Saraswati Puja

Today is Saraswati Puja. And also Kamadeva Puja, the deva I am named after. Kamadeva is also “Atanu” — meaning “one without a body.”

On this day, we Hindus worship Devi Saraswati. Bengalis traditionally place books and pens next to an image of Ma Saraswati. She is always associated with learning and music. She is depicted playing the veena and holding a book in her lower left hand. She has to be one of my favorite Devis because I like to learn and I like music intensely.

Bengalis believe that one can have either Ma Saraswati’s blessings or Ma Lakshmi’s blessings but not both. Meaning you can either be learned or you can be rich but not both. I accepted that uncritically when I was little but when I grew up I realized that that cannot be true. Without learning there cannot be creation of wealth, and without wealth there cannot be learning.

Devi Saraswati and Devi Lakshmi are, after all, only two aspects of Shakti who has infinite aspects. Bengalis worship Ma Kali as Shakti. About Shakti, the wiki says:

Shakti (“Energy, ability, strength, effort, power, capability”) is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the personification of the energy that is creative, sustaining, as well as destructive, sometimes referred to as auspicious source energy.

She is known as “Adi Shakti” or “Adi Para Shakti” (i.e., Primordial Inconceivable Energy). On every plane of creation, energy manifests itself into all forms of matter. These are all thought to be infinite forms of the Para Shakti. But Her true form is unknown, and beyond human understanding. She is Anaadi (with no beginning, no ending) and Nitya (forever).

The great mystery abides while we go about our mundane lives. On this day, I listen to music set to Raga Saraswati. Let’s start with a kirtan by Krishna Das.

The words are “Om Maai Saraswati Namaha Om.” (Note around the 5:00 minute mark, the cute infant waves to the camera person.) I like the fact that a Jewish guy named Krishna Das is singing Hindu bhajans in a Christian church. That was recorded at St. Pauls and St. Andrews in New York City in Oct 2013.

Next up, the Saraswati Stotram:

And now some classical music:

That was short. To balance the Hindustani vocals, here is a bit Carnatic instrumental. And appropriately, the instrument is the Saraswati veena.

Here are a couple of Pakistani musicians playing Raga Saraswati. If you’re short on time, skip the aalaap and start around 13:00 time.

Let’s hope that we continue to learn our lessons with the blessings of Ma Saraswati.

Author: Atanu Dey


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