Sri Vaira Saraswathi

About this object

History of use

Indian popular religious prints have been published for nearly a century, first by German presses, later by Indian ones. The prints may take the form of calendars, posters, or simply images. The style of the representations is European. In the beginning they were Hindu images, but are now acquiring elements both of folk art and a romantic secularism. It is a living art currently influenced by the movie industry and non-Hindu religions. The images are a vehicle for advertising and are also used for religious purposes. This print was produced, framed, and displayed in a prayer room for 'puja' or worship.

Cultural context

popular religious art

Iconographic meaning

Goddess of learning and arts, Saraswati, 'the watery one', is the protector of wisdom, literature, music, and arts, and consort of Brahma. She is identified by: prayer beads to represent piety; books; the vina, symbol for all arts; manuscript bundle, symbol of wisdom and writing; and the peacock. As goddess of eloquence mastering the rivers of speech, water is associated with her.

Physical description

Rectangular calendar print depicting Saraswati a four-armed female seated cross-legged on a large white lotus floating on stream of blue water. In two of her hands she is holding long-necked, stringed gold veena across her lap; large jeweled gold container attached near tuning pegs. Saraswati is wearing a gold-bordered white sari and pink undershirt. She is adorned with a jeweled gold crown, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets and rings; red drop shape at forehead's centre. Two remaining upraised hands each hold objects: pearl string in right hand, stack of bundled gold cards in left. Yellow halo behind head. In the background is a green forest; pink blossoms in trees, small waterfall on left, peacock in tree on right. Title on yellow border at base in English and Indian script.