The word Jagadamba is a conflation of two words ‘Jagat’ and ‘Amba’ which literally means ‘cosmos’ and ‘goddess’ respectively. When combined they mean the ‘Cosmic Goddess’ or in other words the ‘goddess who is the cosmos.’ She has many other names in Sanskrit including Jaganmata (meaning Cosmic Mother), Jagadhaatri (meaning the Nourisher of the Cosmos), Brahmamayi (meaning ‘She who is Reality’), Adya Shakti (meaning Primal Power) and Adya Kali (meaning Primal Darkness).
She is worshipped in thousands of forms in Hindu communities all over the world. I was born in one such community. I was introduced to the goddess in her many forms first by my grandma. She taught me to make flower garlands for Ma Kali and put them around the neck of her statue in our home altar, she taught me to light incense sticks for her, to close my eyes, join my palm to my forehead and say ‘Durga, Durga’ when someone else is leaving for a journey (even for a small one) so that Ma Durga takes care of him/her on the way. She took me to the Kali Temple of my neighbourhood to meet the priest who had a look of strange distance in his eyes. We sat their watching the priest perform the worship rites for the Mother, and then dance with the bell ringing in one hand and the fire lamps circling the Devi’s (goddess’s) face. Somehow these times were the brightest memory I have of my grandma. Among the countless moments I have spent with her as a child, the moments when the Devi was with us stand out. Even today on every anniversary of her death, my family and I (whenever I am in India) go to the beautiful Dakshineshwari Kali Temple in my city on the banks of the river Ganga. We reach there early in the morning, we offer flower and incense sticks to the goddess, then we sit beside the serene Ganga. Just being there connects us to the lady who has introduced us all to the goddess.
In these pages, I will journey to the JaganMata Bramhamayi Jagadamba in all her beautiful forms and I dedicate these pages to my grandma, the woman who taught me much about my connection to the eternal feminine. I ask the goddess to be with me when I reach inwards to recollect the wisdom transmitted to me by my foremother and her foremothers through her.