DURGA, THE INACCESSIBLE
(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, MARCH 2012)
Durga is worshipped with all reverence in Bengal particularly during Vasanta Navaratri. You are all well aware how Rama worshipped Durga before proceeding to Lanka to destroy all evils. Durga is celebrated in the famous Durga Sapta Satee. What is the significance of seven which is so often talked about in Vedas? You are also familiar with Sapta-padee as the concluding ceremony of the Hindu wedding.
Durga manifests herself out of Seven Saktis, unrestrained by the bodies of seven Gods glorified in Vedas, unbridled, untamed, restless energies of the cosmos. Brahmi emerged out of Brahma's body and rode a swan holding books of wisdom and melodious Veena (musical instrument) in her hands. Some worshipped her as Saraswati on Vasanta Panchami Day. From Indra rose Indraani, riding on elephant and bearing a Thunderbolt. Kumari rose out of Kumaara or Kartikeya riding on a pea-cock whom the Benglis still remember though many in the North have forgotten. Peacock the favorite of Murugan became a National Bird of India. Kartikeya is affectionately called as Kumaran by Tamils and is also popular as Baala Murugan. Tamils started worshiping Sakti celebrated in Durga Sookta, as Kanyakumaari. From Vishnu rose Vaishnavi riding an Eagle with a discus whirring on her finger. America adopted Eagle as the National Bird symbolizing its strength as world power. Narasimhi came out of Narasimha riding a raging lioness. From Varaaha came Varaahi, the sow with a sharp tusk. Finally Sivaani or Saambhavi came out of Siva riding a bull bearing a trident remembering him as Rudra from Vedas.
These seven Saktis became fearsome beings. They rose into the sky and merged with each other in the blinding power of light. There rose from the heavenly light a beautiful Goddess, seductive yet serene, eternal yet forbidding. The divines watched her with awe and reverence. They knew her before as dark Kaali in her Tamasic form. Mother Kaali subdues the predominance of darkness and ignorance that prevails in the world in that role. In her new incarnation as Durgaa she is red and white. Devi was concerned with the growing ego (which is Rajas in nature and red in hue) in the world. She not only wanted to get rid of those evil forces but also wanted to take care of those devoted to her who are Saatvic (saatvic nature is represented by white) by nature. That is why she is meditated upon as Agni (Jaata veda) in Durgasookta which is also red and white.
The number seven is very significant in Upanishads. It may be of interest to know that sacrificial fires (sapta-archishah) are seven in number symbolizing seven Saktis mentioned above. These are Aahavaneeaya, Gaarhapatya, Dakshinaagni, Sabhya, Avasthya, Prajaahita and Agnidhreeyaa. Agni is also supposed to exhibit itself as seven flames (sapta-jihva) which are called tongues again symbolizing the tongues of Seven Saktis. These are: Kaali, Karaali, Manojava, Sulohita, Sudhoomravarna, Sphulangini, and Visvaruchi—Black, terrible, having the speed of mind, very red, colored like thick smoke, emitting sparks and having innumerable sparks. Kaali derives her name from one of the flames which is black in color. Primordial energy is meditated upon as fire. It is worth recalling here the following Mantra from the discourse on Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad (MNU):
Sapta praanaah prabhavanti tasmaat saptaarchishah samidhah sapta jihvaah |
Sapta ime loke yeshu charanti praanaah guhaasayaan-nihitaah sapta-sapta ||
From Supreme Principle are born seven sense organs, the seven fires, the seven sacrificial fagots (used in Yajna), and seven flames, and these seven worlds in which move the sense organs that are deposited by the creator in groups of seven and seven.
The seven Saktis merged together to a beautiful goddess who would not submit to the authority of man, beast or divine, let alone a demon. That was the need of the hour to get rid of the formidable evil and darkness with which the world was threatened. She declared to the bewildered and frightened Gods that she was Durga, the inaccessible, Prakriti, the substance that gives form and identity to all things, Sakti, the power that enables all creatures to exist, to feel, act and react and Maaya, the delusion that makes life alluring yet elusive. The gods paid their obeisance to her and begged her to take care of their immediate problem and worry, for Siva in his weaker moment made the demon Mahishasura (dark buffalo demon of tamasa) unconquerable by any one among them. Durga said; "Give me your weapons and I shall destroy he who seeks even to dominate me". Siva gave his Trident, Vishnu his Discus and Mace, Indra his Thunderbolt, Kumara his Lance, Brahma his Bow (Brahmaastra). Then Durga, mounting a lion given by Narasimha, vanquished the demon and brought happiness to all and peace to the world.
Durga defeated an army of demons in war, culminating in the death of their chieftain, Mahishasura. To a yoga practitioner this is an allegory of the kundalini shakti destroying the base Tamasic instincts and emerging victorious over inertia, dullness and lethargy, of which a buffalo is a perfect, living example.
Gods were puzzled about her future plans. Whom shall she now marry from amongst the Gods who parted with their weapons? She decided to remain with the humans as they needed her most and retired to a solemn place where all waters from rivers, seas and oceans meet, assuming the name of Kanyakumaari and decided to remain a Kanya (unwed girl for all the time) and asked people to lead a life devoid of attachment but active participation. Bengalis adored her as Durga and found her more accommodative, readily available in their hour of distress and during their happy hours of festivities than Kaalimaa. They also recommended her to the neighboring States. She became more popular in these parts. Oriyans felt that they had a mistaken identity in Subhadra who is none other than Durga, worshiped her as Sakti and called Puri as Srikshetra instead of Purushottama Kshetra.
Indian History mentions about an illiterate shepherd who was attempting to cut a branch of a tree sitting on its tip and cutting at the base ignorant of the danger. But he was a blind believer of Kaali in the famous temple of Ujjain. Compassionate Kaali, Devi Aspect (Goddess) in charge of ignorance (Tamas) of her devotees, came to his rescue and wiped out all his ignorance. Then Durga, Devi aspect in charge of Rajas (Activity as well as Ego) and Sattva (pious and virtuous qualities), blessed him with enormous knowledge of both Para (Supreme knowledge) and Apara vidya (secular knowledge). He acquired new name as Kaalidaasa (servant of Kaali) and became a literary celebrity in the court of King Vikramaaditya, leader among the Nine Gems (Navaratnas). His famous dramas and poems, Shakuntala, Kumaara Sambhava, Raghuvamsa, Meghadoota etc., are well known in Indian ancient classics. Such miracles are common in the lives of great devotes of Devi hailed as Kaali, Durga etc.
People pay their obeisance to Durga singing her glory in Gayatree meter called Durga Gayatree thus:
Kaatyaayanaaya vidmahe kanyakumaari dheemahi tannoe Durgihi prachoedayaat ||
We meditate upon Durga who belongs to Kaatyaayan Gotra, and who is the resplendent maiden. May that Durga prompt us (in all our deeds and thoughts).
They also started praising her with 32 choice names as follows:
Durgaa Durgaartir-samanee Durgaa-padvi-nivaarinee |
Durgamac-chedinee Durgasadhinee Durga-naasinee ||
Durgata-uddhaarinee Durg-nihantree Durgam-aapahaa |Durgama-jnaanadaa Durga-daityaloka- davaanalaa ||
Durgamaa Durgamaalokaa Durgam–aatma-svaroopinee |
Durga-maarga-pradaa Durgama-vidyaa Durgamaasritaa ||
Durgama-jnaana-samsthaanaa Durgaa-madhyaana–bhaasinee |
Durga-mohaa Durgamagaa Durgam-aartha-svaroopinee ||
Durgama-asura-samhantree Durgama-ayudha-dhaarinee |
Durgama-angee Durgmataa Durgamyaa Durgameswaree ||
Durga-bheemaa Durga-bhaamaa Durgabhaa Durgadaarinee |
Naamaavalim- imam yastu Durgaaya mama maanavah ||
Pathet sarvabhayaan-muktoe bhavishyati na samsayah ||
Posted by The Editor | Feb 19, 2012 IndiaDivine.Org
The Supreme Goddess (Devi) is worshipped in many forms. She is variously named according to her imagined age; sometimes, she is named in recognition of her heroic achievements of having destroyed the Mahisasura. According to Markendeya Purana, the Devi is described as Durga and in this form Devi destroyed the Asura.
Durga, one of the most eminent of the goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon, emerged as a formidable warrior deity to protect the universe from the destructive power of the demons. Her popularity as Mahadevi or Mahasuri (great goddess) never receded even after the lapse of thousands of years. In the course of her rise of to a pre-eminent position, Durga multiplied her manifestations for specific purposes, thus earning on abiding popularity.
The abundant archaeological remains and loose sculptures of different periods spread throughout the country, numerous stories highlighting her pastime exploits and miraculous power. Her profuse representation in the arts and her emergence from combined energies of the demigods (according to the Puranic accounts) bespeak her hoary antiquity and wide celebrity as the world mother.
The origin of Durga is mysterious. Some scholars have traced her origin to the pre-Vedic period. According to scholars, in the primitive societies, the entire culture centered round the mother, who was the symbol of generation and actual producer of life. In the social evolution, maternity was held in high esteem, the mother being the control figure of religion.
In the view of J.Marshall who excavated the Indus valley sites, the Sakti cult evolved in India out of the so-called mother. The goddess cult, closely associated with the cult of the so-called proto-Siva and Sakti, the dual deities, were the principal deities of the non-Aryan people of the Indus civilization. From the Vedic period onwards, ample references are found about the goddess Durga in various forms. The name Durga finds mentioned in the Taittiriya Aranyaka, and in the Khilaratri Sukta, Durga is stated to have three important manifestations: Mahalaxmi, Mahasaraswati, and Mahakali. [Durga is an expansion of Radharani’s internal potency, and like Radharani, she is Yogamaya.]
In the Upanishads, the concept of Brahman is associated with that of Sakti, the feminine personification of the universal life force. It is believed that this cult gained preeminence during the Gupta period. The popularity of this understanding can be assessed from the fact that it had its impact felt throughout the country, where Devi was found represented profusely. In the Indian ‘plastic art’ she became more lively and widely spread. With Tantricism gaining popularity during the medieval times and thereafter, she came to be adorned as one of the principal Tantric deities and a number of Tantric rituals were added to her worship.
Sakti-devi embodied in her the integral character as mother goddess, and was known by various names like Maha Durga, Mahalaxmi, Mahakali, Kali, Katyayani, Chandika, Chamunda, Kausiki, Satakshi, Sakambari, Bindhyabasini, Mahagouri, and Mahamaya.
The story of Durga’s combat with the asura Mahisa, resulting in the asura’s final annihilation, was recorded in several texts, further popularizing this mythic event by giving a variety of names to the Mahadevi. The Matsya Purana, varaha Purana, Devi Bhagavati Purana, Skanda Purana, Kalika Purana, Padma Purana, etc. all recorded the story by interpolating interesting anecdotes, thus further highlighting the greatness of Mahadevi. She was given numerous names by different Puranas so that in course of time, the nomenclature of Durga became associated with one hundred eight major and as many as a thousand minor Pithas.
The authors of the Devi Mahatmya highlighted the might and supremacy of Durga. According to the description contained in Kenopanisad, the great goddess manifested herself to a host of demigods, thus illustrating her potency in comparison to them.
The Sakta Upanishad enhanced the status of Devi in philosophical grab. The Devi Upanishad relates the personifications of Shakti Durga as Mahalaxmi, Saraswati and Vaishnavi as Brahma Swarupini. Durga is here depicted as a Mahavidya, Viswarupini effulgent like the Morning Sun, relieving her devotees from the pains of worldly existence with all their desires.
In the Mahabharata, the name Durga is mentioned along with the names of different goddesses in a hymn addressed by Arjuna in the form of a prayer to the goddess Kumari, Kali, Kapali, Bhadra Kali, Kandi, Kanda, Tarini, Katyayani, Durga etc. depicted as adorned with jewels and different weapons. Yudhisthir’s invocation to goddess Durga gives a clear picture of her as the war goddess, the killer of Mahisasura (the buffalo demon). Here she is depicted as four-faced, four-armed, and holding a noose, bow, arrow and disk in her hands.
In the epics, Durga is said to be worshipped by the Savaras, Barbers and Pulindas (aboriginal tribes possibly belonging to the Austro-Asiatic ethnic stock that inhabited middle India in ancient times). Durga was raised to the highest position in the Pantheon by the Puranas. The ‘Devi Mahatmya’ section of the Markandeya Purana (which is described by some as a non-sectarian Purana) conceives Mahisamardini Durga as a full-fledged warrior goddess in the form of Candi and Chandika. Effulgently emerging from the gods, her countenance dazzling like thousands of suns, she pervaded the three worlds and seven seas forcing the gods themselves to bow down as a mark of respect to the all -hpowerful goddess. Fully equipped, she engaged the demons and their leaders in terrific battles, vanquished them and finally overpowered the Asura Mahisa, piercing his body with the trident when the demon came out of the carcass of the buffalo. So goddess Durga became Mahisamardhini.
Durga Ma embodies in her the integral character of mother goddess and was known by various names like Kalyani, Chandika, Kali, Chamunda, Kousiki, Satakshi, Sakambari, Mahisamardini, Vindhyavasini, Mahalaxmi, Mahakali, and MahaDurga.
Different inscriptions from the 5th – 6th century of the Christian era up to 13th century A.D. speak the prevalence of mother worship in different places of Orissa. Copper plates from Kanas and Olasing in Puri district reveal the existence of a popular mother cult in Tosali during the 6th-7th century A.D. It is interesting to note that in both the copper plates, one of the donees is a deity — Maninagesavara Bhattaraka.
From the above study it is concluded that Durga’s importance never diminished and has ever been growing on the Indian religious scene. She declared that she would come for protection of her devotees whenever there is an uprising of the Asuras. Thus:
Ittham yada yada badha danovathabhavishyati
Tada tado vatriyaham karishami cherisan khyayam
The Meaning Of Durga
This article by Dr David Frawley was first published by Swarajya.
No country in the world demonstrates such enduring reverence for the Great Mother Goddess, as does India. The Goddess is celebrated in every form, aspect and quality, through music, art, ritual, mantra and meditation. She is honored in women, the Earth, nature and the transcendent beyond all expression. Her worship is full of splendor, delight, mystery and wonder.
The Goddess is Shakti, meaning power, the resort of all transformative energy and cataclysmic force that mere human logic cannot comprehend. She possesses martial and regal forms that all must bow down before in awe. During the Navaratri – India’s famous autumn festival of the Goddess – she is worshipped as Durga, the supreme Shakti, holding all majesty, wisdom and grace.
Durga is the Mother of the universe from who comes forth the creation, sustenance and dissolution of all beings and all worlds. She is Chit-Shakti, the power of consciousness, out of which the cosmos coalesces as matter, life and mind.
India as a sublime culture and profound civilization is the gift of Ma Durga. Durga is the Goddess who personifies India as a whole and its incredible vitality, from her presence in village shrines to her representation of the highest yogic spirituality. Bharat mata is Durga with her imperious lion. She was the image behind India’s independence movement, which worked through her inspiration, such as Sri Aurobindo so eloquently lauded.
Durga’s protective force
Durga means she who takes us beyond all difficulties. She is the divine energy that protects the soul from duality, adversity and opposition, known and unknown. As Durga-Tara she delivers us across the turbulent ocean of ignorance to the radiant other shore beyond all darkness. She carries us over all dangers like a ship across the sea, as Vedic chants poetically reverberate.
Durga arises from agni, our inner flame of immortal life, awakening our motivation to reach the highest bliss. She is born from the power of tapas, the wholehearted concentration of our aspiration to immutable truth. She is the spiritual fire on Earth who removes all impurities for the soul to shine. Her lion indicates her ruling solar force that illumines all existence.
Durga grants us the transformative knowledge that takes us to a higher level of existence beyond all that we have previously thought possible. She is the Yoga Shakti dwelling in the heart that opens us up to the clear light of self-realization, the revelation of our true divine nature that stands above all time, space and karma. The Kundalini Shakti arises and works within us through Durga’s force.
Durga’s sword is the source of all dharmic ruling power at spiritual and mundane levels. She commands the celestial army and its earthly counterparts struggling for truth and justice in society. Shivaji Maharaj of the Marathas and Guru Gobind Singh of the Sikhs, among many other great leaders of India, received her sword and ruled by its support. Arjuna went to Durga for her blessings prior to consulting Sri Krishna on the battlefield. Sri Krishna affirmed to him Durga’s message of fearless resolve in the face of adharma.
Yet we cannot in our mere human nature wield Durga’s sword. We must draw out the Shiva consciousness within us to do so. We must surrender to her and let her direct us, taking the role of her devotees. All weapons, whether material or spiritual, should first be consecrated to Ma Durga, so that we use them wisely, without any pride or pity in their application.
As Mahishasura Mardini, Durga slays Mahishasura, the personification of ignorance, darkness and tamas. Vijaya Dashami is her glorious tenth day of victory, after displaying her nine magnificent forms, ending with Siddhidatri, her highest blessing aspect who grants all boons and accomplishments. This nine day dynamic display of Shakti takes us to a new vision and unlimited horizon on the culminating tenth day.
Ma Durga and the future of humanity
Ma Durga as the divine mother can guide humanity into a new era of peace and happiness. But she does so by first eliminating the powers of darkness, not by compromising with them, much less by consoling or appeasing them. Ma Kali arises as her martial aspect, dissolving entrenched old karmas, compulsions and attachments that bind us to adharma, to unfold a new creation.
Today we must bring back the power of Durga to deal with our mounting global crisis. This requires that India revive its dharmic and yogic traditions that honour the Goddess as our inner guide. Awakening the nation’s deeper yoga shakti can restore India to its ancient throne as Vishvaguru, the guru of nations – with its Rishi vision leading humanity on the path to higher consciousness.
Honouring Durga means empowering women in the social and political world and in the inner realm of yoga and spirituality. It necessitates protecting the Earth, not just through wise ecological practices but also through uncovering the spiritual destiny hidden in our magical planet that we have long forgotten.
Awakening Durga’s shakti within us requires that we fearlessly and relentlessly challenge the forces of darkness, including our own weakness of will that allows us to tolerate or excuse negativity and corruption. It requires that we awaken the Arjuna in each one of us to achieve our highest dharma.
India can develop a new yoga Shakti to help usher in a new yuga, a new world age for all humanity. Its yogic and meditation teachings are already bringing major changes into the world mind. Yet there remains a tyrannical Mahishasura of greed, violence, arrogance and fanaticism that must be removed to allow the higher forces to fully manifest.
Ma Durga as the eternal Shakti and Supreme Mother descends to remove the shadows of falsehood on our struggling earthly realm, so that our planet can become full of light and bliss for all of its myriad creatures!