Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the mother of the Vedas and chants to her called the ‘Saraswati Vandana’ often begin and end Vedic lessons. She endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning.
She is often depicted sitting on a lotus, which symbolizes that she is founded in the experience of the Absolute Truth. Thus, she not only has the knowledge but also the experience of the Highest Reality. She holds in her four hands a vina instrument, an akshamala (prayer beads) in the right hand, and a pustaka (book) in the left, which represents the knowledge of all sciences. Holding the book or scriptures in one hand also indicates that this knowledge alone can bring us to the Truth. The vina shows the beauty of learning the fine arts. Playing her vina, she tunes the mind and intellect with her knowledge and thus the seeker can be in harmony with the universe. The prayer beads represent all spiritual sciences, like meditation and japa (chanting the holy names of God). Her four arms represent her unrestricted power in the four directions. She also represents creativity, or the combination of power and intelligence, the basis of creativity.
Sometimes she is seen riding on a swan, at other times she is seen riding on a peacock or sitting with one nearby. The peacock represents the worldly beauty and the swan signifies the acquisition of wisdom and knowledge.
Her name literally means the one who flows and can be applied to thoughts, words, or the flow of a river. Her other names include Sharada (giver of essence), Brahmi (wife of Brahma), Mahavidya (holder of supreme knowledge), Bharati (eloquence), Arya (noble one), Maha-vani (the transcendent word), Kamadhenu (the wish-fulfilling cow), Dhaneshvari (the divinity of wealth) and Vagishvari (mistress of speech). It is through speech that knowledge manifests in action. It is through her that language and writing is revealed.