SYMBOLISM IN HINDUISM
The Saraswati Concept
The form Godess Saraswathi sitting on a white lotus is familiar to most of us. Saraswati is the personification of knowledge and wisdom in the female form. This knowledge is within the body of man. The lotus depicts this human body. The white colour of the lotus indicates the attribute of purity (satvaguna). The lotus blooms in the muddy water. Here the muddy water or dirt represents the decadent society. That is, when a society has a downfall, from the path of righteousness (Dharma) Jnani (Knower of Truth) is born from this society. This is the principle behind the form of Saraswati. (Saraswati literally means, ‘the essence of one’s Self’.)
This Godess has a veena (a stringed instrument) in Her hand. >From this emanates the sound of Pranava (AUM- the sound form of the Supreme Self). Narayana Guru has mentioned in Atmopadesa-satakam (sloka-52) that one can hear this melodious sound, when one is realizing the Truth.
(On that day, the sky will glow as radiant sound. All visible objects will become extinct in that. There after, the sound that provides fullness to the three-fold knowledge, becomes silent and self-effulgent)
The sound referred to here is Nada Brahman (or the echo of AUM chanting). From this sound the manifest world of names and forms emanates. The Mandukya Upanishad starts with the sentence, ‘Hari AUM, om ityetad aksharam idam sarvam’-, which means, all that is past, present or the future, all this is only the syllable AUM.
In the Bhagavat Gita, Lord Krishna repeats this (chapter 4, stanza 7-8) as;-
‘Whenever there is a decay of righteousness (Dharma) and the rise of adharma, then I embody myself, O! Bharata, for the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of Dharma, I am born age after age.’
This concept is depicted in the form of Saraswati.