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Sarasvati (सरस्वती, สรัสวดี)

Sanskrit. The Hindu goddess of art and learning, and the consort of Brahma (fig.). In Mahayana Buddhism, she is the goddess of education, music and poetry, and the consort of Manjushri. In China, she is known as Biancai Tian (辩才天), i.e. the ‘Heavenly Eloquence’, and Manjushri as Wen Shu (fig.). Her mount is a peacock (fig.), in Sanskrit known as mayura (fig.), though in Central Vietnam, i.e. Cham art, she is sometimes represented as seated on the Hamsa (fig.), and in Myanmar on its Burmese equivalent, i.e. the Hintha (fig.). In Indian iconography, she is often portrayed playing the veena, i.e. a sitar-like (fig.) stringed instrument. In Thai, she is known as Surasvati (fig.) and Surasvati Devi. In Tibet, she also has a wrathful emanation, which is known as Vajra Sarasvati or Magzor Gyalmo in Tibetan, which translates as Queen of the Weapon Army’. She is an enlightened protector deity in Lamaism and in this ferocious appearance, she is portrayed with a dark blue complexion, one face and two hands, holding aloft a scepter in one hand and a kapala, i.e. a cup made from a human skull (fig.), in the other. She wears a necklace of severed human heads and is seated on a donkey (fig.). Originally, this Hindu goddess was a personification a the river Sarasvati. Matangi is the Tantric form of Sarasvati, who in her appearance as Raja-Matangi, is also depicted playing the veena, but —unlike Sarasvati— in the company of a parrot (fig.). See also TRAVEL PICTURES (1) and (2).