Saraswati, The goddess of knowledge and arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is considered as the personification of all knowledge like arts, sciences and other skills.The name Saraswati came from the words “saras” which means flow and “wati” which means a woman, therefore Saraswati is symbol of knowledge; the flow is like a river and knowledge is supremely alluring, like a beautiful woman. However, in the recent times, Women education has been always a neglected chapter, and it really doesn’t go in parallel with the way we worship Saraswati, the goddess of education. Let us talk about all these aspects in more details-
Each year in the month of Magha, the fifth day of the new moon, or Vasant Panchami, marks the day for Saraswati pooja. This day is of special significance for the students as they place their books at the feet of the Goddess seeking wisdom and blessings.
Goddess Saraswati hold the supreme position of pure knowledge and wisdom. in earlier days knowledge was considered as the pure wealth. There’s a beautiful shlok in sanskrit which says
Swadeshe Poojyathe Raja
Vidhwan Sarvathra Poojyathe !!
which means the king is very powerful, and as such the countrymen fear and respect the king, but only within that kingdom but a vidhwan’s or a scholar’s fame and respect cross all borders, irrespective of which country they belong to.
Saraswati wears neither jewels nor paints herself with bright colors. The white sari she adorns reflects her essential purity.The Lotus on which she sits, is considered as a symbol of supreme knowledge. The veena she holds does not only symbolize harmony but also symbolizes intelligence & intellect. The four vedas are her off springs, her mount, the swan, personifies pure knowledge and her herald, the peacock, is a symbol of the arts.In Rigveda, Saraswati was originally a river, personified as a Goddess. According to Vedanta, she is considered to be the feminine energy with high knowledge and the consort of Bramha. She shares the honour of being the supreme Lord of all knowledge with only a handful of other women across the world – Goddesses Athena (Greek), Anahita (Old Persian) and Minerva (Roman).
In ancient India, women were honored and respected in society. They regarded as a great source of power, peace, and knowledge. Therefore girls during the Vedic period were taught like boys. No distinction was made between the two. There are at least twenty women among the composers of the Rig Veda – Lopamudra, Visvavara, Sikata Nivavari and Ghosha being the most notable among them. Vedic history is replete with numerous scholarly women who were striving for excellence – Maitreyee was in pursuit of the philosophy of immortality, Gargi was the spokesperson of philosophers in King Janak’s court, Atreyi was a dedicated student of sages Valmiki and Agastya. During that period, educational right was given to all without any distinction of class and color. There was no caste system then. According to one’s capacity each one was free to receive education.
But, the status of women started degenerating in the post-Vedic age because of the conception of purity and pollution and restrictions of inter-caste marriages and Child marriages, It was not until 300 BC, that the ritual of child marriage reared its ugly head. Until such times, it was not customary for women to marry before 16. Gradually, marrying off pre-puberty girls became such an obligation, that their education was silently dropped off the priority list. This led to a vicious circle – the girls received lesser inputs, their general intellect suffered and soon, they were labelled unfit for education. The only exceptions were the Kshatriyas, who continued to educate their girl children under royal tutelage.
Furthermore, The Muslim invasion of India changed the fate of Indian women more drastically. Moral policing and Purdah system found easy takers among concerned parents, who were already struggling to marry off their infantile daughters. Soon, education came to be considered a vice for a woman – a sure fire way to become a widow ! Before the advent of the British rule in the country, education for women had died a complete and abysmal death in India.
Since 1850, India has seen remarkable progress in making female education mainstream. Some of the key leaders who pioneered the movement were Raja Rammohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. The two are best remembered for abolishing Sati (widow burning) and introducing widow remarriage, respectively. Furthermore SavitriBai Phule was the first woman who started the first ever school in India exclusively for Girls at a time when nobody could dare to even think about educating a girl.
Since India’s independence in 1947, women’s literacy has grown more than male literacy (of course, the base was not big). The female literacy rate in 1971 was 22%. In 2011, it grew up to 65.46%.In addition, some states and countries have piloted cash or in-kind transfers conditional on not getting married, with positive impacts. In Ethiopia the Berhane Hewan program provides income-earning projects for families sending their daughters to school.
In the state of Haryana in India the program Apni Beti Apna Dhan (Our Daughter, Our Wealth) provides financial incentives to parents if their daughter remains unmarried until age 18. Incentives include an immediate cash grant upon birth and a long-term savings bond redeemable on the girl’s 18th birthday, with additional bonuses for education.
Government of India, under the guidance of Prime minister Narendra Modi, has also introduced a social campaign called Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, that aims to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls. The scheme was launched with an initial funding of ₹100 crore. It has been the target of fraudsters in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Bihar and Delhi.
Though India’s movement towards an equal opportunity society is relatively slow, but there is hope that with awareness programs and the right steps, India would be able to reinstate its forgotten glory of incredible woman power in the near future. Glory be to the Goddess of Knowledge !!