Sarasvati – The Divine Grace

India celebrates Navaratri every year to mark the change in seasons and to propitiate Devi, the feminine divinity.

Similar worship and practice can also be seen in Japan.

Sarasvati – The Graceful

Knowledge in Indian thought is embodied by the divinity Sarasvati. Saras means gracefully flowing. Knowledge flows through the expanse of the cosmos, incessantly and gracefully like waves.

Knowledge forms the backbone for all forms of human activities – speech, skill, arts, fine arts, craft etc. Sarasvati is therefore the divinity that promotes the development of all of these capabilities in man, society and civilization.

This was the thought and understanding that was and continues to be prevalent in the Indian civilization. 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 by different names in Japan

In Japan, Sarasvati is known by different names.

She is associated with different faculties like music, sweet voice, wealth, fortune, beauty, happiness, eloquence, wisdom and as one who confers strength on warriors.

In addition to all these forms of divinities connected with speech, music, sweet voice found in Japan, similar to the form of Sarasvati known as Vakdevi or Vani in India, we find that there is a form of Sarasvati associated with war too.

Name Goddess of

Benzaiten

talent and weal

Myoten

sweet voice

Daiben, Dai Benzaiten

Intelligence

SamaBenzamini

Inspirer to poets and artistes

Benteu, Benten

Speech with a flute in her hands

KrodhaBenzaiten

Violent form worshipped by generals before going to war

Popularity of 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 acceptance and prevalence of Sarasvati worship as an intrinsic ethos of Japanese culture.

Similarly, there are equal number of Sarasvati temples in Kyoto, Osaka, Nara among the other cities of Japan.

Tradition of Dolls

In southern parts of India, Navaratri is also marked by the practice of displaying family heirloom dolls, depicting ancient historical or divine legends or scenes from day to day life, arranged in odd numbered steps – 5, 7, 9 and so on.

Just as South India welcomes autumn and winter, the pleasant season for this part of the world, with its arrangement of dolls, Golu, during Navaratri, Japan welcomes Spring on March 3rd every year, with its arrangement of dolls during Hinamatsuri.

Just as Golu is typically a festival of dolls in honour of young girls, women and feminine divinity Devi, Hinamatsuri is also held to honour young girls. The steps in Hinamatsuri too are either 5 or 7.

                       Sarasvati1 Sarasvati2

India and Japan, land and people, separated by the seas. Yet they seem to be connected by the same thought waves that have flown gracefully between them since time immemorial, connected by the grace of the divine Sarasvati.

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