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Saraswati – the goddess of wisdom

Author: Saptarshee Bhattacharjee

Publication: Assam Tribune

Date: February 12, 2005

The advent of Saraswati Puja always reminds me of the
popularity it has among the school and college going
students since my early childhood. I was always eager to see
the idols placed in decorative pendals with the odour of
incense and brightness of flowers. It was like Devi
Saraswati emerging with all whiteness among the fog to
remind us of the purity she enjoys in our hearts.

With passage of time and closeness of my grandmother late
Dr Nirmalprabha Bardoloi, I got attracted towards the
indological research very deeply. Though I am a student of
Biotechnology, I always feel inclined towards the deep,
mysteries lying around us. Coming back to the topic, I am
always fascinated by the different forms and shapes of the
idols with numerous hues, colours, symbols to name a few. My
grandmother, whom we used to call `Aimoni’ is a new name
having numerous literary, creative works in addition to
three indological treatise on Devi, Shiva and Surya, of
which I was the co- author of the last one. Though she is no
more, she always told me to prepare materials for a book on
Ganesha cult.

I came across a book on Ganesha written by an European
author at Centre for Asiatic and Oriental studies, Kolkatta
around spring of 2001. It was a small and concise book.
There I saw an article on the relation between Ganesha and
Matangi, the 9th great wisdom goddess of India. At that very
moment, a thought struck my mind, the concept of Matangi and
Saraswati, its relation with each other. Matangi was consort
of Ganesha in that book, on the other hand, Saraswati was
the consort of Brahma and yet outward expression of Matangi.
Saraswati is one of the most popular goddesses in entire
India with a living tradition of thousand years from the
time of Vedas. In fact, one of our great rivers was
Saraswati, that disappeared in the golden sands of time.
According to Tantra, Kali, Tara, Bhairavi, Saraswati and
Matangi resembles in many dimensions. Kali is also Neel
Saraswati, Neel Saraswati is also Tara, Saraswati is also
Matangi and Matangi is also Saraswati with a darker aspect
of Kali.

Saraswati is revered as the Goddess of wisdom, knowledge,
music and intellect. On the other hand, like Saraswati,
Matangi also plays a vina and rules over music or audible
sound in general, not just the spoken word. She is the
manifest form of song. She is the vibratory sound, Nada,
that flows in the subtle channels, Nadis down through our
entire body and mind. Matangi is the form of Saraswati
directed towards inner knowledge. She is her dark, mystic,
ecstatic or wild form. In fact white lotus is accustomed
with Saraswati and Dark blue lotus is close with Matangi.
Lotus stands for wisdom in Indian tradition. Saraswati is
often a Goddess of only ordinary learning, art and culture.
Matangi rules over the beyond ordinary, which takes us
across the limits of the conventional. Matangi is an
outcast, as she is called Ucchista Chandali who goes against
the norms of society, while Saraswati represents the
knowledge and virtue of the sanskritised or classical
classes which never depart from the propriety. Matangi
allied with the transforming energy of Kali foms that
portion of Saraswati, which intrigues our mind in finding a
comprehensive relation between the fair and darker side. In
fact the timing of Saraswati Puja marks the transformation
of dark, colder side towards warmer, sunshine.

Though the Dhyana Mantra of Matangi describes about the
relation of a daughter to sage Matanga, it actually
literally means a thought or an opinion. She is the word as
the embodiment of thought. She is the Goddess of the spoken
word and of any outward articulation of inner knowledge,
including all forms of art, music and dance. As earlier
mentioned, Matangi is the last of the three Goddesses who
relate to the divine word, the other two being Tara and
Bhairavi. Neel Saraswati is the tantric buddhist form of
Tara of deep learning and eloquence. Tara stands for
illumined word, Bhairavi stands for unmanifest form of
speech and Matangi for spoken word. Matangi can also
represent the middle form of speech, which governs the ideas
that we are putting into words and thereby our thinking
process. The highest role of Matangi is that of
Para-Vaikhari or the supreme words manifest through audible
speech, the truly direct revelation of the highest knowledge
in human speech from which all true scriptures and knowledge
arises. As such Matangi encompasses all levels of

In our local traditions, we always relate Saraswati to
the throat and tongue, the speech, the word. When glancing
through the pages of a book on Kundalini Tantra, I came
across the Vishuddhi Chakra, the throat chakra of the seven
important whorls in our cosmic or ethereal body. Vishuddhi
chakra is known as the `purification center’. The Sanskrit
word shuddhi means `to purify’, and in this chakra the
purifying and harmonising of all opposites takes place. Also
called as `nectar and poison center’, here the nectar which
drips down from Bindu Visarga is said to be split into the
pure form and the poison. The poison is discarded and the
pure nectar then nourishes the body and mind. Like the Swan,
which can differentiate the milk mixed with water, likewise
this Chakra can differentiate the range of purity. Matangi
resides in the throat chakra, the center of speech. Speech
is the audible perception of the alphabets arranged in a
certain manner. The sixteen petals of the Vishuddhi chakra
has one Sanskrit vowel (A to Ah) in each petal. In the
pericarp of this lotus is a circle which is white like the
full moon, representing the element of akasha. Within this
moon shape is a snow white elephant, also symbolic of the
akasha element. By meditation on Vishuddhi chakra, the mind
becomes pure like akasha. The elephant that resides in the
Throat chakra resembles Ganesha with a special relation with
Matangi, the darker side of Saraswati. Matangi also resides
on the tip of the tounge, the place wherein speech is
articulated and wherein we are able to taste the essences of
things. Along with Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, there is a
special nerve or channel of the subtle body called Saraswati
that runs from the Third Eye to the tip of the tounge, which
relates to her. This is the stream of inspiration from the
mind to its expression through speech. The divinity, the
creativity gets crystallized when Matangi flows through this
channel as bliss or Sat chit ananda.

The seed syllable of Saraswati and Matangi is the same
i.e. Aim. It is seed syllable of wisdom, learning, teaching
and inner voice of the eternal guide. The meditational
approaches of Matangi is quite familiar with the emergence
of Saraswati, the goddess of alphabets, words and speech.
Chanting of vowels from the Throat Chakra to the Root Chakra
i.e. Mooladhara through all the alphabets is like the
emergence of gross matters from pure essence, the akasha,
the space nature of throat. The essence of purity is
Saraswati, the consort of Lord Brahma, the creator of the
universe. Though Throat Chakra is silvery white, its ruling
deity is Sadashiva and Matangi, the darker side of
Saraswati. The essence of deeper side in all the creatures,
in all the gross matters of this universe.

The black and white sketches on a canvas always have an
appealing side in the inquisitive eyes. It always have a
deep impact on our life, our essence. Saraswati, the whiter
part is itself the words and thoughts. Matangi, the darker
side in her transcendent meaning is the silence of the self
nature, which is the real essence and power behind all words
and thoughts. Matangi is the next step of Sarswati, the
speech and art energised towards transcendence, to obtain
the ultimate goal, the bliss, the Sat Chit Ananda or verily
called Nirvana.