The Devi Shakti in us
Nikita Mukherjee explains the significance of Navratri, Dussehra, and Maa Durga. The Divine Mother is not only symbolic of the multifaceted nature of every woman but is also present in all of us as knowledge and divinity
Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, shanti rupena samsthita
Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, shakti rupena samsthita
Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, matri rupena samsthita
Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, buddhi rupena samsthita
Namastasyai, namastasyai, namastasyai, namo namaha
O omnipresent goddess who is the Universal Mother, the omnipresent goddess who embodies power, the omnipresent goddess who is peace personified, O Devi, who resides in all the living beings in the form of Buddhi (Intelligence) and Rupena (Beauty), I bow down to you over and over.
The months of October and November in India are full of celebration. With beautifully tinted skies, lit houses, and people looking their best in gorgeous ethnic attires, the entire country gets into a festive mood to celebrate Dussehra and Diwali. However, they are both preceded by Navratri: nine days of fasting and worshipping of goddess Durga and her nine divine manifestations. “The Navratri season is a time when Maa Durga pays a visit to her parents on Earth, along with her children, and relaxes at her Maayka (maternal home). She brings hope, prosperity, happiness, and strength, and blesses us with her presence,” my grandfather used to tell me when I was a little kid.
Being a Bengali (the Durga Pujo tradition is very prominent in Bengal), I have always wondered about the significance of Devi Shakti (divine feminine energy), also called Maa Shakti (Divine Mother), who is worshipped in the form of Goddess Durga in the Hindu tradition. I have always felt that Maa Durga is not just some deity or a god-like entity but divine energy which resides in all of us. This divine energy makes us fight our battles and live a righteous life.
With Pujo and Dussehra having just gone by, and Diwali around the corner, this might be the perfect time to discuss ‘Shakti’ and how she is a part of our existence. I believe that ‘Maa’ is someone who lives within us all our lives and not for just two or three months of her earthly visitations. She’s the inner-strength which defines our existence and should be celebrated every day of our lives through our deeds, beliefs, and words.
The story behind the celebration
During the Treta Yuga, when Lord Ram was in a fierce battle with the mighty demon king of Lanka, Ravan, there came a time when he and his army of monkeys failed in every way to defeat the king. Tired and on the verge of giving up, Lord Ram decided to worship Maa Durga for nine days known as ‘Okal-Bodhon.’ Happy with her invocation, Divine Mother blessed Lord Ram, and he was finally able to defeat the demon king on the tenth day which is known as ‘Dussehra.’
In life, all of us are faced with hardships and challenges. Sometimes, you know what’s right but fail to gather the courage to do the right thing. In such times, Devi Shakti (divine feminine energy) gives us the strength to go ahead and fight our battles fiercely, irrespective of the consequences. Just like the Lord sought the blessings of Maa to defeat Ravan, similarly, we should peek inside ourselves and find the Devi Shakti in times of dilemma and challenges to emerge victorious in the end.
The world is in chaos today. Everywhere you turn, all you get to see or hear is devastating news. The abuse of power and an establishment based on patriarchy and hegemony has plunged the world into darkness. In such tumultuous times, acknowledging the energy of Devi Shakti within us is the need of the hour. She is the symbol of a revolution. We all need to fight the battle of ‘Good over Evil’ together and defeat the Ravanas in order to free the world from evil. Only then will the powerful message prevail and go on to continue its legacy.
Mahishasur Mardini—The Female Boss
Another version of the significance of celebrating Navratri is the story of the buffalo-demon, Mahishasur. According to legend, the demon was a big devotee of Lord Brahma and prayed to him for over a thousand years. Impressed by his tapasya (austerities), Lord Brahma asked him to wish for whatever he desired. Mahishasur asked for immortality, where he specifically mentioned how no god or man should ever be able to kill him. Although perplexed, Lord Brahma went ahead and granted him his wish. Thereafter, Mahishasur started considering himself the most powerful being in the whole universe. He started creating havoc on Earth and heaven, torturing humans and driving the gods away from their abode. Nobody, not a single soul, was able to defeat him. Understanding the severity of the situation and in desperate need of help, all the gods went to the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. To end the suffering of all living beings, the trinity merged with each other into a blinding light that no one had seen before. The light was brighter than the blazing sun and gave birth to Maa Durga, female energy, the supreme, powerful being, capable of killing the treacherous Mahishasur. She was an amalgamation of the powers of all the male gods and also the true source of their inner powers. Armed with ten weapons in her ten hands and riding a lion, she went ahead to slay the demon. Durga, the all-powerful, battled him single-handedly for ten days and on the tenth day, she slit his throat with her trident.
Such is the valour of almighty Maa Durga. What all the male power in the world couldn’t do, a single female entity accomplished. What happened to Mahishasur is a stark example of the consequences one has to face if they mess with a divinely awakened woman.
Mythology and history stand testimony to the fact that a woman, if challenged, can be the fiercest creature you have ever seen. The creation of Durga and the purpose she served reflects what every woman does in her life. There are hundreds of times in a woman’s life when she has been the epitome of courage and determination, the ray of hope, the ultimate form of resolve when all seems lost. If you talk about physical strength, childbirth and menstruation are prime examples, but they are just one aspect. Women indulge in physical activities everywhere, be it laborious tasks like farming, construction, or the unrecognised strength needed in household chores.
A woman faces way more hurdles in every aspect, be it science, technology, or business. In many places, a woman is paid less than a man for the same work and the hard work of a home-maker often goes unrecognised. Yet, she fights her battles every day and doesn’t even complain because that’s what women naturally are. Every woman is somewhat a manifestation of Maa Shakti who fights the Mahishasurs of the patriarchal society, every single day.
Similarly, if we start accepting women for their incredible strength and start breaking the set rules of patriarchy, we will be able to actually honour Maa Durga.
The ocean of knowledge and wisdom
Knowledge is power. Education opens up a world of possibilities for an individual. It’s because of knowledge and education that we know the world and the society for what it is today. Knowledgeable and wise people bring about significant changes in society. If it wasn’t for our Vedic gurus and maharishis, we wouldn’t have been introduced to the vast and profound knowledge of the Vedas and Hindu scriptures, which has helped the world since time immemorial. If it wasn’t for our scientists and innovators, we wouldn’t have known practical, scientific knowledge. All that we know about the world and society is through books, the Internet, experiments, songs, poems, ballads, and much more, which are very important tools of knowledge.
Maa Saraswati is the manifestation of the knowledge aspect of Shakti. Worshipping her brings an abundance of knowledge and wisdom. She is also the personification of humility, serenity, peacefulness, contentment, and generosity. She is the goddess of music, art, and nature, representing the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. I feel that every guru, teacher, or anyone who guides us in life has Maa Sarawati residing in them. She gives blessings to thousands of musicians, dancers, artists, writers, and other professionals.
This brings us to the significance of educating children, especially girls. In today’s competitive society, many children are still deprived of education due to poverty or a general prejudice against educating girls. This attitude and mindset needs to change radically. Every individual living on this planet deserves knowledge and wisdom. As Nelson Mandela rightly said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The treasure of wealth and success
Another manifestation of Maa Shakti is Maa Lakshmi, who is the supreme goddess of wealth and finance, and worshipping her brings fortune and prosperity. She is ardently worshipped by her devotees on Diwali. The festival of lights marks the homecoming of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravan, and Maa Lakshmi plays a very important role over here by showering all of us with her blessings for a new beginning and a prosperous life. People worship Lakshmi on many occasions, but worshipping the Goddess of wealth on Diwali has special significance. It is believed that on the night of Diwali, Goddess Lakshmi visits every home. In the Ravan Samhita, Ravan has said that his devotion to Lakshmi helped him in making Lanka prosperous. Lord Krishna also stated that his devotion to Goddess Lakshmi made Dwarka prosperous.
We live in a transactional world. Money plays a huge role in determining our happiness, peace, and the power we hold as an individual. Money also has tremendous power to change the world if invested for a good cause. Money lends a person status and respect in society. This makes us all desire money as it gives us the freedom and the means to enjoy this world. Acknowledging the inner power of Devi Lakshmi will not only lead us to success and fortune but will also enable us to be happy and at peace.
However, looking at Lakshmi only from the angle of money is limiting Her identity. Many wealthy people are unhappy, while many financially poor or average people are very happy. From that perspective, Lakshmi also stands for an abundance of happiness, health, peace, and good relations, which come from having good values.
The Universal Mother
How do we define a mother? To be honest, a mother is someone we fall short of words to describe. She is someone who loves us selflessly. All she wants is to see us succeed and do good in life. She guides us towards the right path, protects us from evil, has no hidden agenda or motive, and even if you are a bad person, she’ll still love you unconditionally and forgive you for all your mistakes. A mother is an epitome of compassion. This is how Maa Durga too plays the role of being the supreme, Universal Mother. The all-compassionate Maa Shakti doesn’t discriminate amongst her children. She simply forgives, always blessing us with prosperity. All mothers derive their compassion and love from the Divine Mother. In today’s times, when people are getting more and more ruthless and self-serving, it is important to remember the value of kindness and compassion, which resides in each one of us as the instinct of Maa Durga. As someone rightly said, ‘One act of kindness can change the world.’
Maa Shakti—The ultimate resolution
Devi Shakti is believed to be the controller of all sources of energy in the universe. With the third eye on her forehead immaculately camouflaged by a crown and maang tikka, she is symbolic of the multifarious capabilities and power of womanhood and humanity as well.
Maa Shakti also symbolises the quintessential modern woman in today’s times. With her mythical ten hands, she handles a huge repertoire of tasks, duties, responsibilities, dreams, commitments, and aspirations. Hopeful or despondent, life’s tribulations can never take away her positive spirits and her beautiful smile. She deftly manages multiple roles with equal ease. Her absence creates an immense void in our life that’s hard to fill.
In order to acknowledge and honour Maa Shakti truly in today’s times, every individual, whether a woman or man, has to first smash the pre-existing establishment based on systematic hegemony in order to bring a balance in nature.
We all have Devi Shakti in us. It’s about time, we acknowledge her power and radiate that divine energy from within us to bring about significant changes as a collective consciousness on a global scale.
Om Dung Durgayai Namah ||
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