Goddess Saraswati

Saraswati, wife of Brahma, is the goddess of speech, learning and knowledge. As the creator’s wife, she is the mother of all creations. Those who pursue music, learning and knowledge hold her in reverence, seeking her blessings and guidance.
Saraswati literally means one that flows. The reference is to the river that has now vanished. It finds mention in the rig-veda, which refers to the saraswati as mighty river with creative, purifying and nourishing qualities. As a river, Saraswati was symbolic of the fertility of the land, and purification.

Saraswati receives great reverence from all artistes and musicians. Being the very manifestation of rhythm, tone and melody, she is remembered through the seven notes- sa, re, ga, ma, pa, tha, ni. She is known as saraswati for her gift of the seven musical notes. Also known as Svaratmika- the soul of music – she plays the Veena, the Indian lute, whose playing instills stability in the mind and body and sends waves of soothing rhythms throughout the body. The tranquility of music is focused in the Veena.

Fair and charming, Saraswati is dressed in white, symbolic of purity and light. She does not wear much gold or jewellery because she prefers simplicity and austerity. She has four arms. She holds a book in one of the right hands and a rosary or lotus in one of the right hands. She holds a Veena in the other two hands and is shown sitting on a white lotus, a symbol of purity, modesty, and morality. It motivates one to lead a life of detachment. The rosary is symbolic of prayer and austerity. An embodiment of virtuous intellect, book in hand, she motivates one to acquire knowledge and wisdom. Since learning and intellect are incomplete without the first arts, she plays the Veena to motivate one to seek inner peace and bliss from which these things originate.

Worshipping Saraswati
Saraswati is worshipped not only in temples and homes, but also in places of learning. It is customary to have an idol or photograph of Saraswati in the institution, and to offer prayers to her. In many schools, children sing hymns dedicated to Saraswati every morning before going to classes. Saraswati occupies a special position in schools where music and fine arts are taught. It is also customary to offer prayers to Saraswati before singing and music performances.

Every year in the hindu month Magh when Basant Panchmi is celebrated, it is customary to offer Saraswati special prayers.

Goddess Parvati

Parvati, wife of Shiva, is a goddess who blesses everyone with a happy married life. As already mentioned, the union of Shiva and Parvati is the ideal that Hindu couples – particularly women –aspire to have.

Since Parvati was an incrarnation of Gauri, daughter of Daksh, her name is derived from the Sanskrit word parvata, meaning mountain. Parvati can therefore be taken to mean the lady of the mountains, will and action. These attribute make her the Mother of the Universe.

Just as Shiva changes form to be both benevolent and destructive, Parvati, too, changes form. She is also called Durga, since

she killed the demon Durg. As a representation of the divine universal power, she is called Shakti. In her destructive form, she is the fearsome yet benevolent Kali. People worship her in many forms, in all of which she is the combined strength of some or all the gods.

Parvati is the mild form of goddess. She is usually seen sitting on Shiva’s left, in which depiction she has two hands, the right one holding the blue lotus, and her left hand hanging casually by the side. When alone, she is shown with four hands. With two hands she holds a blue and red lotus, while the other two hands offer protection and blessings. She is sometimes seen holding a conch shell or a chakra, both of which are symbols of Vishnu and could mean that he is part of power of Shiva.

Worshipping Parvati

Young women aspire to have a married life like Parvati’s and offer har prayers that they may find a suitable husband who will shower them with love and care. In the Ramayan, Sita is known to have prayed at the gauri temple just before the swayamvar. It was her secret desire that Sri Ram should string Shiva’s bow and thereby win her hand in marriage.

Parvati always appears sitting or standing on Shiva’s left side. Since Shiva is mostly worshipped in the form of Linga, Parvati is positioned on one side. The temples that are dedicated to her exclusively are not in her form as Parvati, but several other forms. Her forms as Durga and Kali are widely used in exclusive temples visited by millions of devotees each year.

Every year during Navratri (nine nights) that last ten days, twice a year, her devotees fast and offer prayers to her as durga.

Goddess Lakshmi

Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, is revered as goddess of beauty, good fortune and prosperity. She is perhaps the most worshipped of all goddesses.

At one time, Lakshmi departed from the three worlds, leaving everyone devastated. The Lord of the gods, Indra was most concerned. When Lakshmi appeared during Samudramanthan, Indra offered prayers that pleased her. She granted him two boons. The first was that she would never leave the three worlds. The seconds, she agreed that she would not forsake anyone who chanted the twelve-letter mantra given by him and repeated it devotedly during daily prayers. Thus began the practice of praying to Lakshmi.

Lakshmi emerged from the ocean when the gods and the demons chuned it during samundramanthan. Since she came from the sea, she is known as the daougther of sea. Since the moon also emereged from the sea, he is accepted as her brother. She immediately chose Vishnu as her consort, saying she would always reside in his chest. Only Vishnu was capable of controlling Maya(illusion) and accepted her.
Lakshmi is described as an attractive lady with a golden complexion, who is well dressed and bedecked with precious gems and jewels. She wears a lotus garland around her neck. Motherly yet youthful, her expression is calm and peaceful. She is often shown sitting or standing on a lotus, which she adores. With her four arms, she may be holding a lotus, the bilva fruit, conch shell or the Kalash(vessel) containing amrit. She reflacts a royal temperament as well as a spiritual outlook. Very often, two elephants are shown on either side pouring water from vessels belonging to heavenly maidens.

Sometimes she is shown with eight hands holding weapons like a bow and arrow, mace, discus, or the like. This is her form as Mahalaxmi, an avtar of Durga.

Worship of Lakshmi

Since everyone desires prosperity, all Hindus are devoted to her and seek her blessings. Every Hindu home has a picture or idol of Lakshmi. Although the majority of devotees seek her for prosperity and wealth, Lakshmi is equally the goddess of purity and divinity.

She is often seen with other gods. Ganesh Is a popular favourite. During Diwali, every Hindu offeres special prayers to Lakshmi seeking wealth and prosperity. It is believed that Lakshmi visits all homes during Diwali.

Sri Ganesh

Sri Ganesha nama! The elder of the two sons of shiva and parvati, Sri ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is recognizes as the supreme leader (Vinayaka), the loard who over comes all obstacles(Viganeshwar) and as the leader of Ganas(Ganapati). Both Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperiety, favour him to make him the master of knowledge, success and achievement. Sri Ganesha is the most revered of Hindu gods. He is so blessed that before any ceremony or auspicious occasion, prayers must first be offered to him. He is vignaharta and master of Riddi-Siddi. This simply means that he removes all obstacles that confront devotees. A prayer, an offering or penance made for him ensures success, wealth and prosperity.

Ganesha is usually depicted either as a pictograph or as an idol with the body of a man and the head of an elephant, having only one tusk, the other tusk appearing broken. His unique feature, besides the elephant head, is the large belly practically falling over his lower garment. On his chest, across his left shoulder, is his sacred thread, often in the form of a snake. The vehicle of Ganesha is the mouse, often seen paying obeisance to his lord.

The elephant head is not without significane. The fan-like ears make sri Ganewsh a keen listener, one who comprehends knowledge well. The sharp eyes make him a eager observer, together, the eyes and ears contribute to make wise and learned. They also add to his ability to discriminate between good and evil. The trunk is unique in that it can not only smell, but equally capable of picking up something as smell as a blade of grass, or a huge object like a tree trunk. While the two tusks represent the power to discern between good and evil, The broken tusk is symbolic that Sri Ganesh is above the pairs of opposites like joy and sorrow that affect mankind. The wide mouth enables Sri Ganesh to eat enough to humble the pride of kuber, god of wealth. Yet it can be satisfied with a few blades of durva grass or a modak offered with devotion. The potbelly is large enough to accomodateball kind of experiences.
The sacred texts give a variety of stories narrating the sequence of Ganesha's birth, the most popular being the one mentioning that Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati as a guardian to her privacy: Incensed by the refusal of her husband to respect her privacy, to the extent of entering her private chambers even while she was having her bath, Parvati decided to settle matters once and for all. Before going for her bath the next time, she rubbed off the sandalwood paste on her body and out of it created the figure of a young boy. She infused life into the figure and told him he was her son and should guard the entrance while she bathed. Soon after, Shiva (Lord of destruction and husband of Parvati) came to see Parvati but the young boy blocked his way and would not let him in. Shiva, unaware that this lad was his son, became furious and in great anger fought with this boy whose head got severed from his body in the ensuing battle. Parvati, returning from her bath, saw her headless son and threatened in her rage to destroy the heavens and the earth, so great was her sorrow. Shiva pacified her and instructed his followers (known as ganas) to bring the head of the first living being they encounter. The first creature they encountered was an elephant. They thus cut off its head and placed it on the body of Parvati's son and breathed life into him. Thus overjoyed, Parvati embraced her son. The son of Parvati was given the name Ganesha by Shiva. The word Ganesha is made up of gana (followers of Shiva) and isha (lord), thus Shiva appointed him the lord of his ganas.

Lord Shiva

Shiva (Sanskrit: Auspicious One) is one of the main deities of Hinduism that is worshiped as the paramount lord by the Shaivaite sects of India. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva is regarded as the representation of the Supreme Being. He is known as the third element in the Hindu Trinity (Trimurti), the other two members being Lord Brahma - the creator and Lord Vishnu - the protector. Shiva is the destructive form of the Almighty. As the cycle of destruction and recreation is always in a circle, Shiva’s primary responsibility is maintaining the life cycle. Scholars say, as the Mahakaal, Shiva destroys and dissolves everything into nothingness but as Shankara, he also reproduces that which has been destroyed and dissolved. His symbol of Lingam or the phallus represents this reproductive power.

Lord Shiva is also considered to be the most unique of all Hindu gods and also the God of all. A great ascetic, Shiva is the only godhead who is forever in deep meditation, totally absorbed in contemplation in His abode, Kailaasa Mountain in the great Himalaya. Lord Shiva is also said to be inseparable from Shakti - Parvati the daughter of Himavaan - Haimavati. There is no Shiva without Shakti and no Shakti without Shiva, the two are one - or the absolute state of being. Shiva is often shown with many faces, as creator, destroyer and preserver in total command of the cosmos. He contains both good and evil. He is moody, free of inhibitions, easy to please, protector of the down trodden, and has the power to alter the laws of destiny. Thus, it is Lord Shiva is known as the God of mercy and kindness. He protects his devotees from all evil that are always around us. He blesses his followers with grace, knowledge and peace.

Shiva as Ardhanareeswara, Lord Shiva is said to be half man and half woman. In the full figure of Siva the male and female principles are united. Shiva Linga - the symbol of Lord Shiva which consists of both Lingam (phallus) and yoni (the female organ) represent the totality of his nature and the totality of all created existence. God Nataraj where his dance is to the beat and rhythm of creation. He is also shown in sculptures with many hands. One pair of hands, for example, represents the balance between life and death. Shiva is ‘tri netra’ or three eyed, and is ‘neela kantha’ - blue-necked (having consumed poison to save the world from destruction). Besides, there are a lot many attributes associated with Lord Shiva. Here is a brief description of some of the important symbols that depict Lord Shiva. Each of his depiction signifies a different aspect of his Supreme Being

Lord Bramha

Brahma is the first member of the Hindu Trinity. Born from a golden egg in water, Bramha is the seed of the creation, the uncreated creator. being born from water, he is also known as kanja(born in water). Many believe that a lotus emerged from vishnu’s navel and Bramha spang from the lotus. For this reason, he is also known as Nabhija(born from the navel).Bramha is usually depicted standing or sitting on the lotus. he has four heads facing the four quarters of the world. The heads represents the knowledge of the four Vedas, the four yugas, or eras, and the four castes based upon individual vocations.

The faces are bearded, and the eyes are closed in meditation. He has four arms often shown holding a rosary, kusha grass, a spoon of ladle, a kamandal(water pot) or a book. The rosary is the symbolic of time. The water in the kamandal is the symbolic of creation. The spoon/ladle and the kusha grass are symbols of offerings and sacrifices. The book symbolizes all kind of knowledge. The hand that holds nothing signifies protection or a blessing.

Brahma’s vehicle is a swan, a bird that is beleved to have the power to separate milk and water. This is symbolic of the power to discriminate between righteousness and evil. Sometimes, brahma is shown riding chariots drown by seven swans.

Worship of Brahma

Of the tree gods that form the Hindu Trinity, Vishnu and Shiva are universally revered. Brahma is worshipped only on special occasions. The sages once decide to organize a great yagya. Bhrigu was appointed to presiding priest.

The sages also decided that the greatest among gods would be invited as the presiding deity. Bhrigu was entrusted the responsibility of choosing one from amongst the Trinity. When Bhringu went to meet brahma, he found him so engrossed in hearing music being played by Saraswati that he did not notice Bhringu, who was trying to attract his attention. The infuriated Bhringu cursed Brahma that no person would worship him. To this day, Brahma is not worshipped the way Vishnu and Shiva are revered. There are only one major temple dedicated to Brahma- near Pushkar Lake in Rajasthan.

Every year, on Kartik Purnima(Full moon night in the Hindu month Kartik) there are special celebrations when thousand of pilgrims visit the temple and bathe in the lake.

Lord Vishnu

No other Hindu god has as many devotees as Vishnu. Hindu religious books portray him reclining comfortably on the serpent Sheshnag. Whose thousand-headed hood provides an umbrella over him. His consort, Lakshmi, is seated besides him he is sometimes depicted sleeping on the coils of the serpent.

The name Vishnu is derived from the root word vish, which means to pervade. As a god, Vishnu pervades all things and being, resides in the latter as the soul- the life force. Once the life force withdraws, the body perishes, by extension, this makes every being a home of god.
Vishnu is usually depicted with four arms, though sometimes he may even have more than this number. The many arms of Hindu deities are symbolic of the god's manifold powers. Whereas we have limited abilities, a god's power is unlimited, signified by the many hands that hold a variety of attributes and perform myriad activities, often simultaneously. According to noted Indologist Alain Danielou "the image of a deity is merely a group of symbols."

Vishnu finds his earliest mention in the Rig Veda, the most ancient book in the world. Here he appears as a solar deity. The Vishnu of the Rig Veda is a manifestation of light, whose head was, by a trick of the gods, severed from his body. This severed head is believed to have become the sun. Further in the Veda, Vishnu is a friend and associate of Indra, god of rain, thunder, and storm. Together, Vishnu the sun and Indra the rain, take on the demon Vritra, who personifies drought. Indra and Vishnu both are described as Vritrahan or the killer of Vritra. This potent combination forms an awesome ensemble of fertilizing powers. The Vedic connotations of Vishnu are discernable also in the etymology of his name which is derived form the root 'vish' , which means to spread, or in other words all-pervading. Indeed in the Vedas he is the all-pervading sun, whose rays envelop the earth, as does Vishnu himself, in his role as protector of the world.