Goddess Vak — Queen of Heaven, Mother of Speech…

Rig Veda is the oldest of Hindu scriptures dated between 1700 and 1100 B.C. Here is a description of the goddess Vak (an aspect of Saraswati) as contained in the Rig Veda. Vak or Vac is pronounced with a long ‘a’ as the ‘a’ in the word ‘shark.’

Described in the Rig Veda, goddess Vak is one of the earliest identified divinities in the Hindu pantheon. She is the powerful and creative personification of ritual speech, the basis of cosmic-ritual order. Her name means “speech.”

‘She reveals herself through speech and is typically characterized by the various attributes and uses of speech. She is speech, and the mysteries and miracles of speech express her peculiar, numinous nature.’[1]

Artist: Poonam Mistry

Artist: Poonam Mistry

She is the great flood of Ritam or truth and she inspires the seekers’ fire to reach truth in all its forms. She enables one to perceive, understand, and then express in words the true nature of things. The goddess makes it possible for rishis – the learned seers and sages – to hear, grasp, and reveal the truths of existence, to devise, and create the hymns and rituals that express the reality of their visions. She bestows vision to the seers. She gives wisdom to the wise.

Vac is called the heavenly queen, the Queen of the gods (Rig Veda 8.89) – she overflows with sweetness (5.73.3) and gifts vital power to the creation (3.53.15). She gives us the amazing riches of language and thought. The harbinger of light and strength, she gives sustenance to all, in the heavenly and earthly realm. She is the Mother, who has given birth to things through naming them. She also is the giver of friends. She helps one establish oneself in the community of ‘friends’ through the beautiful gift of language to connect with others. The more benevolent she is on someone, the person will have better gift of speech and expression, inspiring more people to connect to her/him as friends (10.71).[2]

On one level, Mother Vak is sacred speech including the hymns and ritual chants. On another level she is also ordinary speech among ordinary people. She is far more than speech and includes the power of perceiving, grasping the nature of things, naming them, and expressing the perception with coherence and form. Her nature is subtle, eternal, imperishable, and above all incomprehensible.[3] Even though she helps us to comprehend all, she herself remains incomprehensible to our intelligence. She does not reveal herself totally to us. Finally, she is not only human speech; Vak Devi (goddess) also personifies the sounds of nature (including the ones from animate and inanimate sources) with which human speech is connected. She bestows sounds with meaning, from the sound of water to that of human speech.

[1] David R. Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition (University of California Press, 1988) page 11

[2] Same as above, page 12

[3] Russill Paul, The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant (New World Library, 2004) page 70


Saraswati – Awesome Voice of Thunder, Voice of Heaven…

In the Hindu pantheon, Saraswati (or Sarasvati), referred to as the Mother, is the goddess of knowledge and wisdom; of learning; of words and expression. Only her blessings can give one the gift of language and knowledge. She is a peaceful aspect of Adya Shakti, the Primal Mother, the Ancient Creatress. In her currently worshipped form, Saraswati holds the symbols of learning in her hands (including a musical instrument, Veena, and the Vedas), wears white and rides a white swan. She is also often depicted with a peacock.

Modern popular depiction of Ma Sarawati

Modern popular depiction of Ma Sarawati

In the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, she is a celestial river – one of the seven sister rivers (sapta-sindhu). She is ‘horrendous in her vehemence … her impact knows no end, roaring, she moves on … [the] daughter of lightning, the voice of thunder …she… rules over all intuition.’[1] 

‘Sarasvati, a flowing onrush of creative power, is a form of the great goddess. She pours out from the source, full-fledged. She is the ineluctable impetus of creative intuition, awesome voice of thunder, the voice of Heaven. She is all movement, the vehement river of creative thought.’[2]

Her slightly different manifestation is the Vedic goddess Vak or Vac (literally, word or speech). In Sanskrit, Vak literally means ‘speech.’ Called the ‘Mother of the Vedas (the most ancient Hindu scriptures),’ Vak is also described as fierce and commanding; she strides and carries with her the other gods; wind is her breath. And most surprisingly she is described as the mother of her own father.

‘…she is the Great Goddess, exceeding axis of the cosmos, creator of the Father in Heaven, her own father, up on high. … “The heavenly oceans flowed from her and then the Word, the Aksara, the creative syllable”’[3]

'The Commander' by Freydoon Rassouli*

Artist: Freydoon Rassouli*

In the Rig Veda, Vak declares –

‘I am the sovereign power (over all the worlds … and the first among those to whom sacrificial homage is to be offered; the gods in all places worship but me, who am diverse and permeate everything. … I pervade heaven and earth. I give birth to the infinite expanse overspreading the earth.’ [4]

She is celebrated and worshipped all over modern India in homes, schools, colleges and universities. Saraswati’s blessings is still sought after by every seeker of knowledge and wisdom.

[1] Stella Kramrisch, ‘The Indian Great Goddess’ (1975) 14 History of Religions, pages 235, 246
[2] same as above
[3] same as above, page 247
[4] Kartikeya C Patel, ‘Women, Earth and the Goddess: A Shakta-Hindu interpretation of Embodied Religion’ (1994) 9 Hypatia, pages 69, 75
* Title of featured artwork: ‘The Commander’ by Freydoon Rassouli. For more paintings by Rassouli, visit www.rassouli.com