Hymn to Durga – Night and Light, Beauty and Disease are You

durgaIn an important text of this tradition — the Devi Puranam — the goddess Durga asks Shiva, her husband, how she came into being. Shiva answers that she knows better than anybody else her own origin because she was there when nothing existed, yet because she is asking he will describe her appearance. In the process of this narration, he describes the attributes of the Goddess and the reasons that he pays respects to her. I will quote here some parts of the very lengthy hymn. This is my own translation.

‘The Wise and Invincible One…

The Valiant One…

The One who is worshipped by the gods…

I pay respect to you.

The Venerable and Virtuous One; you are the shelter of all living beings.

Your beauty is Un-manifested yet Manifested.

You are the Terrible Night/Emptiness, the Great Night/Emptiness, the Ender of Time and the Constant within change.

Your Face is as luminous as a burning meteor, the light of your body is as bright as fire…

Your three eyes are as vivid as the burning flame.

You are the Nurturer of the past, the Shelter of all spirits. But no one is your shelter. …

You are the Protector of all gods… I pay respect to you again.

The Goddess of Gods, your brilliance is comparable to billions of suns …


Artist: Kris Digitx

O the shining light of suns, salvage your devotees.

The Auspicious One… you are known as the Nurturer and the Creator of the Universe. … I pay respect to you many times. …

From you the Universe is created, sustained and destroyed. You are the Past, Present and Future. Everyone knows you are the Greatest. I pay respect to you along with all other gods.

The Origin of Ultimate Knowledge, the Origin of Music, the Immeasurably Powerful, I bow down to you. …

O Goddess you are present in all levels of Creation.

O Bearer of Weapons, your beautiful form, your eye-brows and thighs steal the mind. …

You are the Earth; Death and Diseases are you. …

Goddess, you are the Mother, the Wisest Victorious One, the Nurturer, the Ultimate Warrior, the Will, the Absence of Will, the Killer, the Piercer, the Transcender… the Deathless and the Speaker of the Ultimate Truth….’

(my own translation from the Bengali version).[1]

Durga here is the origin of knowledge; she is not only wise, she is beautiful too. She encompasses everything across space and time. She is the most valiant of warriors and the protector of gods. The dualities in her become starker when she is described as both being and emptiness, night and light, will and absence of will, life and death, beauty and disease; her beauty both manifested and un-manifested. And yet she is the Mother, the daughter and the wife.

[1] Panchanan Tarkaratna (trs from the original Sanskrit to Bengali), Devipuranam (Nababharat Publishers 1984); for more hymns to the different forms of the Hindu Mother Goddess, see Sir John Woodroffe, Hymns to the Goddess (Ganesh and Company 1973)


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