On this eight day of Navaratri, Ashtami, I continue to pay homage to Goddess Saraswati. I have chosen the painting of Prince Ravi Varma for today’s illustration; a print of this painting used to be in my mother’s prayer room, a very well loved portrayal of the Goddess.
This past week I have written on traditional hymns and prayers. I wrote about Ya Kundendu to Goddess Saraswati which is ~7000 years old, Mahishasura Mardini to Goddess Durga which is a much more recent ~1200 years old . Do prayers have to be in Sanskrit or that old to be effective? Of course not! A hastily muttered ‘Please protect me’ is a prayer as much as any other. But the old prayers carry a strength with them, as if by years and years of heartfelt repetitions the very sounds become an effective conduit to the Divine. Or perhaps it is the sound itself which is Divine.
To contrast, my today’s prayer is from the Hindi Film industry. One day I will write one or more posts on the lovely bhajans which have come from Bollywood. Mata Saraswati Sharada is from the film Alaap (1977) and is my favourite bhajan on Saraswati. The music is by Jaidev set to Raga Bhairavi and the lyrics are traditional. It is exquisitely sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Yesudas.
माता सरस्वती शारदा
विद्या दानी दयानी दुःख हरिणी
जगत जननी ज्वालामुखी (माता सरस्वती)
कीजे सुदृष्टि सेवक जान अपना
इतना वरदान दीजे तान ताल और अलाप
बुद्धि अलंकार (शारदा, माता सरस्वती)
Mother Saraswati, Sharada, bestower of knowledge, merciful, remover of sorrows, mother of the world, bright faced (Mother Saraswati)
Please look at us, your worshippers, and bless us with melody, rhythm and cadence, intelligence and the right words (figure of speech). (Sharada, Mother Saraswati)