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Deities

Mata Sarasvati
Hanuman
Ganesh
Durga

 


Mata Sarasvati

Mata Sarasvati is widely known as the Goddess of learning and wisdom. In Sanskrit, Her name means “the flowing one”. She is first noted in the earliest Rig Veda and has been an important deity being the consort of Lord Brahma, the creator. Her other names include Vidyadayini (bestower of knowledge), Sharada (the grace of Autumn) and Mahavidya (knowledge supreme).
Although initially worshipped as a river, this soon became a metaphor for the ever flowing and dynamic river of knowledge which She represents. Much like the water of a flowing stream, bathing in the river of knowledge purifies and satisfies us. It is the harmonious flow of speech and music, both of which are also symbolised by Mata Sarasvati.Sarasvati Ma

Symbolism
Sarasvati is seen dressed in white, seated on a white lotus or swan. She has four arms in which She is seen holding a Veena (stringed musical instrument), a book, a mala (rosary made from crystal) and a pot of water. She is depicted as being effulgent, gracious and very beautiful.
White is the colour of purity since knowledge is untainted and always divine. Going deeper, we see that since white light can be split into every colour of the spectrum, it is Sarasvati Mata that embodies the Supreme knowledge which is the true unity behind the diversity we see around us. Her four arms are often seen to symbolise the four directions (suggesting that She is all-pervading) whilst others see them as representative of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas), of which She is the Mother.

The book symbolises written knowledge and academia, whereas the arts are held in her hands as the veena. The balance between book and instrument is the also theory versus practicality, and through Her blessings we can perfect both. Spiritual knowledge too lies at her disposal, indicated by the mala and the pot of water implies that the She quenches the thirst of those seeking knowledge. Alternatively, the fluidity and purity of the water is the very nature of knowledge itself: evolving, uplifting, the essential to life.

Festivals
Sarasvati is usually worshipped by students before starting their education since She grants intelligence and success in all academic endeavours. The main day dedicated to Her worship is Vasant Panchami which is held on the fifth day of the Magha month (early February). This day is also known as Sarasvati Puja and people worship grand murtis of Sarasvati before dispersing them. Similarly, the beginning of formal education as well as a normal school day in India still reflects the Gurukul tradition of Vedic education, where the invocation of Sarasvati initiates the day.
Sarasvati is also worshipped during Navratri. The first three days represent Kali (who destroys our vices), the next three symbolise Lakshmi (who grants virtue and prosperity) and the final three are dedicated to Sarasvati, who bestows spiritual realisation and knowledge.

 

Mentioned in
Rig Veda and other vedic texts

Consort
Lord Brahma (God of creation)

Vehicle
Swan (representing beauty, grace and divinity)

Symbology
Dressed in white, holding a pot of water, a mala, a veena and a book

Represents
Knowledge, the arts, sciences and academia, as well as speech and wisdom

 

 

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Hanuman

durgama kāja jagata ke jete
sugama anugraha tumhare tete

 

All the unattainable tasks in the world become easily attainable with your grace.

–        Hanuman Chalisa, Verse 20

 

Hanuman Ji is known as a loyal devotee of Lord Rama and depicted in the Ramayana. He is the remover of obstacles alongside his ability to bestow liberation to his devotees. He is the symbol of devotion, humility, intelligence and strength. Hanuman Ji is known by many different names including “Pavan Putra” (Son of the Wind God) and “Bajrang Bali” (The Mighty One). He is the ideal role model for all students, showing us how to become wise, dedicated and hard working.

Hanuman Ji is an avatar (incarnation) of Mahadev Lord Shiva and is the son of Anjana, a devout monkey. The power of Lord Shiva was carried to her womb by Vayudeva the God of Wind, and he is therefore also seen as a father for Hanuman Ji.

 

Lilas Hanuman statue

One of the most famous lilas (pastimes) about Hanuman Ji is where He mistook the sun for a ripe mango, which he pursued to eat. This angered Lord Indra who then reacted by striking Hanuman ji with the Vajra (Thunderbolt). At this point, Hanuman Ji was injured on his jaw (“hanu” means jaw and it became disfigured (“-man” in Sanskrit), hence his name Hanuman) and became unconscious and fell back to the ground. Vayudeva became very angry and withdrew the wind element, leading to the death of all living beings. Indra was forced to withdraw the Vajra at this moment and Hanuman Ji was presented with a number of boons. One of his boons was that no weapons can kill or harm him. Yama, the God of death, gave Hanuman Ji the boon to live eternally and overcome death. It is therefore believed that the presence of Hanuman Ji exists to this day and age. Other deities offered scriptural wisdom, tremendous strength and other powers.

 

Hanuman Ji lacked a sense of direction before meeting Lord Rama, who he met in the forest disguised as a Brahmin. Hanuman Ji took up his Dharma valiantly to help Lord Rama rescue Mata Sita Ji from Lanka where she had been taken captive by Ravana. He introduces himself to Sita Ji by showing her Lord Rama’s ring, acting as a messenger and assuring her that Lord Rama is coming. Hanuman Ji then assists Lord Rama in rescuing Sita by leading the vanaras (monkeys) into battle.

Once, Hanuman Ji saw Mata Sita Ji put sindoor (vermillion) on her forehead. Upon seeing this, Hanuman Ji asked the reason to which Sita Ji replied “It is for the long life of my husband.” As soon as Hanuman heard this, he began smearing sindoor on his whole body – such was his devotion! Since then, Hanuman Ji has been worshipped by being offered sindoor.

Hanuman Ji is also seen on the dhvaj (flag) of Arjuna and Lord Krishna’s chariot in the epic Mahabharata. As an eternal symbol of selfless service to Dharma and of unshakeable power, he blessed Arjuna with victory in the Great War.

 

Symbolism

Shri Hanuman Ji’s body was as hard as stone with beauty resembling a golden mountain – one reason why he was also given the name ‘Vajranga’ (glistening body) by his mother Anjana. Yet despite his strength, Hanuman Ji’s greatest quality is his humility– his every action was an act of pure love and devotion for his Lord Shri Rama and in return he wanted nothing. His piety, courage and undaunted spirit did not waver in even the direst of circumstances. Even when his tail was set on fire by Ravana’s rakshas (demons), Shri Hanuman Ji closed his eyes and asked his Lord for guidance, setting Lanka on fire.

Hanuman Ji can be seen upholding a mountain known as the Sanjivani Mountain, which contained a sacred life-saving herb that saved Lakhman’s life. This also symbolises the burden of our troubles and sins that Hanuman Ji carries for us once we surrender to him. In his hands lies his mighty gada (mace) with which he drives away bad influences, tendencies and habits we may have.

 

Festivals

Hanuman Ji is worshipped everyday by the recital of the Hanuman Chalisa, a hymn of forty couplets written by the great saint Goswami Tulsidasji. The main day dedicated to the worship of Hanuman Ji is Hanuman Jayanti (the birth of Hanuman Ji), which takes place in April (Chaitra Purnima). Offerings of Ladoos are made as they are considered to be Hanuman Ji’s favourite and devotees of Hanuman Ji recite the Hanuman Chalisa constantly, finding courage, contentment and fearlessness within all walks of life.

Just as a bridge connects two lands, Shri Hanuman Ji is the link between God and devotees. Said to be a chiranjivi (immortal), Shri Hanuman Ji is present in the world even today. He is the perfect hero and role model for students, being the ideal and dedicated deity that he is: a perfect harmony of intelligence, wisdom and yet also humility and devotion to Lord Rama. One of the most important lessons Shri Hanuman Ji teaches us is that we need not look here or there for God – rather, seek him in yourself:

 

pavanatanaya sankata harana mangala mūrati rūpa
rāma lakhana sītā sahita hridaya basahu sura bhūpa

 

O Son of Vāyu, remover of adversities, one with an auspicious form, and the chief among all Devas, may you reside in our hearts along with Ram, Lakshman and Sita.

–        Hanuman Chalisa, concluding verse

 

 

 

Parents
Anjana Devi, Lord Shiva and Vayudeva (God of wind)

Devoted to
Lord Shri Rama

Significance
Bestower of strength, wisdom and devotion. Helps us focus on our goals and Dharma in life, relieves obstacles and offers guidance in times of trouble

Worshipped by
Shri Hanuman Chalisa

 

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Ganesh

GaneshLord Ganesh is easily recognised, highly respected and much loved by Hindus around the world. His distinct form and the qualities that he resembles are ones that we all hold dear. He is the Lord of intellect, the arts, obstacles and auspiciousness. As the son of the great Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati, Ganeshji holds a special place in the Hindu pantheon of Gods.

Names and scripture

Ganapati is first mentioned in both the Rig and the Yajur Vedas, but it’s quite clear that these descriptions are not the present day Ganeshji we recognise. Instead this refers to an older deity that might later have evolved to produce the form we see today. “Gan” means a “group” or “category” and “ish” means “Lord of”. Since our brains break up our world into distinct categories and groups, it is clear that Ganeshji not only represents the entire universe (because everything can be categorised), but that he is sacred on a very deep level in the human mind.

Mainly the tales and qualities of Ganeshji are described in later scriptures like the Shiva Purana and Ganesh Purana. His other names include “Vighneshvara” meaning the Lord of obstacles (which is why he can easily remove them), “Lambodara” or the one with a great belly and also “Gajanana” meaning the one with the head of an elephant.

 

Lilas

The main story that is associated with Ganeshji is that of how he received his unusual form, found in the Shiva Purana. Lord Shiva was meditating in the mountains of the Himalayas and had left the abode of Mount Kailash for many years. Mata Parvati was bathing and to keep guard she created a valiant young son out of her scurf and breathed life into him. As he stood outside, Lord Shiva arrived and was denied entry into his own home. Enraged, the Lord took on his fierce Rudra form and beheaded Ganeshji, not realising he was his son.

After Mata Parvati explained, Lord Shiva calmed down and vowed to revive the boy. The first creature he found would give its head to replace Ganeshji’s, and an elephant was what came before Lord Shiva. Thus Ganeshji received a new head along with the boon that that he will always be invoked for auspiciousness before the start of any new task.

In the beginning of the Mahabharata, it is said that Vyasa (the author) began dictating to Ganeshji, who was his chosen scribe. As Ganeshji’s pen broke, Ganeshji broke off his tusk to use as a quill in order to keep the narration going. Another story is that Parshurama (the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu) was visiting Lord Shiva but was intercepted by Ganeshji. Out of anger, Parshurama threw his axe at Ganeshji, and broke off his tusk for his insolence.

One of Ganeshji’s lilas also explains the waxing and waning of the moon. Ganeshji’s mouse scuttled out of fear of a snake into a bush and knocked Ganeshji off, causing his stomach to tear open. Seeing this, Chandra (the moon) started to laugh. Ganeshji, at first, cursed him to become eternally black but later relieved the curse, saying that the moon will lose but then regain his form every month.

 

Symbology

Ganeshji’s form has endless meanings and interpretations. His head is that of an elephant since it is considered one of the subtlest, gentlest and most intelligent animals. It also shows that he is the presiding deity over both the human and the animal worlds. In his hands he holds an axe which cuts us from our attachments and sorrows, and with another hand he holds out his palm offering his choicest blessings. He is often also shown with a noose (pasha) and a goad/elephant hook (ankusha) – the noose pulls and the goad pushes. These are both symbols of guidance towards the right path and away from adversity. The noose also represents attachment and the goad resembles anger. Both of these we offer unto his hands! His consorts are Riddhi and Siddhi (prosperity and attainment), but he is also the Lord of the arts, wisdom and intellect. He is always invoked at the beginning of any new task since he brings with him prosperity and attainment in those tasks, blessing them with success.

Often Ganeshji is shown eating a modaka (sweet) because he is the bestower of all happiness. His vehicle is surprisingly small: a tiny mouse, out of proportion to his master. Ganeshji is therefore as much the Lord of the big as he is of the small, the Lord of the gracious creatures as well as the rodents. The mouse also symbolises the ego and insecurity inherent in every one of us, because like a little stealthy mouse, these eat us up from within. Ganeshji however presides over these and keeps them in control.

 

Festivals

The main festival associated with Ganeshji is Ganesh Chaturthi. This 10 day festival is celebrated all over India, but especially Maharashtra, starting on the fourth day of the bright half of the month of Bhaadrapada (Sud chauth). Devotees invite beautifully crafted deities into their homes, worship them and joyfully celebrate in the presence of Ganeshji. Lavish sweets are made and offered along with worship, music and dance. Finally, the deities are dispersed, and prayers are offered for Ganeshji to grace the festival once more next year.

 

Parents
Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati

Consort
Riddhi (prosperity) and Siddhi (attainment)

Vehicle
Mouse, representing the ego or insecurities

Symbology
Elephant headed, holding a powerful axe, a goad, a noose and a hand that blesses

Represents
Remover of all obstacles and fears, God of arts, prosperity, auspiciousness and new beginnings

 

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Durga Durga Maa killing Mahishasur

Mata Durga, in Sanskrit means “the invincible one” or “one who is difficult to understand. Adi Shakti is the Supreme Goddess in her resting and cosmic state, the very energy that drives the universe. Parvati and Durga are both manifestations of this primal force. Durga is the name given to the fierce Goddess that emanated from Parvati when challenged by the demon Durgama.

Durga is the female role model for all women as she has a maternal side in the form of Mata Parvati, and an unconquerable form as Durga. Her consort is the great Lord Shiva and her sons are Lord Kartikeya, the commander of the divine armies, and Ganeshji.

There is a branch in Hinduism known as Shaktism which considers Durga is the supreme power of Brahman. Shaktas believe that Durga will protect them from all harm as she is known to destroy all evil.

 

Symbolism

Durga is seen to have eight arms, all depicting the different directions, showing that She protects her devotees from all sides. She has 3 eyes and thus she is known as “Triyambake”: Her right eye symbolises action, her left eye symbolises desire and her central eye symbolises knowledge. Scripturally, She is seen riding a lion and is hence known as “Simhavahini”, although she is sometimes also depicted on a tiger. Animals are known for their uncontrolled behaviour, and Mata Durga sitting on the lion shows that we have to be able to control our behaviour. Enthroned upon the lion, Durga is the most majestic and fearless of the Goddesses since the lion is the symbol of royalty and supremacy.

She holds weapons in all her eight hands. In one of her hands she holds the Chakra (discus), which symbolises her destroying all evil as well as how the ever-turning cycle of nature rests in Her hands. She also holds a conch shell in another hand, symbolising happiness and the sound Om which hints to us that we should always keep faith in God. She wields a sword, to defeat wrongdoers and the demons within us; the sword is strength and sharpness of knowledge. The bow and arrow signifies ultimate control over all forms of energy and the thunderbolt is to encourage Her devotees to have thundering faith. The thunderbolt also suggests that she wields complete control over the destructive forces of nature. Yet, She also carries a gentle lotus, which represents detachment because it blooms from the muddy waters of greed; by growing away from it we show signs of detachment from worldly desires. The trident symbolises the 3 gunas and how we must rise above them. So whilst much of the symbolism is that of destruction there are also symbols of rejuvenation and benevolence like the conch and the lotus.

 

Festivals

Navratri is a nine day festival that celebrates the victory of Mata Durga over the forces of evil. Durga’s nine different forms are celebrated over the nine days (the nine forms being: 1. Shailputri 2. Brahmacharini 3. Chandraghanta 4. Kushmanda 5. Skandamata 6. Katyayani 7. Kalaratri 8. Mahagauri 9. Siddhidatri). Mata Lakshmi and Mata Saraswati are also worshipped during these 9 days. The 10th day is known as Vijayadashmi or Dussehra as this day marks the victory of Mata Durga over Mahishasura.

The Devi Mahatyma and the Devi Bhagavatam tell the story of Durga’s battles. Mahishasura was a demon who was half man half buffalo and had the boon that only a woman could kill him. He was too arrogant and thought that no woman would be strong enough to defeat him, allowing him to devastate all three worlds, defeating even the Gods. The Gods then combined their powers and formed Durga, who rode Her kingly lion into battle and waged war with the demon. The battle lasted for 9 days and nights, and Mata Durga achieved victory on the 10th day.

Another story from this same scripture is that the demons Shumbh and Nishumbh had started committing grave atrocities. When they saw Mata Durga, Shumbh was stunned by her beauty and proposed to her. Mata said that she would only marry him if he defeated her in battle. Seeing her as a beautiful damsel he gladly took up his weapons, only to find that the Devi had expanded herself into a fierce and terrifying Goddess. After slaying the two brothers and many other such demons the Gods praise Durga for her power and brilliance in war. The demons represent the bad tendencies that we all have and that by combining our will power to worship Durga, she will effortlessly slay them all and free us.

 

Mentioned in
Devi Mahatmya, Skanda Purana, Devi Bhagavatam

Consort
Lord Shiva (God of destruction and re-creation)

Vehicle
Lion (representing control over animalistic behaviour)

Symbology
Various weapons showing Her sheer might for the destruction of evil and control over nature

Represents
Feminine power and the conquest of evil. The maternal instinct to protect

 

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