Saturday, September 30, 2006
Tomorrow is Saraswati Puja, for (Hindu) south Indians.
Saraswati literally means “one who gives the essence (sara) of our own Self (swa).” She sits on a swan, and carries a veena (a string instrument).
Puja, as I have explained earlier, means worship, with flower offerings.
Devi Saraswati is the Mother of Learning.
Music is the highest art, the distilled essence of all knowledge, which is self-knowledge. Self-effacing devotion, expressed in heart's melody, in a prayer to Devi Saraswati, is accompanied by Divine vision.
In Carnatic music (i.e. the south Indian classical tradition), one of the first songs learnt is “Varaveena”, a prayer, in Sanskrit, a song of adoration, to Saraswati, composed by Appaya Dikshitar (1554-1626), a scholar, sage and saint.
Varaveena mrudu paani
Vanaruha lochana raani
Suruchira bambhara veni
Nirupama shubha guna lola
Nirathi jaya prada sheela
Vaanchita phala daayaki
Jaya jaya jaya
You hold the divine veena in your soft hands.
You are the queen of the omniscient. Your eyes are like the lotus petals.
Your curly tresses resemble the bees.
Devas worship your auspicious form.
You have unequalled virtuous qualities.
You give endless victory.
You are the munificent consort of the Beautiful Lord.
You grant boons to the deprived.
O Mother of lotus-seated Creator!
Victory to you!
This song is set in Mohanam raga, which is Bhopali raga in the Hindusthani or north Indian classical system.
Shivkumar Kalyanaraman is a professor of computer science in the USA. His website is also a treasure trove of resources on Carnatic music. He has provided the musical notations for this song, as well as an MP3 recording of a teaching of this song.
Thank you Shivkumar, and may Mother Saraswati’s blessings be always with you.
Another rich site is karnATik.
My mother is away in Bombay, otherwise she would have organised the Puja at home, with an offering of sweet and savoury rice, and the placing of books (of students in the house) before the image of Saraswati.
My younger son Rishiraj (aka Chotu), 11, was the last to religiously place all his school books in front of the image at home. This is a day on which there must be no studying! Great for kids at home during vacations! Chotu's in boarding school now, with his brother Rituraj, 15.
My mother will be doing the Puja at her sister’s, in Bombay.
Hence it will only be an 'inner' observation for me. I observed Saraswati Puja by:
conveying my heartfelt good wishes to -
JP, a college-mate and fellow Tamil-ian & Calcuttan (in which fact I take particular pride right now, as JP has recently become the CIO, Global Services, of British Telecom);
Achinto, photographer, with whom I had been out of touch for a long time; and
Dipali, painter, designer, art teacher and friend, and Saraswati incarnate.