The following assignment was to gather information about a particular myth, summarize it for ourselves, and then write from the subject’s point of view in an attempt to better understand the emotions behind the story. I chose…
The Matsya Purana Myth of Saraswati
According to the Matsya Purana, the God Brahma was self-contained and self-content at a time when the cosmos did not yet exist. Eventually, however, he began to long for company. He decided to split his being in two, creating a consort and feminine counterpart. This is how the Goddess known as “the one with a hundred beautiful forms” emerged from Brahma’s forehead. She is called by many different names in mythology, including Sandhya, Brahmi, or Saraswati.
Inspired by her beauty, Brahma fell in love with Saraswati and stared at her longingly. To avoid his gaze, she moved to his left, then behind him, and then to his right. Wherever she moved a head sprang up enabling Brahma to continue looking at her. In desperation, she jumped into the air, but a fifth head appeared on top. Brahma then asked her to help him create the universe.
As his wife, Saraswati provided the creative force to execute what Brahma had conceived with his intelligence. She is said to have invented Sanskrit, the language of Brahmins, scriptures and scholarship. She is also known as the Mother of the Vedas, having created the primary texts of Hinduism.
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, is the muse of all creative arts, particularly poetry, music, learning and science. Additionally, the Rigveda mentions that Saraswati manifests in the form of a divine river, thus associating her with fertility and purification. Literally, the word Saraswati means “the one which flows,” pertaining not only to water, perhaps, but to the flow of knowledge as well.
From Saraswati’s Perspective
I remember the first time that Brahma saw me. His eyes rested upon every inch of my body with insatiable lust. He studied the mechanics of my movement, the curve of my flesh, all the while taking pride in the beautiful creature he had created. He was looking at an aspect of himself in awe as this was the first time he had seen himself as a feminine manifestation.
Under his gaze, I initially froze, still as a pool in the throes of a long, deep winter. Then, without warning, I rushed to the right as swiftly as a river after a pouring rain. When I looked back at Brahma, I could scarcely believe what I saw. With the shift of my direction, a second head had grown from his neck. Two new eyes, wild with desire, met with mine. How could this be? I rushed behind him, but another head appeared from the back of his neck with a third set of beseeching eyes. As I darted to the left, he produced a fourth.
Unable to break free from his eight-eyed gaze, the only possible escape was into the air above. With a running start, I shut my eyes tight and leapt high above him. Looking down, I hesitantly peered through one slit eye hoping that I had finally escaped. There below me, a fifth set of moist, wild eyes grew from the top of his head and met my weary gaze. I simply could not escape his wanting.
Exhausted and bewildered, I was still again when I finally heard him speak. His godly voice was deep and strong. His adoration rang out through the vast space surrounding us, resounding fully within every chamber of my heart. With a few small words, Brahma simply asked, “Will you help me to create the Universe?” It was in that moment that my desire for him grew. In the pregnant space of silence, with the millions of words he didn’t speak, I understood how much he loved me.
This was not a proposal to be taken lightly. I knew that a marriage of our talents would create a new domain, born from each of our compatible efforts, where mortals would roam and look to us for guidance. I can say now that I had no full idea of what that meant at the time, but I knew that I wanted to learn. My existence had just begun and I was already handed the greatest responsibility and honor one could hope for. With all the love of a wife and mother, I accepted the role of co-creator.
Brahma shared all of his goals with me and, as he talked about his ideas, I provided a creative solution to achieve them. First we molded all of the stars, the sun, the planets and the moon and spun them into motion within a complex system. These celestial bodies, much like an engine, worked in concert to provide energy to the plants, animals and mortals we created next.
These mortals, in particular, were a misguided bunch. Each was on their own individual journey and yet constantly bumping into each other’s existence. These interactions proved to be an interesting and sometimes entertaining chain of events but, unfortunately, these events could also result in discord. It was for this reason we decided that a written guide to “living a good life” might be helpful. I developed Sanskrit which could be used for language, scriptures and scholarship. I then created the Vedas, primary texts of Hinduism. With all this possibility in the world of communication, we let the mortals experiment with it as they saw fit. The mortals, as a result, developed expressive poetry, art and music which, at times, was dedicated back to us.
The process of building our new creation was equally as beautiful as the results we achieved. Working together, Brahma?s dream was realized through me. Enjoying the fruits of his labor, he went into retirement, although he wouldn?t mind if anyone still wanted to worship him. Alternately, I don’t think I’ll ever stop working as long as the mortals keep searching for inspiration and knowledge. We’ve tried to lead good lives, and for that we are proud.
(Of course there is evidence of drama in our lives, like the incident where Shiva cut off Brahma’s fifth head, believing our relationship to be incestuous, or the unyielding grudge I carry toward my sister, but we like to focus on the positive these days.)