Saraswati: Waters & Wisdom

Saraswati: Waters & Wisdom

A short article on Saraswati on this day of Basant Panchami celebrating her.

Saraswati Bhagawati by Shruti Bakshi (acrylic on canvas, 2018)




Mantras from the Rig Veda (1.3.10 to 1.3.12) invoking Saraswati for wisdom and universal understanding:

पावका नः सरस्वती वाजेभिर्वाजिनीवती
यज्ञं वष्टु धियावसुः ॥१

Paavakaa Nah Sarasvatii Vaajebhir-Vaajiniivatii |
Yajnyam Vassttu Dhiyaavasuh ||1.3.10||

चोदयित्री सूनृतानां चेतन्ती सुमतीनाम्
यज्ञं दधे सरस्वती ॥१

Codayitrii Suunrtaanaam Cetantii Sumatiinaam |
Yajnyam Dadhe Sarasvatii ||1.3.11||

महो अर्णः सरस्वती प्र चेतयति केतुना
धियो विश्वा वि राजति ॥१

Maho Arnnah Sarasvatii Pra Cetayati Ketunaa |
Dhiyo Vishvaa Vi Raajati ||1.3.12||


O Saraswati, You are the purifier (of our Intellect), and Your Strength (of Wisdom) grows within us with Sacrificial Offerings (inner and outer),
May my offering in Yagnya strengthen Your Wisdom within me (i.e. May Your presence within me make me rich in Wisdom).

(Saraswati Who) Inspires us towards Truth and awakens our Goodness (Sumati),
(That Saraswati) has (now) held this Yagnya (i.e. Has accepted my offerings).

Saraswati, that Great Wave (of Universal Wisdom) (Who has flowed as a River) and Who is the awakener of our Intellect, …
… is (now) shining as the embodiment of Universal Wisdom (in this Yagnya).



Goddess Saraswati, invoked for wisdom, learning, arts and creative expression is also represented as a river symbolising the quality of “flow” that inspiration and wisdom embody.

Creative expression, knowledge and inspiration flow like water, nourishing all that they touch. When the parallel is made with water, it invokes the aspect of ‘universality’. All beings can drink from the waters of a river and all are nourished by it. Similarly all beings are nourished by the flow of wisdom and inspired word and expression when it emerges from the fount of universal consciousness.

The symbolism of waters is used for consciousness in the Rig Veda. The waters are invoked for providing healing, removing suffering, nourishing and giving energy and splendour. 

A hymn (10.9) to the waters of life in the Rig Veda goes:


1. YE, Waters, are beneficent: so help ye us to energy
That we may look on great delight.
2 Give us a portion of the sap, the most auspicious that ye have,
Like mothers in their longing love.
3 To you we gladly come for him to whose abode ye send us on;
And, Waters, give us procreant strength.
4 The Waters. be to us for drink, Goddesses for our aid and bliss:
Let them stream to us health and strength.
5 I beg the Floods to give us balm, these Queens who rule o’er precious things,
And have supreme control of men.
6 Within the Waters-Soma thus hath told me-dwell all balms that heal,
And Agni, he who blesseth all.
7 O Waters, teem with medicine to keep my body safe from harm,
So that I long may see the Sun.
8 Whatever sin is found in me, whatever evil I have wrought,
If I have lied or falsely sworn, Waters, remove it far from me.
9 The Waters I this day have sought, and to their moisture have we come:
O Agni, rich in milk, come thou, and with thy splendour cover me. 

Ralph T.H. Griffith translation


In many places in the Rig Veda, Goddess Saraswati is invoked as the best of mothers and best of rivers (see article: Saraswati, The Vedic Goddess and River).

The waters of consciousness wash away the Maya of suffering and are the source of life. Before Saraswati came to be associated with knowledge, learning and the arts, she was referred to simply as the giver of life and through whom/which universal wisdom and the power of speech emerges, speech also being symbolic of creation as a whole.

The parallels of water, wisdom and creative inspiration are indeed interesting and Goddess Saraswati represents these.

These waters of life and wisdom flow with intelligence. Saraswati is depicted accompanied by a swan that symbolises discernment. The flood of inspiration, creativity and illumination has still a fine intelligence guiding it. This intelligence of life is constantly sifting, sorting, refining and evolving. Saraswati is therefore associated with right mentalising which is so crucial not only in gaining true wisdom (Jnanasakti) but also navigating life. The constant churning through discernment is the action of life through all forms.


Read the article Basant Panchami: Honouring Saraswati, the Goddess of Wisdom and Light for more on Saraswati and what she represents.



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