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Saraswati and Sri vaishnavism:Vedic View

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Thu Feb 08 1996 - 05:03:16 PST

Dear Members of the Prapatti group:

First of all, let me thank all of you for your kind words on 
my contributions to the Group's efforts. Thru private
and public mail, you have encouraged me to share what
little I know and learn from one and all.One single life will be 
insufficient to understand even a small portion of the immanence 
and permanence of our Kula Dhanam. Even if we do not have the 
Aacharam and Anushtaanam of our predecessors and Acharyas,
the least  we can do is to approach the inherited wealth from 
a humble perspective and try to reflect on their deep meanings to 
derive solace and comfort during our limited sojourn 
 on the earth of Sriya:Pathi.

In this context, It is a privelege and honor for me to participate in
the discussions on our ancient and rich  Sampradhayam.
 May all of our efforts to keep this group's efforts to expand our knowlefge
 and reverence for the teachings of Great Accharyas and Azhwars
 and Vedic Seers grow ! 

Prior to Making a few observations on the Significance of 
Saraswati from a different perspective, at this early hour of the
dawn of a new day, I wish to offer my salutations to the ever-inspiring
thought of Sri Nigamaantha Maha Desikan of Thooppul:

"Naanilamum  Thaan Vazha Naanmaraigal Thaam Vazha
Maanagarin Maaran Marai Vazha --Jnaniyargal
Senni aNi Ser Thuppul Vedantha Desikareh
Innumoru NurraaNdirum" 

The essence of the verse touches all the interrelated 
subjects of our reverence. This Swasti Vachanam and 
the salutation to our illustrious Acharya is a profoundly 
meaningful one. Swami Desikan's Sri Sookthis are 
recognized as the contibutory cause for the well being 
of the four kinds of land (Kuriji, Mullai et al recognized by
Sangam literature). It is also identified as the contributor
for the upholding of the Four Vedas , since he is the
Vedanthaachaarya, who  identified with the sacredness of the 
Vedas in the tradition of Sri Rramanuja siddhantham.. The next salutation
is to the Thiruvaimozhi of Kuruhoor Satakopan . Maanagar is
Thirukkuruhoor. Maran is Satakopan and Maaran Marai is the 
Tamizh Vedas of our Ubhya Vedaantha Sampradhayam. The 
Taniyan or invocatory verse seeking Swami Desikan's blessings
points out that  his holy feet adorn the heads of Jnanis. The Taniyan
prays for the permanent  presence and influence of his Sri Suktis and his
Teachings  for another hundred Years .  

Sriram"s question on the significance of Saraswati in Sri Vaishnava 
Sampradhaayam is a welcome one. There seem to be  many aspects.
In the post-Vedic mythology, Saraswati is recognized as the goddess
of Speech and the wife of Brahma, the son of Vishnu. In Vedas, Saraswati
is part of a triad. The other two are: Bharathi and Ila. Bharathi is recognized
the wife of one of the Adityas and Ila is recognized as the wife of Vishnu or
Maha Lakshmi. In Kanchipuram, Sthalapuranas refer in this context to Brahma"s
to gain the blessings of Sriman Narayana to take the Archa form of 
Varaadraja. Saraswathi"s anger at her husband and the effort to destroy her
husband's Yajna as a  Fast flowing river (Vega Vaahini)  and the Lord's 
hampering of that  effort through his role as  a dam to arrest the flow of
and the intended consequences. In one of the Divya Desams of Kanchi
associated with this legend, Saraswati, the daughter-in-law is standing at 
the feet of the reclining Lord seeking His pardon for the Aparaadham.
In the post-Vedic Purana period, Sarawati is also recognized as one of the 
Sapta Sindhus (Vitasta, Indus, Asikni, Parushni, Vipaasha, Sutudri 
and SARASWATI.) In the Vedic parlance, Saraswati is not a river ,
but Vedic Speech couched in Seven meters(Gayatri, Trishtup, Jagati, 
Brihati, Anushyup, Ushnik and Pankti). Seven Sister rivers or Vedic Speech
is also understood as the organs , which "convey " knowledge: Two eyes,
two ears, two nostrils and tongue.   

The  Mythology is a post-Vedic Development. The Vedas and Brahmanaas 
recognize Saraswati as the DIVINE SPEECH (Aitreya Brahmaanam II.24,
III .1,2 ) .The Rig Vedam in Particular recognizes Saraswati at many places 
as the Divine Speech associated weith revealed Knowledge( RV X.17.7, 
I.13.9, X.110.8,I.22.10,.I.3, 11-12) . 

Yajur Vedic Verse(XXVII. 19) praises the divine speech and recognizes its
three different aspects as Ida(Priaseworthy Speech), Saraswati (a speech
full of divine  Knowledge) and Bharathi (a speech replete with Vedic Lore).
Another Yajur vedic verse( VIII.43 )describes  the eleven qualities of noble and
Saraswati as a woman and pays Tribute to Her::Praisewrthy (Ideh), 
Delightful (Ranteh), Worshipful (Havyeh), Lovable( Kaamyeh), Plesuregiving
(Chandreh), Well known for virtuous qualities and inviolable (Jyothiradhiteh),
Full of divine knowledge (SARASWATI)  ,Mahi (adorable), Visruthi (Knower of the 
Vedas and worthy of respect) . This mantra  seeks the  blessings of the Lady of 
11 noble qualities .

Yet another  verse of Yajur Veda(XXIX.8) Prays : " May Bharati ,the speech of
illuminate your Yajna; May Saraswati, the speech of Rudras ,be our helper.
May Ida, the speech invoked in accord by the Vasus give us happiness. 
May these three Goddesses place us amongst the immortals ".
The reference to Adityas, Rudras and Vasus are to three types of Celibiates.
These three  intellectual forces are beseeched to guide us and be
 the source of our  Comfort  elsewhere in Yajur Veda . 

Atharva Veda also recognizes Saraswati as the manifold streams of 
knowledge and blessings of this and the other world. 

Devaraja Yajvan, the commentator of Yaska"s Niruktam derives the 
word Saraswati as "Sarah Prasaranamasyaastithiti ". ,i.e. Sarawati
is  the one , whose expanse is this creation. This concept is backed 
by the Rg Vedic Verse(X.17.7) quoted above:

" Men aspiring for transcendental knowledge invoke the 
LORD  Saraswati; When one aspires to undertake sacred works 
for the good of all (Adhvara), they also 
invoke Saraswati. This Saraswati blesses all of them , who 
dedicate themselves for noble ends." This fits with the Intrepretation of
Aurobindo who equates Saraswati to the Vedic Rtam ,
 the truth -consciousness principle.. 

The link between man's limited mind and  vast  Cosmic mind/
intelligence/speech (Saraswati= Rtam Brihat) is implied in 
the invocation of the Vedic Naama of Saraswati according to these  scholars.

The short statement of the Link between Saraswati and Sri Vaishnavism in my 
humble opinon is that of the Niruktam definition, which identifies Saraswati
as the the entire expanse of creation as the body of the Lord Sriman Narayana.

I will conclude this rather lengthy post with two salutations to Saraswati from
Rg Veda:

"Saraswati ,the inspirer of those who delight in truth, 
the instructress of the right- minded ,has  accepted our 
sacrifice(SandhyaVandhanam?)." Rg Vedam I.3.11

"Saraswati makes manifest by Her acts a mighty river and in
Her own form enlightens ALL understandings." Rg Vedam I.3.12

May  Saraswati"s blessings and Vedic Knowledge be with us always !