In a place where celebrations take place every month, let us remember “Basant Panchami,” a springtime celebration associated with Saraswati, the goddess of music and learning, who is particularly revered on that day. Let’s look at a handful of the numerous images in various media and styles that the art world has dedicated to her.
Goddess Saraswati: who is she?
She is the goddess of education, knowledge, and the beautiful arts. She represents the gentle side of “shakti,” or feminine energy; she is a very endearing goddess who plays the musical instrument known as the vina. She is clutching her vina, a water jug, a book, and a rosary in four hands. Usually a white swan or geese, but occasionally a peacock, serves as her vahana. From the Vedic era until the present, she was revered as a significant deity and was first referenced in the Rigveda. Writing the alphabets in front of the goddess’ image is how Hindu children in India are formally introduced to the world of education.
For all poets, writers, and artists who revere her strength and glory, she is extremely precious. Saraswati is also well-known in Buddhist and Jain mythology. She is credited with creating the Sanskrit language. The same name also refers to a river. “The river Sarasvati is revered above all others in the Vedas (a collection of poems and hymns) and is by far the one most frequently mentioned,” according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. It has long been thought of as ethereal or mythical, merging covertly with the Ganges and Jamuna rivers at Prayag (Allahabad) and not matching any of the principal rivers of modern-day South Asia.
Saraswati Devi’s representations in art and culture
Since ancient times, the goddess has been portrayed in literature and art. According to a passage in the Saraswati Rahasya Strotra,
वाणीं नमामि मनसा वचसा विभूत्यै॥१॥
I submit to Goddess Saraswati, whose brilliant beauty is like the splendorous moon; she is dressed with gold and champak flowers and bestows auspiciousness. She is crowned with a garland of white lotuses. May her thoughts, words, and heavenly manifestations shield me.
Now, let’s look at some artwork!
- She is depicted holding an alapini or eka-tantri vina alongside Lakshmi on the side of Lord Vishnu in an 11th-century Pala sculpture.
2. One extremely rare piece of art is a painting of the goddess that Farukhh Husayn created during his time at the Bijapur palace. The goddess is depicted in small form, her vina perched atop an elaborate throne with stairs and an attendant by her side. Perhaps made with his patronage, Sultan Ibrahin Adil Shah (1570–1627) was tolerant of different religions. Her “vahana,” or chariot, is the swan/white geese, which is shown near the bottom of the composition. The painting also features a peacock, since the goddess is occasionally depicted holding one.
3. This painted folio is a portion of a larger composition that shows a monarch honouring a hermit sitting on a tiger’s hide in a hermitage. It is from the Kotah style of Rajasthan, which was influenced by the Mughals. It is an auspicious event, as indicated by the appearance of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Saraswati, who also signify that they are blessing the monarch.
4. Many Indians’ homes were blessed with the presence of Goddess Saraswati, thanks to Raja Ravi Varma’s depiction of her, which was and is included on numerous calendars. Seated with her vina and a peacock by her side, she has four arms. She is the goddess of flowing water, and the composition also includes a body of water. One of Raja Ravi Varma’s most well-known creations is this.
5. Artist Amarsingha’s contemporary portrayal of Saraswati features her with her vina and her vahanas (a peacock or a swan) behind her. It does a good job of portraying the lotus emblem, the water flow, and the semi-abstract swan attitude.
As a result, we witness a highly revered Indian goddess from Hindu mythology being portrayed in artwork dating back centuries.