Hinduism 101: Symbolism of Saraswati

Hindu deities are rich with symbolism, and Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, is no exception. The scripture she holds are the Vedas and represent knowledge, while the japa mala, or beads, represents discipline and concentration. See the table below for detailed explanations about Saraswati's symbolism.

Saraswati Imagery Symbolism
Four Arms

Goddess Saraswati’s four arms symbolize a variety of concepts:

  • Her immanence and transcendence
  • Her front arms depict the Goddess’ activity in the material realm while the back arms activity in the spiritual realm
  • The four elements of inner life which include mind, intellect, ego, and Consciousness
Stringed Instrument, or Veena Goddess Saraswati is also the Goddess of the Arts. The veena, in addition to representing the arts, serves as a reminder to tune one’s heart and mind to live in harmony with others and the world.
Book, or Vedas Represents the Truth or pure knowledge
Stringed Beads, or Japa Mala Represents discipline, concentration, and meditation
White Clothing, or Sari Symbolic of purity
Lotus A white lotus represents purity and knowledge. Lotuses, because they remain untouched by the muddy waters within which they grow, also generally symbolize the need to remain untouched by the negative influences which may surround an individual.
Peacock The peacock represents beauty and dance. Peacocks can also represent vanity and indecision. Thus, its presence is a reminder to curb these two qualities.
Swan (not pictured) The swan represents beauty and also is believed to have the unique ability to separate milk from water with its beak, symbolizing the need for individuals to always discern between right and wrong.