Saraswati Devi’s worship can be traced back to the early Vedic era in India (ca.1500 BCE), when she was honored in the form of a sacred river of the same name. Long ago, the Vedic sages performed their rituals on Her banks. Hymns in the Rig Veda extol Her might, as Her waters could break the backs of mountains (1). The river itself may be long gone, and the facts of its existence have become the source of much controversy,* but Saraswati remains.
(1.) Rig Veda. Book 6, Hymn 61
*Yes, it’s Wikipedia, but it’s a good overview of the scholarly debates on the subject. So bite me.
Aoigaoka Keisei, “Benzaiten Seated on a White Dragon”
Edo Period woodblock print, Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is one of my favorite images of Benzaiten-sama. It is (I believe, though I am not sure) a scene from the famous medieval epic Heike Monogatari. Benzaiten-sama was said to be the patroness of the Heike clan (better known in historical sources as the Taira). Yet she is sometimes said to have withdrawn her support of the Taira due to the hubris of Taira no Kiyomori, the clan patriarch. This in turn led to their defeat by the newly ascendant Minamoto clan, who would establish the first permanent shogunate.