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Saraswati, the melodious lady, was originally a Hindu deity accepted into the Vajrayana Buddhist pantheon. She is the goddess of culture, learning, and arts, particularly music and poetry. As such, she symbolizes wisdom and beauty, particularly in the form of sound. Conferring intelligence and memory, she is also associated with Manjushri, sometimes as his consort. She is named for an ancient river, source of her connection with the fluidity of speech, writing, music, and thought. The animal’s head mounted on the neck of her veena, a stringed musical instrument, alludes to the swan, her traditional vehicle.

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