Saraswati’s Name

30 Days of Devotion
Day Seven: Names and Epithets

I’m going to go back to putting my own twists on these prompts, as that seems to be most pleasing to My Lady. Today, I will examine Her name, which has been a surprising source of confusion, not just for starry-eyed devotees such as myself, but for dry and dusty scholars (of which I am also one, She assures me.)

So, what’s in a name? In Saraswati’s case, everything…and yet nothing at all.

You see, Saraswati began her life as the goddess of a river called The Saraswati, but it seems a good number of her worshippers have forgotten this. Folk etymologies for her name abound, which usually hinge on her role as a goddess of knowledge and understanding.

The most pleasing false etymology is, strangely enough, the one that is the most reasonable from a historical and linguistic. This would be the derivation of Saraswati’s name from Sar or “to flow,” thus making her The Flowing One, goddess of all things that flow: inspiration, words, speech, music, thought, and of course water.

Unfortunately, the derivation from Sar is not likely. Saraswati was an adjective in the proto Indo-Iranian languages which predated Sanskrit. Its meaning was most unpoetic, as it merely described the marshy terrain of the river itself.

Oh well.

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