Durga, Lakshmi Saraswati…The Goddess Trinity/Tridevi of Hinduism….
India, the land of festivals, is in the grip of the annual veneration of good over evil by the feminine (incidentally, some of the biggest demon slayers in hindu lore have been the female forms or aspects of otherwise essentially hermaphroditic forces that mould our current realities)….
To understand from whence these tales, fantastic, phantasmagorical, brilliant….came, read on below, via a brilliant commentator/knowledge bank on Facebook, S. Suchindranath Aiyer…
Maharishis (great visionaries), while recognising and rejecting the phenomenal world as but a string of zeroes, posit the ONE, the integer, the absolute as the basis of the series of evanescent nothingness that lends them a relative sense of value and authenticity. The Brahman (the supreme spirit) is beyond all dualities, beyond language and intellect, beyond religions, light and darkness, good and evil, gender, nationalities or planets and is unknowable through space and time or cause and effect. This wonderful phantasmagoria of life is a subjective projection, born of ignorance and capable of being annihilated when its real nature is grasped. “As soon as She is recognised, Maya (illusion) flies away”, and Brahman is seen in all effulgence. This cosmic energy or Shakthi, creating and destroying name and form, ceaselessly modifying herself into multitudinous manifestations, is, therefore, both tempter and liberator; grace and terror; executioner and savior, Kali and Jagathdhatri. Shiva is the transcendent and Shakthi the immanent aspect of the one Brahman. “Bindu”, one of the aspects of Shakthi, is the name given to the tiny dot worn by women on the forehead, and which serves to remind humanity of the tiny aperture in the sea off illusion, where the spiritual (Shiva) meets the manifest (Shakthi) through which the human spirit must pass to attain unity with Brahman (Moksha).
As the Maharishi Medhas declares in the Markandeya Purana:
“It is the inscrutable power of Maha Maya (great illusion or Shakthi), which knits human souls together by the bond of love and brings about attachment between each other. She is the creative energy of the Universe and is the cause of its preservation. Go, worship and propitiate her”.
The Navarathri is consecrated, throughout Aryavarta, to the worship of this all-pervading energy of the Universe in various aspects and through significant rituals.
During the nine nights (the tenth day, the day after, is Vijaya Dashami –Victorious tenth day which brings the Navarathri to a close. The corresponding Ten days are known as Dussehra), according to the Markandeya Purana, Kali, the mother, was engaged in combat with the demons and dark spirits, the chief of whom was Mahishasura, the embodiment, in buffalo form, of physical passion. The Saptashati or Seven Hundred Stanzas relate, with dramatic and simple directness, the overpowering of the world by demoniacal forces; the creation of Mahishasuramardhini (Durga – the mother) (“a mass of light proceeded from all the divinities and conglomerated in an effulgent lustre which revealed the glorious form of a woman reaching over the three worlds”), her battles with the great darknesses personified by Madhu and Kaitabha, Sumbha and Nisumbha, Chanda and Munda. These Shlokas are read and repeated with fervour and feeling throughout the nine days in all Aryan and many Hindu homes. “For all alike”, as Sister Nivedita writes, “there is but one object of contemplation, the wars that were in heaven; one hope and one hope alone, the conquest of good over evil”.
Nowhere, however, is mythology permitted to smother mysticism; for wherever Durga is praised, she is revered as permeating every activity and function of life. She dwells as “the sense in the heart of the wise, as faith in mankind, as modesty in the superior Varnas”. She is “the essence of the substance of various sciences”. She plays in the form of mind and intellect and memory, of power, splendour and prosperity, of repose and endeavour, delusion and shadow, of appetite and gratification, of joy and wisdom. She is terrible only to the lust ridden and the lethargic. He who conserves his child nature is blessed by her caress, as the Universal Mother. As Maharishi Veda Vyasa quotes Bhagawan Maharishi Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, “Pitahamasya Jagato Mata dhata pitamaha”, “I am the father of the Universe, I am its mother, its protector, its grandsire”.
While Mysore (or Mahishasurapuri now known as Karnataka) used to be synonymous with Dussehra as the capital of the vanquished demon king Mahishasura, and the last bastion of Aryan culture (finally fallen to the constitution of the republic of India), the Durga Pooja, of which the recital of the Saptashathi is an integral part, is the National festival of Bengal, an epitome of the Shaktha (Pursuit of spiritual prowess) side of her culture. Here the Mother is revered in three forms. She is Durga, the Divine Energy, making and destroying, defeated and again conquering, indifferent to personal desires. She is Kali, the dark mother of mystery, wielder of destruction, receiver of sacrifice, whose benediction is regeneration through death and creation through destruction. Finally, she is Jagathdhatri, the tenderness at the heart of nature, which shines in superior women, and from which come forth the true heroines of the world. In her social aspect, Durga has come to be installed as the daughter of every Aryan household, the little wedded girl, Dakshayini, returning from her Lord Shiva’s home for a brief stay among the clinging memories of childhood. Her arrival, stay and eventual departure have formed the theme of exquisitely poignant songs from Bengali devotees. Again, in Bengal, on the day when she leaves home, “bijoya” greetings of reunion pass and re pass from man to man, long nurtured quarrels being forgotten in the fraternal embrace. For, are not all bonds of kindred renewed and sanctified at the feet of the divine visitant?
In other parts of India, other beneficent aspects of Shakthi receive emphasis and focus on different days of the Navarathri. Saraswathi (Knowledge and wisdom), the Shakthi of Brahma, the creative aspect of Brahman is propitiated. Her symbol is the swan, endowed with the mythical ability to consume the milk and abandon the water from a mixture of both. Worshipped too, is Lakshmi (Prosperity and happiness), the Shakthi of Vishnu, the preservative aspect of Brahman. The lotus is the symbol of Lakshmi, with its roots in murky mire; it struggles to rise to the light of heaven through suffocating waters.
Saraswathi is knowledge, and knowledge is not merely discriminative but also creative. Hence, on the eighth day called Durgashtami or Virashtami, implements of culture; swords and spears, writing utensils and books – every little tool of hand and brain – are consecrated with prayers that her blessings might infill them. Such is the wise and virile adaptability of Hindutva that today, not only old Sanskrit manuscripts of Aryavarta are used, but also printed books, including those in Persian, English or German, rifles and revolvers, printing presses, and computers are all included.
Lakshmi, the Shakthi of good fortune, one of the three primordial cosmic impulses of creation, is offered special reverence on the Ninth day. The horse, the palanquin, the umbrella, the sword and other insignia of royalty and authority are venerated and even motorcycles, cars and the humble autorikshaws can be seen rolling around the streets of India bedecked with garlands and bearing banana trees as a sign of auspiciousness, (not Birnam Wood like camouflage), and as homage to Shri or glory.
In honour of all the three primeval forces of creation, the three Shakthis, the Thrishakthi, the girls of Aryan families unfold their own Shakthiness and creativity with gusto and enthusiasm through arranging an exhibition of dolls and an exposition of all forms of decorative arts for the delectation of neighbours and friends. Special gifts and offerings are made to Maidens and Mothers as representatives of Shakthi. In Gujarat and Kathiawar, the ancient Aryan custom of the “Garba Dance” (Womb/Creativity dance), with lighted lamps, is held as part of the universal rejoicing at the arrival of the Light of Mother into every home and woman.
The Tenth Day is the day of victory, of Good over Evil, and is known as Vijaya Dashami (Victorious tenth day). No day is considered more auspicious in Aryavarta for the initiation of human endeavour. Tiny tots of three and four are introduced into the mysteries of symbolized thought, calligraphy and art; children between seven and nine are initiated into the tools and rituals of their ancestral crafts. Marriages proscribed by birth or astrologers, but decreed by love, are performed to triumph in life over the malefics of Karma. It is a day reminiscent of great moments in the History of Bharatha Khanda (Bharatha’s part) of Aryavarta. It was on this day that the Pandavas, after the successful completion of their vow of exile, came out as the protectors of the cow (the symbol of prosperity and just law) retrieved their weapons from the Sami Tree (Acacia Ferugenia sacred to fire) and resumed their martial use, Sri Rama set out on his expedition to slay the Rakshasas (the defenders and protectors of evil, the anti-law) on this day. And, Shivaji, servant of Bhavani (Shakthi), chose this day to commence his war for reclaiming Bharathavarsha from Moslem cruelty and anti-law.
Even to this day, the Maharajas of Mysore, Travancore and Baroda, though dispossessed and disinherited from their patrimony by a perfidious Republic of India, proceed in regal splendour outside the bounds of their erstwhile capitals and reenact the triumphal deeds of the heroes of the Mahabharatha through Sami Pooja. The twigs of the Sami tree (Samithu) are used in vedic rights for generating fire, and the tree is considered to be imbued with purifying Agni (fire), and hence considered to increase the effectiveness of weapons used in defense of Divine Law.
But behind this romance, repeated year after year, glimmers the significance of the loss of the spiritual kingdom. The lost Kingdom of Heaven (Hum-Rajya or Hurrah). Which needs must be regained with more potent weapons than are wielded by mortal hands, but such as are carried wisely and well, only by the developed, disciplined and refined will.
Note: Arya means one who knows Brahman and refers to all those (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas AND Shudras) traditionally entitled through ancestral religion to be initiated in a right of passage to the pursuit of Knowledge of Brahman (Enlightenment), and wear the Yagnyopaveetha (the upper garment of sacrifice or the sacred thread). Hindus (including Budhists, and Jains) are those of myriad religions, worshiping myriad deities, living to the East of the Indus and abiding by the Dharma or laws and treaties of Aryavarta. India or Bharath (the empire founded by Bharatha in post Rig Vedic or Yajur Vedic period) was part of Aryavarta (the peoples following the laws, treaties and chivalric code of the Aryans), which stretched from North Western Europe through the Middle East to South Eastern Asia with its heartlands in Central Asia. Owing to several reasons such as prowess of arms, environment/geography or civilization, Aryavarta never included South Western Europe, North Eastern Asia, the Sahara and Sub Saharan Africa. History, peripheral expansion and localization spawned many different cultures, ideologies, wars, and revisionist treaties birthing religions, beliefs, nations and rewritten (politically expedient) Histories. But echoing at the roots of all this lie the same fundamental codes of law and chivalry, and the covenant of Brahman, through Prajapathi, to the Sapta (Seven) Rishis (Sages): Man is a divinity created by Brahman to build a paradise on Earth on the three pillars of Sathya (truth), Shiva (virtue) and Sundara (beauty) within the ambit of the Dharma (divine law) of Dana (generosity), Daya (compassion) and Damyatha (self discipline/moderation).
Religion is but a means to an end. The end often frustrated by confusion; of culture, language and tradition with religion, of adjectives with proper nouns, of analogies with facts, of allegories with History, of examples with rules, of rules with laws, and of politics and personal aggrandizement with the quest for Brahman. The purpose of life is to make others happy without making oneself unhappy. To do this, one must rise above jealousy, lust, and lethargy. To do this, feel gratitude, for this breeds contentment, which extinguishes desire, and the result is happiness. Find this balance and prosper.