Other names: Sharada, Veena-Dharini, Vageshwari
Saraswati is usually depicted as sitting on a lotus flower, holding a Veena instrument and clad in white clothes, with a white swan nearby as her vehicle.
Significance: Saraswati literally means one who gives essence (Sara) of the self (Swa). She is the Goddess of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, and is the consort/power of Brahma the creator, who needs all the knowledge to create a universe. It is through Her grace that one gains Vidya (knowledge, wisdom), and learns Kalaa (arts and skills). She is the Goddess that shines through our intellect (Buddhi) and the Goddess of speech (Vaani). Her white clothes represent purity since knowledge has to be pure, without any confusion and misunderstanding. Veena, the musical instrument is a symbol of the joy and harmony that arise with wisdom and knowledge. A white swan symbolizes discriminating intellect, i.e. the ability to grasp the essential and leave out the trivial. (A swan is believed to have the power to separate milk from water and take only milk). A peacock is a symbol of perfect beauty which is inherent in wisdom. Her seat, a fully blossomed lotus flower, represents Chid-shakti, the pure consciousness (the middle term of Sat-Chit-Ananda) in which all knowledge resides. The four hands of Saraswati represent four aspects of our mind Mana, Buddhi, Ahankar, and Chitta.
This symbolism means that Saraswati is our own inherent wisdom which is lying dormant within us and once the mental chattering and agitation stops our mind becomes calm and peaceful. Then the pure buddhi, the discerning intelligence (our own inner wisdom) starts revealing itself with a soft and convincing voice; doubts vanish and clarity remain.
She is prayed to and invoked by all. Children recite prayers to Her before beginning studies and those who are in pursuit of self-development also seek her blessings.
Of the three Goddesses worshiped during Nava-Ratri festival, last three days are for Saraswati. It is only after Durga (Kaali) has removed obstacles (negativity), and Lakshmi has established harmony and balance in our external lives that our mind turns towards acquiring wisdom (Saraswati).