram and the Dharma Shastram.

The Formless Absolute takes on these divine forms to reside in the hearts of devotees at the time of meditation. Just as ghee becomes white and solidifies when cooled, the Formless Absolute assumes whiteness and a form due to the pleasant coolness of devotion. Moreover, one has to meditate upon the goddess and worship her in the form of the resonant sounds of the Rk alphabet beginning with the sound ‘a’ and ending in the sound ‘ksha’.

One has to perform this worship on the Mahanavami day and offer food as naivedya. On the following day of the Shravana star, one has to perform a short worship, re-establish Saraswathi in her original, eternal abode (yathaasthaanam) and begin studies. When one observes silence from the day of the Moolam star to the day of the Utthiradam star and begins study on the day of the Shravanam star, one will attain perfection of speech and fruition of knowledge.

Vimalapati kamalakuti pustaka-rudraaksha-shasta-hasta-putee|
Kaamaakshi pakshamalaaksheem kalitavipanchee tvameva vairinchee||
Yaa kundendu-tushaara-haara-dhavalaa yaa shubhra-vastraavrutaa
Yaa veenaa-vara-danda-mandita-kara yaa shveta-padmaasanaa|
Yaa brahmaachyuta-shankara-prabhruthibhir-devai-sadaa poojitaa
Saa maam paatu saraswathee bhagavathee nishshesha-jaadyaapahaa||

* paadyam, argyam, aachmaneeyam – water offered to the deity to wash feet, hands and the face respectively

Translated from Tamil by: Sri. Ganesh, Sr. Deepa & Sr. Latha, Devotees

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