Celebrating the seventh day of Navaratri, I at last turn to the third of the trinity of Goddesses I worship during these nine days. Saraswati, She, who blesses us with knowledge, music and the arts, is especially dear to me. My respect for knowledge and my love for the arts is what defines me as a person. Everyday I thank Her for the gift of appreciation when my eyes melt at a beautiful piece of music, the resonance of one colour against another in a painting or the perfection of a word when it is placed just so in prose, poetry or song. My everyday prayer to her is one which is repeated in many homes in India :
या कुन्देन्दु तुषारहार धवला या शुभ्र वस्त्रावृता |
या वीणा वरदण्ड मन्डित करा या श्वेत पद्मासना |
या ब्रह्माच्युत शंकर प्रभृतिभिर्देवैः सदा वन्दिता |
सा मां पातु सरस्वती भगवती निःशेष जाड्यापहा ||
yA kundEndu tushArahAra DHavalA yA shuBHra vastAvritA
ya veeNA varadanDa maNDita karA yA shwEta padmAsanA
yA brahmAchyuta shankara praBHRitibhir dEvai sadA vanditA
sA mAm pAtu saraswatI bhagavatI nihshEsha jAdyapahA
She (या) who is as dazzlingly white or fair (धवल) as a jasmine flower (कुन्द), the moon (इंदु) or a garland (हार ) of snow flakes (तुषार), She who wears white (शुभ्र) clothes (वस्त्र ), She whose hands (कर) are adorned (मण्डित) by Veena and a boon-giving (वर) staff (दण्ड), She whose seat (आसन) is a white lotus (श्वेत पद्म), She to whom Brahma, Achyuta (name for Krishna, form of Vishnu), Maheshwara (name of Shiva) always (सदा) worship/adore (वन्दित) from the beginning (प्रभृति), That (सा) Saraswati please protect (पातु) me (मां) and remove (अपह ) my endless (निःशेष) ignorance/apathy (जाड्य ).
This beautiful prayer is written by Sage Agastya. Sage Agastya lived in the times of Lord Rama, in the Treta Yuga, about 5000 BCE. He was the author of the many hymns in the first mandala of the Rigveda, the most ancient and sacred of Hindu texts. The Aditya Hridayam, the prayer to the Sun God recited by Agastya to Lord Rama in the battlefield, is part of the Yuddha Kanda (Book 6) of Ramayana by Valmiki (500/400 BCE). Agastya is a very interesting and colourful character who is said to have been the first Aryan to have lead a group of migrants over the Vindhya mountains to the Dravidian South. He is mentioned both in Aryan literature and ancient Tamil (Dravidian) literature; in fact the Tamils have adopted Agastya as their own. His stories are told as far as Indonesia. The star Canopus is named Agastya in India. There is an interesting paper linking legends of Agastya with astronomy in this paper.
Each time we recite Ya Kundendu, which was written about 7000 years back, we not only pray to Goddess Saraswati but are in direct communion with our history, our ancestors from milleniums past. In this knowledge and information driven world, this prayer should be in your daily recitation list as well. Listen below for the pronunciation.