Vasant Panchmi: Saraswati's Birthday
SARASWATI is "She who Flows." Some say She is the daughter of Shiva and Durga, others the daughter of Brahma, still others will have Her as the consort of Brahma or as the origin of the Veda. Her Mahavidya form is Matangi, and She is also linked to the Mahavidya Tara through one of Tara’s epithets as Nila Saraswati. She is the power of creativity and the originator of all sound, which links Her to the Vedic Goddess Vac. All learning and knowledge mundane or spiritual are under Her purview.
Hymns to Her are chanted before any class to ensure success in one's studies. For example, an Adhyayanat Prama may be utilized. This means that before the reading or studies begin, one asks to gain right knowledge or truth :
Adhyayanat Prama for Goddess Saraswati
Varade Kaama Rupini
Siddhir Bhavatu Me Sadaa
O Goddess Saraswati,
I humbly bow to Thee,
who is the fulfiller of my wishes.
I start my studies with the prayer
that I may become successful always.
She, Goddess of Learning, is also one of the seven sacred rivers of India (these are counted as the Sindhu, Ashikni, Parushni, Saraswati, Yamuna, Ganga and Sarayu) and the Seven Sisters of the Rig Veda, which are honored at the beginning of every modern day puja. The mighty Saraswati (whose banks were the sight of many Vedic yagna, the sacrificial fire ceremony) began being diverted and eventually dried up between 5000-3000 BCE due to seismic activity. However, to give you an idea of how the Saraswati river was perceived of by the ancients, here’s a quote from the Rig Veda:
These currents whose strength tears apart the peak of a mountain, just as a bird, eater of a lotus stock, tears it apart. We appeal for protection with these beautiful verses to Saraswati who has come from beyond. We shall serve by exertion of our intellect.
(Mandala 6 Shukta 61 Rik 2 - Rishi Barhaspatya)
Saraswati is generally depicted as a beautiful fair-skinned woman with dark hair and four arms. Her arms represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. Other portions of Her iconography include:
- Book (Veda) – Spiritual knowledge of the eternal Truth through the scriptures and Her perfection of scientific knowledge
- Mala of white pearls – power of meditation and spirituality
- Pot of sacred water – creative and purifying powers
- Vina (Veena) – musical instrument representing Her perfection of all arts and sciences. She is associated with Anurag, the love for the rhythm of music which represents all emotions and feelings expressed through speech or music.
- Swan (Hamsa) – symbolizing the power of discrimination
In the Hindu calendar, Vasant Panchami is the 5th day of the bright half of the solar month of Magh, which is comparable to the sign of Aquarius, making it fall in late January or early February. It is also the fifth day of Spring (Vasant). At this time of year in the north of India the mustard is harvested.
This year, it falls on January 20 and is also known as Sarawati's Birthday. The holiday is celebrated with a special puja to Her. She is dressed in white, symbolizing purity, and yellow mustard flowers and marigolds are offered to Her. Students worship Her by offering their books and pens at Her feet. They will refrain from reading and writing on this day. It is also traditionally when a child is taught her or his first letters from the family guru or pandit/priest.
Join in a simple mantra for Saraswati any time you wish to receive Her blessings:
Om Aim Shrim Hrim Saraswati Devyai Namaha
ॐ ऐं श्रीं ह्रीं सरस्वती देव्यै नमः
om aiṁ śrīṁ hrīṁ sarasvatī devyai namaḥ
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Why Donate? You Make a Difference...
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Delighting in the Mysteries
Join the dance!
SHARANYA is dedicated to promoting a vision of the world as a global community, alive in its diversity, united in its essential humanity. We recognize the spark we all share no matter what our address, be it
New York or Kolkata.
Through open hearts, surrendered egos, willingness, and a deep commitment, SHARANYA helps to create a compassionate and strong, safe space for individuals of all backgrounds and faiths to engage spirituality and explore the inner landscape toward mind-body-spirit well-being.
Your contributions make all the difference as we work to keep engaged spirituality and a unique spiritual expression of service viable in the world. At SHARANYA, our Goddess Temple survives because of you, because of your support. For all of the ways in which you love the Divine and make Her manifest, we are deeply grateful.
Thank you for your commitment
to making spirituality
a vehicle for social justice
and life-affirming change.
Thank you for helping the spread of
Maa's love in the world. Jai Maa!
Supporting an Evolution of Consciousness
In all that we do, we seek to remember the united soul of humanity as we strive to support an evolution of consciousness through engagement in the communities and diversity of perspectives that promote sustainability of Earth and her inhabitants.
Today, in a culture in crisis, with dislocated global citizens, the looming dark cloud of climate change, diseases of the heart and soul, and other ills plaguing our planet, people are looking for a safe place to call home; they are looking for community, for others who share their deep-felt concerns and worries, and above all else, they are looking to find a family where people are committed to making a better future through the hard work of personal growth, community building, and service to others.
Can I make a donation for Maa's worship if I live
Our mission is to empower seeds of change on personal, collective, and planetary levels towards respect, responsibility, and the fullest awareness of an interconnected, interrelated cosmic reality that promotes peace, truth, and a (r)evolution of consciousness that works toward wholeness. We welcome any and all of your contributions to our efforts...join us!
outside the Bay Area or can't attend this month?
Jai Maa! Absolutely.
Should you wish to contribute to the worship, know that we will call your name into circle so that your intention will be with Maa and held by community in sacred space. We can also mail you a flower from the ceremony to put on your altar if you desire. Just let us know with your donation and be sure to provide a current mailing address.
Offer flowers to Maa & Shiva >>
Kali Puja (1/31): Work the Magick & Attend a Puja!
Be with us on
the last Sunday of January
to celebrate Her mysteries!
At SHARANYA, we are dedicated in our worship to Goddess Kali in Her myriad forms, including those as She is expressed through the world's various traditions that honor the Dark Goddess, the one who holds the wisdom of the full spectrum of human beingness. Ceremony is held in the Sha'can tradition and lead by Rashani (ordained clergy) with help from community...
Our puja infuses methods and practices from East and West in order to create a sacred space for worship, deepening, and opening on the path of the bhakta, or devotee of the Divine. Learn more about what our ceremonies are like with this brief introduction.
What to bring... Offerings for the main altar are welcome. It is customary to bring flowers, fruit, wine, vegetarian offerings, or sweets and to refrain from wearing black to our public rituals. If you wish to wear a special color for Kali, we invite you to don red, a color associated with Her power in the phenomenal world as shakti, the activating force and the energy of creation. You are also invited to bring an object you would like to have blessed.
A sliding scale donation of $21-11 is suggested to cover the cost of the space, puja supplies and prasad (blessed food); however, no one is ever turned away for lack of funds, and any donation is graciously accepted; we appreciate so much the offerings you make to support our work and the community.
An R.S.V.P. is requested if you would like to participate, and you may do so by making a contribution online. All regular monthly Kali Puja ceremonies begin at 5:30 p.m. No one is admitted after 5:45pm. Worship usually ends at 8:00pm and is followed by community time and sharing of prasad (blessed food).
For all events, children are welcome, but no childcare is provided.
Cushions and chairs are available (arrangements can be made for wheelchair access - kindly let us know in advance).
Read On! Temple Etiquette
(and Good Things to Know for Puja)
Not in the San Francisco Bay Area?
All are welcome at our mandir (temple). Maa embraces all: sarvam sarvatmakam...for everything is the essence of everything else.
If you are not in the Bay Area or cannot attend events
for any reason, please join one of our online communities
and participate in learning more about Maa through...
A Wisdom School for Her Mysteries & Dedicated to
(R)evolutionary Shakta Tantra
Kali Vidya is offering a series of classes that you can work through independently or with your current worship circle.
NEXT CLASS STARTS SPRING 2010
Learn more about the offerings at our mandir... >>
Hiphoppin' to Kali
By: Craig Louis Stehr
This original hiphop poem is inspired by the 5th century A.D. Devi- Mahatmya, and the 9th century A.D. Devi-Bhagavata Purana.
Planet earth hosts a murderous show
materialism has got to go
deluded minds devour the orb
the spiritual mind gets absorbed...in the Real!
High above gods watch the degradation
down below it's warring nations
the gods get together
'cuz it looks like stormy weather
species gone extinct
government responds with more bureaucratic ink
the gods conspire
create a goddess higher
give her all their power
weapons and inspire
to head on down to the earthly fray
intervene in history
it's the only way.
Multiarmed with weapons
riding on a lion
the righteous join her army
and attack the demon horde
all goes well 'til she cuts the demon leader
blood hits the ground and becomes a demon breeder
seems that the demon got a boon from a god
he worshipped Brahma
which changed the drama
from each drop spilt another demon is built
what can goddess Durga do?
Her army's losing after all they slew
the goddess on the lion surveys the scene
her furrowed brow darkens and looks real mean
from out of her forehead springs the goddess Kali
expands her tongue to end the demon's folly
covers the battlefield/catches all the blood
goddess army fights reckless
Kali gets a necklace...of severed heads!
The gods above applaud and whoop
the demon general crouches in a stoop
he lunges at Kali who raises her sword
she chops him up fine
and then proceeds to dine...she eats him!
All the gods above join the celebration
the goddess army parties
Kali does her victory dance
and dance she does until the earth goes off its wobble
the gods send Shiva down to bring it to a hobble
Kali spots the three-eyed one asleep taking rest
she finishes her victory dance up on his chest.
gods above are delighted
Shiva-Kali go to Kailash
demon plan's in the trash
heavy karma for the horde
now the dharma is restored.
This poem is part of an emerging play,
for use against the forces of materialism.
Craig Louis Stehr has been active with the Northern California Vedanta Society since 1971, is associated with the Sivananda Ashram in Muni-Ki-Reti in India, and is part of the global radical environmental milieu.
Art, poetry, mantra & more ... >>
Mantra of the Month
You who have been welcomed
(arisen, embodied in the murti through prāṇa pratiṣṭha),
Great Mother Kali, are offered gratitudes and bid farewell.
This mantra is used at the end of our Kali Puja to thank our Divine Mother, Kali Maa, for coming to our ceremony, for flowing from our hearts into the murti we reserve for Her during worship.
Use this mantra in your own worship to give thanks and devoke, returning the image you use to its original form, before closing your puja and putting away your ritual items.
Listen to the mantra... >>
Our Sanctuary is your sanctuary.
Everyone is welcome in Maa's house!
In the sacred texts of Tantra, we learn of Her expression of virtues. She is Divine Mother, and we honor Her as such. Yet, it is also true that sexuality, the fecundity of menstrual blood, the wild and untamable nature of reality, and all things antinomian come together in Her. Through Her, Dark Goddess, we see the potential for liberation because Devi is able, as dictated in the scriptures and by the lineage of the ancients, to lead aspirants to the highest and most engaged reality.
Are you a spiritual activist?
Click the button to volunteer!
Interested in lending your love of Maa, your creativity, your inspiration to Kali Puja? Feel free to bring us your ideas and energy! We have many ways for you to become immediately and directly involved in a vibrant and growing spiritual community, and look forward to your unique expression of joy in Her name. We welcome your suggestions too; your experience, expertise, and desire can inform many of the ways we do Her work in the world!
Click here to learn more about joining in the celebration of Her through SHARANYA...and be with us in cyberspace if you're not able to join us in person. And of course, stay in touch with us in all the old-fashioned ways too!
Learn more about our work and worship... >>
The Apsara Store
Creating an online store to help support SHARANYA is an ongoing project, and we welcome your support with purchases and ideas. Please visit us, ask questions, and help us share Maa's love.
- T-shirts (Men's, Women's, Children's)
- "Ending Patriarchy One Mantra at a Time" bumperstickers
- Patches for luggage, backpacks, jackets, books...
* All items sold through the Apsara Store
include tax in the prices listed; shipping is additional.
Come visit us! >>
Visiting the Yoginis
Kaula doctrine states that through such bhoga (enjoyment) [of the five "M"s of Tantrick fame] as opposed to yoga (renunciation), its followers will achieve a state of bliss that is termed Kula. Kula is defined as a state in which the mind and sight are united, the sense organs lose their individuality and sight merges into the object to be visualized. Akula is defined in the same manner and it is further stated that Kula is Śakti and Akula is Śiva, and that ultimate bliss arises from the union of the two.
The tradition of yoginī worship likely derives from ancient practices formalized and brahmanized in the Agni Purāṇa. In this text, the mātṛkās are said to be eight: Brāhmani, Maheśvarī, Kaumārī, Vaiṣṇavī, Vārāhī, Aindrī, Cāmuṇḍa, and Mahālakṣmi. These eight goddesses are multiplied by eight (because of this number’s auspicious nature in Hindu belief) to derive the base of sixty-four yoginīs. The names of these sixty-four are given in the Kālīkā Purāna; although my contact at the temple, Mr. Routaray, has his own manifestation.
By the time of the 11th century CE, the worship of the yoginīs as connected to the mātṛkās is set in common folklore, and one can not easily talk about one group without mentioning the other. In fact, scholars often make classifications of yoginīs at temples or in textual nāmāvālis (name lists) based upon the presence (or absence) of the mātṛkās.
For example, at Hirapur, while iconographically one of the statues may appear Cāmuṇḍa-like, Vidya Dehejia, whose ovular text on the yoginīs, Yoginī Cult and Temples: A Tantrick Tradition details how the yoginīs developed, how they are viewed and worshiped, and what forms they take historically in the literature, is reluctant to call Her such because the full array of mātṛkās is not otherwise apparent or documented. Upon seeing this statue year after year, however, I am quite clear (as are the locals who frequent the temple for active worship) that it is the presence of Cāmuṇḍa who inhabits this place.
The yoginī temple at Hirapur, Orissa is located about 10km outside of Bhubaneshwar, the state capital. Those who visit are often treated to the services of a local village priest, no more than about 20 years old, who has been actively engaged in either orthodox pūjā or the maintenance of the circular, open-air temple where once the Mahāyāga rituals of yoginī worship were carried out by adhikārīs (male initiates) and bhairavīs (female initiates) of the tantrick heterodox path known as Kaula.
Although the exact nature of historical worship at this temple has not survived in documents, the divine yoginīs are still actively worshiped today through these and similar brahmanical rituals. Nevertheless, to be among the sixty-four yoginīs here is to feel the power of the goddess in one’s blood and bones. Upon entering the small temple, which one does through a vulva-like opening that proceeds past two skeletal male figures (which may at one time have been ithyphallic) and leads into the womb-like chamber around which the goddesses stand, the intensity of the figures and the feeling of being held and firmly embraced stands out in marked contrast to the open, expansive sky above. Can you imagine being in this temple, held in sacred embrace while the stars and blackness of a new moon bear witness to your rites?
Vidya Dehejia reports that at one time, the central image in the temple was of Śiva, although the particular statue (some report it was a large yoni-lingam) was stolen when the temple came into public notice in 1953. Today, merely the platform on which it resided remains.
At Hirapur, the exact philosophical and metaphysical relationship between the god and the goddesses is unclear, yet as Dehejia notes:
One might say that regardless of the status women may have had in the worship rites and religio-political sphere of the temple centuries ago, individuals wishing today to bring a philosophical, metaphysical or literal engagement of the bliss described above to their lives, have literal resources for empowerment and potentiation through the Divine Feminine as represented by the images found at this—and other—temples to the Goddess.
Perhaps as we contemplate the yoginīs today, we can all together dance this dance of union, harmonizing our own inner and outer worlds, our own Divine essence with that of the greater good. May our work to do so be blessed and our spiritual practice on this path bring us much peace and fulfillment...by the grace of the yoginīs themselves!
Read more blog entries ... >>
Our Community Online
Devī energy is powerful, ever-present, and available to those who agree to step towards Her through the doors She is opening to us—all of us. Engaging Her with respect for the places and traditions where the Goddess is an active and expressed part of human consciousness, many are tapping into expressions of universal truth.
Want to be part of the growing collective of western seekers devoted to Maa who utilize both Hindu Tantrick and Pagan/Craft/Old Religion ways in their worship?
- Join us online through Kali Vidya, our wisdom school dedicated to Maa's mysteries
- Stay current with our global community through our public Daughters of Kali forum. Yes! I want to join an online community dedicated to Maa and Her worship in the West...subscribe me to Daughters of Kali!
Learn more about the Sha'can tradition ... >>
Altar of the Month
"My altar has a living presence that is felt by everyone who enters my home. It's a magickal place of transformation, devoted to the Divine Mother. She's seen many celebrations and patiently supported me and shared her love. My altar constantly rebirths herself as I grow spiritualy. I believe it best reflects who I am; I care for her as a living presence of the Divine Mother. It holds my heart."
—Bonnie Bell, Artist (Las Vegas)
Add to our community musings - send us your altar images ...! >>
Calendar of Events
Reserve your place at
2010 Puja Calendar
We welcome you to worship, meditate, attend classes (either in person or online, and participate in other events at our sanctuary. Let us know if you'd like to help out at a puja, learn more about our tradition, or have ideas to share with us. Your participation in worship is helping to create a living Tantrick tradition of the West today. Mark your calendars to join us soon!
- Jan 31
- Feb 28
- Mar 28
- April 25
- May 23
- June 20 - Yoni Puja & Solstice Ritual
- July 25
- Aug 29
- Sept 26
- Oct 17
- Nov 6 - 7th Annual Kali Puja Festival
- Dec 5
upcoming worship events...Jai Maa!
Ongoing Open Community Puja
Kali Puja - Devi (Goddess) Worship
Our ongoing puja, or worship ceremony, is open to all! Held in our sanctuary space located in San Francisco, we gather to celebrate the Divine every month at the Cultural Integration Fellowship (CIF). Click here for directions.
See other upcoming events and celebrations >>
To the Kaula & Community
Gratitudes and Blessings...
to all who choose to walk, talk, act, play and serve in Her name.
Engage your heart with us in Her name... >>