Naina writes about Durga Puja, the worship of the mother goddess, one of the most important festivals of India.
Ya Devi sarvabhuteshu Matrirupenasamsthita
Ya Devi sarvabhuteshu Shakti rupenasamsthita
Ya Devi sarvabhutesu Shanti rupenasamsthita
Namestasyai Namestasyai Namestasyai Namoh Namah
The goddess who is omnipresent as the personification of universal mother
The goddess who is omnipresent as the embodiment of power
The goddess who is omnipresent as the symbol of peace
I bow to her, I bow to her, I bow to her
With the magical rendition of these chants dawned a beautiful morning in east India, particularly Bengal, and was thus invoked the goddess of supreme power ‘Durga’ on October 12, 2015. Known as Mahalaya, this is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before the Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of Goddess Durga. It’s an invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth – Jago Tumi Jago.
Calcutta’s largest Durga idol, 19,5 metres (64 feet) high
Durga Puja, the worship of the mother goddess, is one of the most important festivals of India. It is not only a religious festival but also an occasion for reunion and celebration of traditional customs. While the rituals entail ten days of fasting, feasting and worship, the last four days – Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami – are celebrated with much gaiety and grandeur when the ten-armed goddess riding the lion is worshipped with great passion and devotion. Durga Puja marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Durga Puja festival epitomises the victory of Good over Evil and is widely celebrated in the Indian states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Manipur, Tripura and West Bengal.
Durga Puja also includes the worship of Shiva, who is Durga’s consort (Durga is an avatar of Goddess Parvati). Worship of mother nature is made through nine types of plants (kala bou), that include a plantain (banana) tree, representing the nine divine forms of Goddess Durga.
During this time North India celebrates Navaratri, meaning ‘nine nights’; nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Devi are worshipped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
This is the time of worship of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) of the Divine conceptualized as the Mother Goddess Durga, whose worship dates back to prehistoric times before the dawn of the Vedic age.
A whole chapter in the tenth mandal of the Rigveda addresses the devotional sadhanas of Shakti. It is believed that before the beginning of the legendary war between the Pandavas and Kauravas in the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna worshipped Durga, the Goddess of Shakti, for the victory of the Pandavas.
Whether it is the birth of matter or whether it is the birth of consciousness; whether the earth is born or heaven, everything is born through the mystery that lies hidden in the depths of Existence. Therefore I have said that those who have looked upon God as mother – as Durga or Amba – their understanding is much deeper than those who look upon Him as Father. If God exists anywhere, He is feminine, for man does not have the ability and the patience to give birth to such a vast Universe. That which gives birth to the myriads of stars and moons must have a womb, without which it is impossible.
Therefore the three extensions of the Jewish order – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have given a very wrong concept of God to the world – that of God, the Father. This is a very dangerous concept for it gratifies the ego of man. Man looks upon himself as established in the form of God but this has no connection with the Reality of Existence. More befitting, more proper, is the concept of a Universal Mother. But this can only be understood when you understand the Feminine Mystery, when you understand Lao Tzu. Else it cannot be understood.
Have you ever seen the image of Kali? She is the mother, she is terrible! In one hand she holds a human skull! She is the mother – her eyes are filled with the ocean of tenderness. Down below – she stands on the chest of someone! Someone lies crushed under her feet! Why? Because that which creates, destroys also. Destruction is the other part of creation.
Those were wonderful people who conceived this image. They were people with great imagination who could visualise great possibilities. They have erected the image of Mother standing on a dead body! In her hands she holds the head of a dead man, dripping blood. Round her neck she wears a necklace of skulls but she has the eyes of the Mother, the Heart of the Mother from where the milk flows – and yet, the necklace of skulls!
Actually, the Annihilation of the Universe starts from the very place where creation starts. The circle completes at the same point. Therefore the mother gives birth but when she becomes terrible she can also give death. When a woman becomes terrible she becomes extremely dangerous. She has a great store of energy. The energy is the same whether it creates or destroys.
The imagination of those who conceived of the Mother as an embodiment both of creation and destruction was a very far-sighted imagination but together with this it was very deep and very near Truth.
Lao Tzu says, “That alone is the original source of the Earth and Heaven.” Everything takes birth therein. But remember everything is re-absorbed in the same place. That is the ultimate source also. It is altogether continuous. This Feminine Existence, this passive awaiting empty Existence is never divided. It is continuous – without any discontinuity whatsoever. As I said before, the lamp is lighted and extinguished; but darkness is continuous. Birth comes, life becomes visible; but death is ceaseless.
Mountains appear and disappear, the valley remains forever. When the mountains are there, the valley can be seen; when they are no more, the valley cannot be seen but its existence is ceaseless – altogether ceaseless. It does not cease when the mountains cease. Its power is indivisible, indestructible. No matter how much energy is withdrawn from this emptiness, it never decreases.
A man misses, a woman never misses. A man is enfeebled, a woman never.
Those whom we ordinarily call women, they too do not waste away as much as men. If a woman gains the full knowledge of her Feminine Mystery, she can remain established in an immaculate beauty even in old age. This is difficult for man. A man comes like a storm and goes away. If a woman attains to the height of her motherhood, she can remain beautiful till her last moment of existence.
The Way of Tao Vol 1, Ch 18 (translation from Hindi)
Wishing you all a blessed Durga Puja!