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|by Aparna Chatterjee|
The Sacred Narrative of Durga Ma
According to the narrative from the Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana, Rambha, king of the demons, once fell in love with a water buffalo, and his son, the demon Mahishasura – the buffalo demon - was born out of this union.
Legend has it that Lord Brahma is said to be very liberal with granting boons and is easily pleased when prayed to without any thought as to who is praying and asking him for a boon. HE is rather callous in granting boons to the demons unguardedly.
Even Mahisasura – The Buffalo Demon, with his intense prayers to Lord Brahma won over him and got bestowed the boon that he could change between the two forms of Human and Buffalo at will and could not be vanquished by any God or Man. With his new powers, he unleashed a wave of terror and invaded the Gods, who sought help from the Supreme Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. But none of the Gods including the Holy Trinity could defeat him and the Demon created havoc on heaven, earth and the nether world.
So the Holy Trinity energized the wife of Shiva, Parvati, with all their creative forces and powers, transforming her into the beautiful, powerful and glorious Goddess Durga. Her face was sculpted by Shiva, torso by Indra, breasts by Chandra (the moon), teeth by Brahma, bottom by the Earth, thighs and knees by Varuna (wind), and her three eyes by Agni (fire).
“I am Durga, the inaccessible one,” said the glorious goddess. “I am Prakriti, the substance that gives form and identity to all things. I am Shakti, the power that enables all creatures to exist, to feel, think, act and react. I am Maya, the delusion that makes life alluring yet elusive.”
“Give me your weapons and I shall destroy he who seeks to dominate me,” said the great goddess.
Each God also gave her their most powerful weapons to her. Shiva gave his trident, Vishnu his discus, Indra his thunderbolt, Kumara his lance, Brahma his bow and arrow, Vishwakarma his shield and Kubera his mace and the raging lioness Narsimhi – Durga’s Mount came from Narsimha.
Thus Durga became the centrifugal force of all the unbridled, untamed, restless energies of the cosmos. She could not be subjugated by the authority of any man, beast, god or demon.
As a mother goddess, she is usually addressed as Maa Durga and in the Bengali Tradition, is also known as the mother of Kartik (the warrior-god), Ganesh (the elephant-god), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity), and Saraswati (the goddess of learning).
Durga is the most splendid manifestation of the Devi. Virginal and sublime, contained within her are the powers of all the gods combined. She is the invincible power of Nature who triumphs over those who seek to subjugate her. Goddess Durga is also known as “Mahamaya”, the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power.
The name Durga means: Invincible / Unconquerable / Unattainable / Beyond Reach
News of Vindhyavasini, the beautiful goddess who resides atop a mountain, reached Mahisha. “She shall be my queen,” declared the buffalo-demon. He ordered his 2 generals – Chanda and Munda – to fetch her.
Chanda and Munda placed Mahisha’s offer of marriage before Durga. When Durga did not reply, the demons threatened her with violence. The goddess showed her wrath and beheaded them both with her sword.
The gods named this amazing warrior-woman Chandi, the fierce one. This form of the divine goddess is worshipped during the sandhikshan of Durga Puja festival, as sandhi/chandi puja.
The death of his two generals and the violent rejection of his marriage proposal enraged Mahisha. “Bring that proud woman before me in chains and I shall show her who the master is.”
A hundred thousand asuras armed with bows, arrows, spears and swords surrounded the mountain of Durga’s abode to capture her. But as they marched up the mountain, the goddess hurled her missiles and killed all the demons.
Humiliated by the defeat, Mahisha asked Durga, “Why won’t you marry me? Am I not the lord of the three worlds?”
“I shall marry only he who defeats me in battle,” revealed the goddess.
“Then let us fight,” responded the buffalo demon.
A great battle ensued. Mountains shook, oceans trembled, clouds scattered across the sky, as the buffalo demon attacked Durga. He rushed towards her, sometimes as a buffalo, sometimes as a lion, sometimes as an elephant. The goddess broke the buffalo’s horns with her mace, sheared the lion’s mane with her lance, cut the elephant’s trunk with her sword.
Weapon after weapon, she hurled at the buffalo demon, but each time he managed to rise up undefeated.
Realizing that her weapons had no effect on Mahisha, Durga threw them all aside, dismounted from her lion and with her bare hands sprang upon Mahisha’s back. With her tender feet, she kicked his head. The demon, immune to all the weapons till now, fell senseless at the touch of Durga’s feet.
Durga then raised her trident and plunged it into the buffalo-demon’s heart, thus conquering the unconquerable, and being known as Durgati-Nashini (Killer of the Evil One) or Mahisasur-Mardini (Slayer of the Buffalo-Demon).
The gods descended from their celestial abode, saluting Durga, praising her valor after the annihilation of Mahisasur. From beneath the earth, rose the forest spirits, yakshas and nagas. They offered the goddess - flowers, incense and jewellery. Sages venerated her with lamps.
“Stay with us, protect us, do not leave us,” they cried.
Said the goddess: “I am always with you. I am the mother who feeds you, the sister who supports you, the daughter who charms you, the nymph who enchants you.”
“I am Saraswati who bestows upon Brahma the knowledge to create the world; I am Lakshmi who gives Vishnu the wherewithal to preserve the cosmic order; I am Parvati who allures the ascetic Shiva into worldly life.”
“I am the heat of fire, the movement of wind, the moisture of water, the radiance of sun, the luster of moons, the sparkle of stars, the fecundity of soil, the sovereignty of Kings.”
“I am Prithvi, the sacred earth, bringing forth life, nurturing all plants and animals. I am Grama-Devi, the village goddess, on whose body man builds houses and grows crops.”
“My essence is present in every woman. They, like me, are vessels of fertility, sources of love and life.”
Lord Rama and Durga Ma
There is also a legend in the Ramayana that Rama went to Lanka to rescue his abducted wife, Sita, from the grip of Ravana, the Demon-King of Lanka. Before commencing his battle, Rama aspired for the blessings of Goddess Durga. So he started this practice of the autumnal (Sharadiya) Durga Pooja. He came to know that the Goddess would be pleased if he offered her one hundred blue lotuses. But after traversing the whole world, he could gather only ninety-nine lotuses. Rama finally decided to offer one of his own eyes, which resembled the beauty of blue lotuses (Kamala-Nayana) to her. Just as he was about to pierce his eye, Durga, pleased with the devotion of Rama, appeared before him, stopped him from committing this self-mutilation and blessed him. In the fierce battle that followed, Rama was able to annihilate Ravana, thus again triumphing good over evil.
Hence, this day is also celebrated as Dussehra or Vijayadashami (Day of Victory), and Goddess Durga is worshipped all over India.
In the Bengali Tradition, Durga Pooja is also celebrated as the time of the year when Durga Ma with her children embarks on a journey from her celestial abode in Mount Kailasa of her husband, Shiva - to visit her parental home in the plains. So her arrival is celebrated with great joy and splendor from the day of her Invocation – Mahalaya – the day she begins her journey – through all the four auspicious days of Shashti, Shaptami, Ashtami, Navami, which she spends at her parents place. Her departure on the Tenth Day – Dashami – fills her devotees with sadness as she again embarks on a journey back home to her husband, Shiva and her Pratima (Idol) is immersed in the river (Bisarjan) to commemorate this stoic occasion of her departure. Then again the waiting for her next annual arrival one year on begins…
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu
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07/08/2012 13:50 PM
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