We have a reader question from Hemali
Will you please write an article on qualties/significance of Swan in hinduism and its relation to Goddess Saraswati. The article you wrote on significance of Owl and its relation to Goddess Laxmi was amazing.
Before you read any further, I wanted to mention one basic thing about the thought process which you should use to consume this information. Please understand their is no science, logic, proof and concrete way of validating these theories. These “theories” are mere interpretations and observations of scholars before me, none of what i say is my own interpretation. These interpretations cannot be seen or understood with the laws of logic or science. That is why it is called “Darshan” (to see the unseen, to understand something which cannot be defined by logic alone or proofs but which has to be understood with “Bhakti” (belief and devotion).
Saraswati is the hindu goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, music and fine arts. Saraswati is also referred to as Hamsavahini, which means “she who has a hamsa as her vehicle”.
If you look at goddess Saraswati, there are a few things you can immediately notice
1. Saraswati is seen in a white attire which signifies purity and detachment. Unlike Lakshmi, she has no costumes, colorful robes or jewellery, which means she rejects the principles of outward beauty and embellishments. Saraswati is more like Shiva, completel;y detached in her own world and more interested in the inner beauty which is only possible through mastery of some discipline of knowledge.
2. Saraswati is seen carrying a “Veena” which is a musical instrument. This is a symbolic meaning which means to tune oneself into their own world of self actualization, knowledge and sadhana (and not be distracted by worldy affairs).
3. She is often seen sitting on a white lotus which is a symbolism of peace and purity. A student’s life should be like a lotus leaf. The lotus leaf is born in muddy waters but it is never influenced or touched by the mud itself and neither by the water. The lotus leaf is completely detached, it does not let it’s surrounding affect itself.
The lotus leaf does not withdraw itself and is always calm and composed, no matter which water body it resides into. Water floats on the surface of the lotus leaf but the leaf remains dry, since the leaf is “unattached”. The leaf allows water to be on his surface but at the same time it is not absorbed by the very water where it resides, neither by the water present on its surface, nor below it.
Now coming to the vahana of Saraswati – Rajhamsa.
The very first thing to learn from hamsa is discipline. These birds are very discplined and follow their day like a clock. They will wake up at the exact time every day, throughout their lives. Then they will follow the same routine throughout the day. They seldom break their routine unless of course their exists a pressing reason. These birds are very preditable in their timings, behaviors and day to day operations.
A person who seeks knowledge must be displined first. Without discipline, knowledge will not stay with you. Yes, you can read books, earn degrees and certificates, but true knowledge stays with that person who is disciplined in life. One who has self regulation and has a fixed time of doing thier work, fixed time of eating, fixed time of rest etc. A hamsa is never seen doing random things at odd hours of the day. If you follow the lifestyle of a Hamsa, you will note that they lead a very disciplined and controlled life (unlike other creatures who are moody and may deviate from their routines).
A hamsa is not limited by platform and boundaries. It is one of the rare creatures which can live on the land, live on the water as well as fly on the sky. the Hamsa is limitless and is not restricted to one medium alone.
So what is the symbolic meaning here? A person who has attained mastery of knowledge about a subject becomes limitless like a Hamsa. He/she is not limited to specific institutions, companies, organisations or corporate entities and can find a home anywhere, in any country, in any culture in any situation. They can choose the pond they want to live in, or create their own pond out of nothing. However, you will note that i just mentioned the fact that Hamsa lives a very controlled life and is very discplined. Which means, a person who has obtained true knowledge (“vidya”) will not have any limits imposed on them, nevertheless, they will limit their own behavior to preserve their true character.
A hamsa does not live in a polluted, filthy or a dirty environment. Rarely will you see a hamsa swimming in a dirty pond or living in shallow areas where people through waste and garbage. A hamsa is a sophisticated bird and is rarely seen dirty. They are almost always busy cleaning themselves and cleaning the environment where they live, in case humans have made it dirty. I will share a video below as an example
The meaning – A Knowledge seeker will seldom stay in a corrupt, polluted and filthy environment. Anyone who likes learning new things will not choose to stay in a political, corrupt or profit driven machine which usually becomes dirty overtime. Also, just like a hamsa, the knowledge seeker always polishes himself day in and day out to ensure that they are clean, that there is no rust on the surface, and their understanding of the subject is refined as frequently as possible. “Self grooming” is second nature for a Swan or a knowledge seeker. (see another video about how a swan grooms itself all the time)
Identifcation of true Knowledge from raw Information – A hamsa can differnetiate between milk and water. Give the bird a bowl with milk and water mixed, it will only drink the milk and leave the water alone. This signifies that the hamsa knows what is pure and what is not, and can separate the true extract from a mix of things.
A person with true knowledge can filter out the “vidya” from a pile of information. Anyone and everyone can read books, but the real “gyani” can extract the knowledge from a bunch of material which fools can never do, just like a Hamsa extracts milk from a mixture of water and milk while a crow is attracted to anything that is offered and will be delighted to feed on dead meat.
Sometimes goddess Saraswati is seen riding a peacock which has one similarity with a Swan. A peacock eats snakes, which is poisonous. But the peacock can process that poison and not let the poison affect itself. The peacock continues to dance beautifully even after it has fed on a poisonous snake. What this means is that a knowledgeable person can extract a wealth of knowledge from negative situations and process it to make something better, yet not be affected by the negativity and poison that comes with the opportunity. The Peacock represents the alchemical ability to transmute the serpent poison of self into the radiant plumage of enlightenment.