Rivers in Ancient India (study)

by Archana Sarma | 2019 | 49,356 words

This page relates ‘4a. Sarasvati’s relation with Brahma’ of the study on the rivers in ancient India as reflected in the Vedic and Puranic texts. These pages dicsusses the elements of nature and the importance of rivers (Nadi) in Vedic and Puranic society. Distinctive traits of rivers are investigated from descriptions found in the Vedas (Samhitas), Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads and Puranas. The research is concluded by showing changing trends of rivers from ancient to modern times.

4a. Sarasvatī’s relation with Brahmā

In the Purāṇas, Sarasvatī has been described as associated particularly with Brahmā, Dharmarāja, Viṣṇu, Āditya etc.

In some of the Purāṇas, it is found that Brahmā is closely related to Sarasvatī. According to the Matsyapurāṇa, Sarasvatī was born out of the half portion of Brahmā’s body as his daughter. But when he looked at her, he was fired by her peerless beauty and praised her for it incessantly. He cried out in wonder that her beauty was enchanting. It has been said in presence of his mindborn sons (mānas-putras), which caused shame to his daughter who began to circumambulate her bare–faced father. But when she was circumambulating him, Brahmā found it troublesome to move again and again with her. So he became four-faced to have a full and continuous look at her and then five-faced, when she proceeded to heaven. Ultimately, Brahmā entrusted on his sons the work of creation and married her who was of hundred beauties. Thus, he enjoyed the company of Sarasvatī for hundred years living inside the lotus.[1]

From this Purāṇa, it is not clear how Brahmā won Sarasvatī as his wife, but the Bhāgavatapurāṇa clarifies this point. The Bhāgavatapurāṇa says that Sarasvatī was quite impassionate when Brahmā fell under the irresistible influence of love. Brahmā had to win over the heart of his daughter.[2]

Brahmā lost his tapasyā for marrying Sarasvatī and for this he had to practise hard penance. It is due to this tapasyā that he produced his wife from half of his body. He was also gifted with the faculty of creation.[3] This companion of Brahmā was beauty incarnate and stood by her husband as Surabhi. Brahmā enjoyed his wife’s company and a smoke-coloured child was born to them.[4] In the Brahmarvaivartapurāṇa, Sāvitrī has been referred as the wife of Brahmā and when Brahmā enjoyed Sāvitrī’s company, the Vedas, Śāstras, year, month, day, night, twilight, dawn etc., came into existence.[5] In the Purāṇas, Sarasvatī and Sāvitrī have been referred in different forms. As Prakṛti they stand side by side with each other,[6] while other references present them as essentially one.[7] Sometimes, they appear before us as two different wives of Brahmā.

Footnotes and references:


upayeme sa viśvātmā śatarūpāmaninditām | sa vabhūva tayā sardhamatikāmāturo bibhuḥ | sa lajjāṃ cakame devaḥ kamalodaramandire || Matsya Purāṇa, 3.30-43


vācaṃ duhitaraṃ tanvīṃ svayaṃbhūrharatīṃ manaḥ | ekāmāṃ cakame kṣattaḥ sakāma iti naḥ śrutam || Bhāgavata Purāṇa., 3.12.28


yaṃ kālaṃ tau gatau muktau brhmā taṃ kālameva hi | tato ghoratamambhūyaḥ saṃśritaḥ paraṃ vratam || tato jagād tripadāṃ gāyatrīṃ vedapūjitām | sṛjan prajānāṃ patayaḥ sāgarāṃ ścāsṛjadvibhuḥ || Matsya Purāṇa,171.20-23


dattā bhadrāya dharmāya brahmanā viśvakarmaṇā | yā rūpārddhavatī patnī brahmaṇah kāmarūpiṇī || Ibid.,171.34-36


brahma viśvaṃ vinirmāya sāvitryāṃ varayoṣiti | cakāra vīryādhānaṃ ca kamukhāṃ kamuko yathā | caturvidhaṃ ca pralayaṃ kālaṃ vai mṛtyukanyakām | sarvānvyādhigaṇāṃścaīva sā prasūya stanaṃ dadau || Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa,1.8.1


gaṇeśajananī durgā rādhā lakṣmīḥ sarasvatiī | sāvitrī vai sṛṣṭividhou prakṛtiḥ pañcadhā smṛtā || Ibid., 2.1.1,


lokasṛṣṭyartha hṛdi kṛtvā samasthitaḥ | tataḥ saṃjapatastasya vittvā dehamakatnmaṣam || Matsya Purāṇa, 3.30-32

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