The Origins and Myths of Goddess Saraswati

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom, learning, speech, and the Saraswati river. She is also known by other names such as Brahmani (power of Brahma), Brahmi (goddess of sciences), Bharadi (goddess of history), and Vagdevi (goddess of speech). 

Saraswati is the combination of “Saras,” which means pooling water, and “Vati,” meaning she who possesses. So, she is the one who has ponds, lakes, and pools of water. Sometimes, her name is also translated as “she who possesses speech.” Along with Lakshmi and Parvati, she forms the Tridevi.

Saraswati has remained an important goddess from the Vedic period to the modern period of Hindu religion and traditions. Originally, she was referred to as the Saraswati River in Rigveda. According to the Rigveda, she is the best of mothers, rivers, and goddesses.

She is celebrated as a feminine deity of the healing and purifying powers of abundant, flowing water. She is also sometimes associated with rhetoric, eloquence, creative work, and anything whose flow purifies the essence of self.

 Saraswati Origins

Saraswati origin
Raja Ravi Varma, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

According to ancient scriptures, Brahma got ready for the creation and, while in meditation, began swelling up in his mind. And from there, a girl was born. Brahma asked her who she was. She answered that she was born of him and he should assign her duties. 

Brahma told her that her name is Saraswati and ordained that she should stay on the tip of everybody’s tongue. She should dance, especially on the tongues of learned people. He asked her to live on earth in the form of a river and, as a third form, to live in him too. Sarawati agreed to this. So she is Brahma’s active energy and power in one of her forms.

Saraswati transforms into a river

One other legend tells the story of Saraswati becoming a river. According to this, after a war, the gods deposited their arsenal of weapons at the hermitage of a sage. When the gods sought the return of weapons, the sage informed them that he had absorbed all the power of their weapons with his penance. 

He offered his own bones instead as the source of new weapons. Despite the objections, the sage sacrificed himself. The sage’s son, on hearing this event, sought to wreak his vengeance on the gods. Through his penance, a fiery man emerged from his right thigh to be the doom of all creation. Vishnu convinced the man to swallow the gods one by one. Telling him that he should start by consuming the primordial water of creation. 

The man wished to be accompanied to the source of water by a virgin. So Saraswati was dispatched for this purpose, despite her reluctance. She took him to Varuna (the god of the ocean), who then consumed the man. For good measure, Saraswati transformed into a divine river. It flows with the five channels into the sea making the waters sacred.


There are many legendary stories surrounding the goddess. According to one legend, originally Lakshmi, Saraswati and Ganga were the wives of Shri Hari. Saraswati felt that Shri Hari was getting fonder of Ganga. She complained to Lakshmi, but Lakshmi was neutral. Saraswati was irritated and cursed Lakshmi to become a tree because she was insensitive.

Ganga felt bad and cursed Saraswati. This led Saraswati to curse Ganga. Reacting to this situation, Shri Hari gave dispensations, and accordingly, Lakshmi was to be born as a tree in the house of a king. Sarawati was declared to exist as one part of a river, one part of which would remain with him, and another of which would later become Brahma’s wife.

According to one legend, Brahma, the creator, fell in love with the woman who appeared from his own mind. Noticing his amorous glances, she turned to the right side of the deity. The deity produced a new face toward his right. 

When she appeared on his other two sides, two new faces emerged in these directions. As a last resort, she leapt into the sky. A fifth face emerged from the deity, looking upwards. Conceding her defeat, she consented to become the deity’s consort.

According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, Ravanna, along with his brothers Vibhishana and Kumbhakarna, performed penance to appease Brahma. Brahma offered each a boon. But other gods pleaded with him not to grant Kumbhkarna his boon. 

Then Brahma summoned his consort, Saraswati, and told her to say whatever the gods desired. When Kumbhakaran spoke to invoke his boon, she entered his mouth, causing him to say, “To sleep for innumerable years.” She then exited his body. After this, Kumbhakaran is said to be asleep for 12 years at a time.


Saraswati representation
Kotah, Rajasthan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in pure white, often seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes light, knowledge, and truth. She not only embodies knowledge but also the experience of the highest reality.

In the scriptures, she is generally described as being as white as the moon, adorned in white ornaments, and holding a book and a pen in her hands.

She is often shown with four arms, but sometimes just two. When shown with four hands, she symbolically mirrors her husband’s four heads. These represent mana (mind), buddhi (intellect), citta (imagination), and ahamkara (self-consciousness, ego).

Her four hands hold different items. These include a book, a rosary, a water pot, and a musical instrument. The book symbolizes the Vedas, which represent universal, divine, and eternal knowledge as well as all forms of learning. 

The rosary represents the power of meditation, inner reflection, and spirituality. The water pot represents the purifying power to separate right from wrong. It also symbolizes soma, the drink that liberates and leads to knowledge. Lastly, her musical instrument, the Veena, represents all creative arts and sciences.

Sacred birds like the Swan is often associated with Saraswati

A hamsa (swan) is often shown near her feet. In Hindu mythology, the hamsa is a sacred bird, which if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink only milk. It symbolizes the ability to discriminate between good and evil. 

Sometimes, a peacock is shown beside her. The peacock symbolizes colorful magnificence and the celebration of dance. Because it is a devourer of snakes, it represents the ability to transform the serpentine poison of the self into enlightenment.

She is usually depicted near a flowing river, which is a reference to her early history as a river goddess. As a river goddess, she represented fertility and purity.

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Saraswati and Brahma

According to Hindu mythology, Saraswati is the wife of Lord Brahma. Brahma represents the abstract, while she represents action and reality. Some Hindus believe that all creatures were born from the union of Brahma and Saraswati. She is considered to be the embodiment of his power, the instrument of creation and energy that derives from his actions.

Lord Brahma is one of the most important gods in Hinduism. But he is rarely worshiped. It was because of a curse from Saraswati. A misunderstanding was the root of the curse. According to the story, one day, he was waiting for his wife to begin a religious ceremony. And so, unable to start the ritual punctually, Brahma asked for the gods’ advice. 

They responded by creating a new wife for him, Gayatri. However, when Saraswati eventually turned up, she was not pleased to see her husband with another woman. So she cursed Brahma, telling him never to be worshiped by humanity.


There are many forms and manifestations of Saraswati. She is venerated in some regions as MahaSaraswati. MahaSaraswati is depicted as eight-armed. She is said to be born from the body of Gauri (Parvati) and to be the sustaining base of the three worlds. 

She is also considered one of the nine forms of Shakti, who is revered in India as a powerful and dangerous goddess.

One of her other forms is Mahavidya Nila Saraswati. However, she is not much different from the traditional Saraswati. Though Saraswati is the calm, compassionate, and peaceful one, Nila Saraswati is the angry, destructive manifestation. In some parts of India, she is revered as an incarnation of the goddess Tara.

As Sharada, she is worshiped in Kashmir. Here she is a tripartite embodiment of goddesses: Sharada, Saraswati, and Vagdevi. According to people’s beliefs, the abode of the goddess should not be looked at directly. The shrine contains a slab concealing the spring underneath, which they believe to be the spring in which goddess Sharada revealed herself to a sage.


Saraswati is invoked to remind the worshiper to meditate on virtue, virtuous conduct, and the meaning and very essence of one’s activity and actions.

She is worshiped during the final three days of the Navratri festival. The celebrations start with the puja. It consists of placing the books for puja. It may be in one’s own house, at a local school, or in a temple for instance. 

Following worship, the books are taken out for reading. The child is often ritually taught to write for the first time on rice spread on a plate. Cultural programs are also organized on this day.

On Saraswati Day, people on Bali, Indonesia, make flower offerings in temples and sacred texts. On this day, they go to the sea or sacred waterfalls to offer prayers and then rinse themselves in that water. It is often celebrated with theater and dance performances.

One of the most popular festivals associated with the goddess Saraswati is the Hindu festival of Vasant Panchami. It is celebrated on the fifth day of the Hindu calendar month of Magha. This day is also known as Saraswati Puja and Saraswati Jayanti.

It is said that chanting the Saraswati mantra 64 times every morning and evening for 21 consecutive days will help devotees get the blessings of the goddess.

Symbols of Saraswati

Saraswati symbol
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


White: Goddess Saraswati’s iconography is typically in white themes, from dresses to flowers to swans. The white color symbolizes Sattwa, i.e., purity and discrimination for true knowledge, insight, and wisdom.

Yellow: Saraswati’s favorite color is yellow. People often offer her flowers like sunflowers, marigolds, and allamanda during her puja.


Lotus: The goddess is often depicted as sitting on a white lotus, which symbolizes light, knowledge, and truth. The lotus flower in Hinduism is viewed as a symbol of purity, strength, resilience, and rebirth.

Peepal (Plaksa Prasravana): Peepal is often identified with her. Within the Shivalik Mountains, it is the source of the Saraswati River.


Swan: The Swan is considered Saraswati’s vehicle. It is shared by her with Lord Brahma. The swan symbolizes the ability to tell the difference between what is good and bad, right and wrong. It also represents the soul’s yearning to reach the highest peaks as well as go beyond them.

 Peacock: The peacock is the devourer of snakes, and in this sense, it symbolizes the ability to transmute the serpent poison of the self into enlightenment. Peacocks also change with the weather, symbolizing the fickleness of the human mind. It symbolizes arrogance and pride.


Veena: Saraswati is the goddess of the arts. Veena represents this artistic aspect of her. Also, it serves as a reminder to tune one’s heart and mind to live in harmony with others and the world.


The scents associated with the goddess are marked by Eastern floral notes of gardenia and tuberose. These are accented with the purifying scents of myrrh and rich sandalwood.

Goddess Jewelry

There are many reasons why you might want to keep a healing crystal or stone close to you. Getting closer to your goddess by wearing her color or crystal is a great one. That they also look great as jewelry only makes it so much better!

Here is a guide to crystal jewelry you hopefully will find helpful. In it is a list of 30+ crystals and links to some really great looking jewelry with that crystal or stone. Enjoy!

Gems and Metals

Emerald is associated with the goddess Saraswati. The emerald stone is considered the stone of wisdom and intellect. Wearing it in combination with other stones is believed to enhance success in exams, business, and concentration while studying.


Saraswati represents Planet Mercury. It is believed to be a symbol of fertility and potency.

FAQs about Saraswati

Which book depicts the significance of Saraswati?

Ancient Hindu scripture Many mantras in the Rigveda praise the goddess Saraswati in her divine form. In this Veda, she is regarded as the mother of all.

Why does the goddess Saraswati dress in white?

The color white is associated with Saraswati, as it symbolizes purity and true knowledge.

What is Saraswati’s favorite food?

Khichdi, pulao, and sweet dishes made with jaggery are often offered to Saraswati during worship.

Which day is the Saraswati fast?

Thursday is dedicated to the goddess Saraswati. Worshipers hold fast on this day to honor her.

Other Goddesses

If you enjoyed this post we are sure you will enjoy getting to know some of the other goddesses we also write about. You can find the complete list of goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.

Featured Image Credit: Siva301in, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons