Maa Saraswati by Manjari Sharma

Manjari Sharma (born 1979). Maa Saraswati, 2013. Chromogenic print. Lent by the artist.

Maa (Mother) Saraswati is a Hindu goddess who represents education, creativity, and music. The name Saraswati stems from the Sanskrit root "saras," which means "that which is fluid." Maa Saraswati is known to bring order out of chaos and has a calming and centering personality.

Unlike other goddesses, Maa Sarawati chooses not to bear children. She represents singularity, independence, and defiant thought. Maa Saraswati remains a champion of the arts and intellectual rigor through poetry, literature, and music. Identified as a patron of the arts and sciences, Maa Saraswati is also known as the inventor of Sanskrit.

Lord Brahma is known as a generator of the universe. He also created Maa Saraswati, whose knowledge and creativity was required by him to imbue his various other creations. Thus, Maa Saraswati is considered his daughter and his cerebral progeny.  

Below, artist Majari Sharma describes the symbolism in her photograph of the goddess, which appears in the exhibition Transcendent Deities of India: The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine. Think about these symbols and their meaning as you work a puzzle made from the photograph of Maa Saraswati. 


Click here to see the entire photograph.

  • Every year between February and March, India celebrates Basant Panchami at the onset of spring when fields are blooming with yellow flowers of the mustard crop. Hindus associate yellow with Maa Saraswati's favorite color. The significance of this day lies in the worship of goddess Maa Saraswati who embodies all different facets of learning such as the sciences, arts, and crafts. 
  • Maa Saraswati represents simplicity and elegance. Knowledge is the antithesis of the darkness of ignorance, so she is visually depicted wearing a white sari. 
  • Maa Saraswati renounces worldly desires and therefore is never adorned or decorated with heavy jewels. Instead, in her multiple hands she holds symbolic objects: a manuscript represents the wisdom of books and constant learning; two hands hold the veena, a stringed instrument representing the tuning of one's mind and body into harmony; prayer beads represent spiritual knowledge.
  • The swan and the peacock flank Maa Saraswati. They both stand for beauty and pride, but caution one to stay mindful of vanity and ego. 


Complete the puzzle