India celebrates Sarasvati festival on Vasanta Panchami day in February to propitiate Devi Sarasvati, the divinity for knowledge and wisdom and during Devi Navaratri festival in September-October.
Sarasvati – The Graceful
In India, the Divine pair, Brahma and His consort Sarasvati, represent the divine forces in play in the growth, expansion and evolution of the Universe. This aspect of the growth of the Universe is thus steeped with the knowledge of all that has transpired since the moment of Creation and continues to drive the further evolution of the Universe. This driving force of knowledge is called Sarasvati, as it is a knowledge that continues to flow through the expanse of the cosmos, gracefully and incessantly like waves. Saras means gracefully flowing.
Sarasvati in India is associated with the Veda, wisdom, knowledge, intellect, faculty of speech, music, musical instrument called Veena, all art and craft forms and purity.
Sarasvati Worship in Japan
A similar vein of thought seems to have been held by the civilization of Japan as is evidenced by the presence of a goddess like Sarasvati in Japan.
Sarasvati and Her forms are popular divinities in the land of Japan. There are 131 temples of Sarasvati in the city of Tokyo alone as recorded in the census of 1832. This shows the prevalence of Sarasvati worship as an intrinsic ethos of Japanese culture.
Sarasvati by different names in Japan
The Sarasvati Divinity in Japan is associated with different faculties like music, sweet voice, wealth, fortune, beauty, happiness, eloquence, wisdom and as one who confers strength on warriors.
The Divinity is known by different names, the most popular one being Benzaiten.
|Names of Sarasvati||Invoked for|
|Benzaiten||Talent and wealth|
|Daiben, Dai Benzaiten||Intelligence|
|Sama Benzamini||Inspirer to poets and artistes. Sama in Samskrt means equilibrium, balanced, state of mind required for poets.|
|Benteu, Benten||Speech with a flute in her hands|
|Krodha Benzaiten||Violent form worshipped by generals before going to war. Krodha in Samskrt means anger, fierce.|
We see a commonality in the association of Sarasvati in Japanese culture too, with different faculties of arts and knowledge such as music, sweet voice, beauty, happiness, eloquence, wisdom, and additionally with wealth, fortune and as one who confers strength on warriors.
Sarasvati Temples in Japan
There are many Sarasvati temples in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara among other cities of Japan.
Sarasvati Temples In Japan, A Map
Veneration Still Prevails
The veneration of Benzaiten is not only a medieval practice of Japan. Post World War 2, a new religious sect has sprung forth, called Benten Shu, in Osaka.
This shows that the understanding of Benzaiten, is still current in modern industrial, westernised Japan.
Indo Japan Connect – A New Book
India and Japan, the land and the people are separated by the seas. Yet they seem to be connected by the same thought waves that have flown gracefully between the two countries since time immemorial and connected by the grace of the Divine Sarasvati.
More on Indo Japan Connect in our new book, ‘Indo – Japan A Connect Over Millennia’, released recently by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
A smaller E-version of the book can be accessed here: http://goo.gl/e8QB3d