Hindu Goddess Saraswati: Goddess of Knowledge

“May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops, who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus, who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me. May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance.”

Within Hinduism, Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge, art, music, and science. Companion to Brahma, it is said that Saraswati was key to his creation of the Universe.  As his source of vital spirit and energy, she along with Goddess Kali and Lakshmi played pivotal roles in helping the gods shape and maintain the universe.  Saraswati also plays an important role in Buddhism as sacred devotee of Gautama Buddha making sure his teachings live on in practice.   She is daughter to Durga and sister to Ganesh.

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Saraswati is thought to contain the divine flow of all things serving as a beautiful body of knowledge and catalyst of learning throughout the world.  Her sultry appearance is striking and the epitome of feminine and divine beauty.  Her beauty is strategic in order to make knowledge and learning alluring to onlookers.  She is often depicted in flowing white to symbolize her purity and unmatched mind while seated upon a lotus flower which represents the light in knowledge.  By worshiping Saraswati one is able to realize the possibility of infinite knowledge and an endless quest of enrichment.  She embodies not only knowledge itself, but the highest of spiritual knowledge, much like Buddhist teaching of the Gautama Buddha reaching enlightenment.  Her potential is fully realized and as one follows her example they too can become enlightened.

Many devotees believe strongly in offering honey to goddess Saraswati during worship as a symbol of the purest of knowledge.

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Legend of Hindu God Shiva as Tripurantaka

Tripurantaka is a form of Hindu God Shiva, the Destroyer.  As Destroyer of Evil, one of Shiva’s most pronounced legends tells of Shiva destroying 3 mythical cities known as Tripura.

Legend has it an evil demon by the name of Taraka had 3 princely sons. As they grew each served penance to Brahma, the great Creator, in order to get in his good favor.  They gained immense power in the process.  Pleased with them, Brahma bestowed on them each their own city in the sky.  These three fortresses were virtually impenetrable and they were granted life for a thousand years as they lived their lives in their great kingdoms.  Only by an arrow merging the three cities setting them ablaze could they be destroyed.  Armed with this immense power bestowed by Brahma, the three demon sons began to wreak havoc on the universe.   From cliff sides within their great citadels they would taunt and threaten the gods, mounting attacks from the sky.

Seeing no end to their harassment within their virtually impassable cities, the great Hindu Gods went to Shiva for help.  Lord Shiva agreed to help but waited for the perfect moment to strike.  Shiva created a bow, arrow, and chariot from pieces of the gods in order to mount his attack.  As he raced into the sky, Shiva hit the converged cities with a flaming arrow as Brahma steered the divine chariot.  The arrow was created from Hindu God Vishnu, protector and preserver of the universe, destroying the three cities and freeing the gods from the princes reign of torment.  Forgiving as he was, Shiva forgave the repenting princes and gave them each duties within his abode.  Originally Shiva devotees, he recognized their following of an evil path, but forgave them of their sins.  After destroying the cities, Shiva smeared the ashes of the three cities on his forehead.  This has become a widely known symbol of Shiva and devotees smear ash on their foreheads in his honor to this day.

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Legends of Hindu Goddess Durga: The Invincible

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Durga is a vicious form of Hindu Goddess Devi, known for her indestructible nature.  She is commonly depicted with 18 arms all carrying weapons as she rides atop a fierce tiger. She carries a weapon given to her by each of the Gods including Hindu God Indra’s (God of Destruction) lightning bolt and Hindu God Vishnu’s (The Preserver) Discus.  These weapons are endeared to her as a defender of the world.  She is frequently seen slaying demons especially the buffalo demon known as Mahishasura.  It is said that she was created in order to fight off the incredible might of the asura Mahishasura, who could not be defeated by any male or god alike.  Mahishasura had been reigning incredible terror upon the earth and as the gods became helpless, Hindu God Shiva turned to his wife Parvati for help.  Parvati responded by traveling to an ashram to take on the role as female goddess warrior. The Gods also turned to Brahman, the supreme creator of all gods, for help and together they banned together emitting beams of light from their bodies.  The beam of light expanded to the Ashram where Hindu Godess Parvati had ventured and out of the light Durga was born, a fierce and eager female warrior goddess. She was formed of the female aspects of Brahman just as Shiva had once been formed of Brahmans male counterparts.  The gods were blessed and endeared by her.   As she fought with the revered Mahishasura she exclaimed:

“Roar with delight while you still can, O illiterate demon, because when I will kill you, the gods themselves will roar with delight”.

Eventually paralyzed by the blinding light constantly emanating from Durga’s body, the buffalo demon was slain with one swift slice of her sword as she erupted in laughter.

This account of her ferocious stand off and conquering of the buffalo demon is celebrated annually in the national festival Durga Puja, which falls on October 19-24th of 2012.  As an endeared Goddess, Durga’s divine feminine energies are thought to be a manifestation of all the gods.

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Hindu God Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance

 

Statues of Hindu God Shiva the destroyer

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Shiva, Hindu God of Destruction, is also known as Nataraja, Lord of Dancers, in one of his most popular forms.  He is depicted as sacred dancer, dancing to restore the universe of its fatigued nature making way for Brahma to create within the universe.  He has a restorative power revitalizing the universe and preparing for growth.  Shiva as Lord Nataraja is his most popular within Hindu temples. His likeness is often sculpted in bronze as Shiva dances around a ring of flames.  His left leg is often raised balancing over a lesser being that stands as a metaphor for the ignorance of the world.  Shiva as Nataraja is a powerful symbol of Indian culture for its spirit and energetic nature.  He represents the precise flow and generation of the universe.  Shiva as Nataraja is perhaps the most renowned symbol of Hindu art.

Nataraja statues

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Shiva’s dance is often said to come in two forms.  The first form represents the gentle, or the nature associated with creation upon the earth, while the second from is said to be that of violence as he destroys the tired and suffocating ways of the universe.  Shiva terminates what is weary in order to create what is profound. He tears down the old in order to make way for the new.

Legend has it that one day Shiva journeyed to a thick forest in the South of India in order to confute with the multitude of heretical sages that lived within.  Traveling with him was Hindu God Vishnu, The Preserver, disguised as a woman.  Upon arrival, the sages became very angry towards Shiva and attempted to destroy him via powerful incantations.  They first induced a violent tiger which was no match as he skinned it in one foul swoop and draped it around his body like a blanket. Next appeared a deadly serpent of which Shiva quickly overtook and hung like a necklace about his neck.  Through all their confrontation simply Shiva danced about their ring of fire laughing, destroying everything they threw his way.  Thus, Shiva became the lord of dancers, a symbol of the divine.

Legends of Hindu God Hanuman

‘Bow down to Hanumān, who is the slayer of demons, and who is present with head bowed and eyes full of flowing tears wherever the fame of Rāma is sung.’

Hindu God Hanuman

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Hanuman is a renowned Hindu deity and eager follower of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, according to Hindu myth.  Some Hindu texts also liken him as an incarnation of Shiva.  Depicted as an ape-like human, his facial features are characteristically monkey in form.  He is said to have been born to humanoid creatures known as vanaras, monkey-like human forms known for their brave and intellectual prowess.  His mother, Anjana, was born to earth as a female vanara due to a curse that could only be redeemed with the birth of a son.  His father Kesari joined his wife Anjana in prayer to Shiva for a child of their own.  Pleased with their endless devotion Shiva granted them a son, which was considered a reflection of Shiva himself.

Legend has it that Indra, King of Gods, struck Hanumans jaw during his youth, which left Hanuman disfigured with a protruding jawline.  Indra, God of Fire, had heard of Hanuman trying to take the Sun for himself mistaking it for a mango, interfering with the Vedic planet Rahu who was seeking the sun to turn its eclipse.  As punishment, Indra struck Hanuman with his lightning bolt, throwing him back to earth in an unconscious state.  Vaju, Hanumans main father figure and God of Air, went into seclusion out of despair, taking with him the world’s air.  The Devas revived Hanuman out of devotion for Vaju allowing human beings to no longer suffocate from Vajus retreat and bestowed sacred gifts upon Hanuman.   Brahma, a prominent Deva, gave Hanuman the ability to cheat death at the hand of any weapon of war, the ability to bestow fear in enemies, extinguish fear in friends, change his form at will, and travel on a whim.  From Shiva he received longevity and insurmountable wisdom.  Indra blessed him with immunity from his lightning bolt and from Angi immunity from fire.

Hanuman received many sacred gifts from the most prominent Deities becoming a powerful deity from childhood.  He is known to be a profound scholar knowing all the Vedas and Scriptures by heart with flawless speech and written articulation.

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