Most beautiful Hymn to Durga

This is one of my favourite renditions of one of the most powerful hymns to Ma Durga. Its a very long hymn. I will post the translation once I find a satisfactory one or once I do it myself. In gist it describes the attributes of the goddess Durga and bows down to her. She is called the merciful one, the victorious one, the terrible and beautiful one, the auspicious one, the three-eyed one, the beautifully attired one, the mother, the daughter of the mountain, the wife of Shiva, the sister of Vishnu. Her victory over Mahushasur (the Buffalo Asur) is hailed. Her immense strength, immeasurable power and her beauty is praised.

Durga — the mother, the warrior, the goddess

One of the most potent and widely worshipped form of the Primal Mother, Adya Shakti is Ma Durga. Her win over evil is marked every year by her worship, celebration and festivities. The occasion is variously called Durga Puja (Spiritual Festival of Durga), Navratri (the Nine Nights), Dusserah (the Ten Days), etc.

Ma Durga is a warrior goddess. In Hindu mythology Goddess Adya Shakti or the Primal Power took the form of Durga to battle with Mahishasur (the Buffalo Asur). An Asur is a powerful cosmic creature with destructively and negatively used supernatural powers.[1] Durga battled Mahishasur and ultimately defeated him. She rode on a lion and wielded a multitude of powerful weapons in her multiple arms. She is power in its rawest, most primal form. She inspires awe, fear and love at the same time.

Photography: shestirs

Photography: shestirs

The myth of Durga starts with the myth of Mahishasur (the Buffalo Asur). Mahishasur was an extremely powerful Asur. He pleased the gods through his penance and received the boon he asked for – that he will never be slayed by man or god or any other Asur. He then started threatening the three worlds by his newfound might and invincibility. He conquered the earthly and netherworlds and defeated the gods in heaven. Nobody could kill or stop him. At this hour of crisis, the gods called on the Primal Power, the original Mother of All, Adya Shakti to come to their rescue. In general, Adya Shakti does not manifest in one particular form. She is in all — everything that exists. But for this task she needed to manifest in all her awesome power in one form. The gods are all her parts, her creation and their capabilities and powers are all her reflections. So they decided to join their powers to give Adya Shakti the shape of a warrior goddess. The powers of the gods met and an immensely powerful goddess emerged – Durga, she who is unknowable, she who is invincible in all her forms. Parts of her body, her attire, her ornaments were all made by the gods from their individual powers. She is described as ‘the woman so stupendously huge her head grazed the sky while the ground sank beneath the weight of her feet.’[2] When she took shape, her beauty and power stunned the gods and they bowed down to the Mother in reverence and awe. They gifted her their weapons symbolising their individual powers.

Artist: Hoon

Artist: Hoon

Durga challenged Mahishasur in battle. Her battle cry sent chills down the back of the Asur army. After a fierce battle of nine nights and ten days, she defeated him and his army. This battle is celebrated in India every year as Durga’s festival.

Durga is fierce and beneficent at the same time. In her many arms (often said to be ten, or eighteen, or a thousand) she holds both the symbols of destruction and sustenance. She destroys the harmful and preserves the good in us. She is the protector who comes to our aid when we need her. She also shows us the extent of the power of a woman, a mother and a goddess and our connection to her. In later posts I will describe Durga’s connection to her earthly daughters and sons in modern India.

Artist: Poonam Mistry

Artist: Poonam Mistry

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[1] Asurs are often translated in English as demons. But that does not capture the true essence of the word. Asurs are far more than demons. Often more spiritually evolved than humans, they can contact the gods directly. They often please gods by their penance and yoga and manage to receive their blessings (as gods in Hindu mythology are also bound by certain laws of the universe, including giving one what one deserves). But most of the time the Asurs turn out to be self-centred, power hungry individuals, who use their god or goddess-gifted capabilities negatively and then have to be stopped by the gods and goddesses themselves.

[2] Linda Johnsen, Living Goddess: Reclaiming the Tradition of the Mother of the Universe (Yes International Publishers 1997) page 87

She stirs… in us…

The goddess stirs…. she stirs in us. The primal power, the divine feminine, the ancient creatress, the great mother — she has various epithets. She has different forms and attributes in different cultures in different times. She has been loved, worshipped, revered, feared and cherished in various ways for many thousands of years. The earliest archaeological evidence of goddess worship has been unearthed and dated as far back as 29,000 B.C.

Until about 2000 years back, worship of the divine feminine was part of most cultures in the world. From South Asia to Middle East, from Africa to Europe, from the Americas to the Far East — the religion of the goddess existed and thrived. She existed alongside male gods who were depicted as her son, father or consort or brother. Under polytheistic religious structure, there was not much trouble in the co-existence of multiple mythologies, in the co-existence of multiple divinities, in the co-existence of competing spiritualities without strife.

Detail from ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Boticelli

Detail from ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Boticelli

But in the last couple of thousand years, the worship of the feminine principle has been despised, demonised and discredited, her worshippers have been attacked, injured, slaughtered and her religion has almost been wiped out from the face of the earth.

But not everywhere.

She has thrived in some cultures and her religion has kept pace with changing times. What we commonly call Hinduism, or more accurately, Sanatan Dharma, alive in South Asia, provided the perfect platform where the worship of the goddess could thrive and grow without interruption, without fear. Here the feminine divinities have co-existed with their male counterparts for ages until the modern times. They are depicted in mythology and religion as immeasurably powerful, primally creative, and definitively imperishable. They indeed are the personification of power itself, not power in the narrow patriarchal sense, but in the broad sense of power to create, to sustain, and to withdraw the whole universe; the power to become all and nothing at the same time.

When we look at the history of the worship of the divine feminine all over the world — when we discover the rich mythologies that sustained the symbolic realms of our foreparents, when we read hymns written by our ancestors about the Goddess, the Mother, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Primal Power. the Mountain Mother, the Lady of Largest Heart, the Mother of Speech, the Source of All Knowledge — we realise how much of it have been lost; how much of the spiritual wisdom about the power of the goddess and the coexistence of the feminine and masculine divine principles, accumulated by our foreparents and protected in their hearts, have been lost on us.

Artist: Anna Dittman

Artist: Anna Dittman*

Her religion in the ancient forms survive in very few places in the modern world. India and Nepal are two of the most prominent among them. The traditions of the goddess lives unbroken in the hearts, homes, culture, mythology and temples of the people in these parts of the world.

Devi (goddess) Durga, as worshipped in today’s India

Devi (goddess) Durga, as worshipped in today’s India

In most places where the goddess lived, like the Middle and Near East, the Americas and most of Europe, her touch had been wiped away. But even in the loss, among the blurry clouds of forgetting, memories of Her have survived. And once again we can hear her stirring. She is waking again – waking to the calls of her children.

The Lady of Avalon worshipped in the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in the United Kingdom

The Lady of Avalon worshipped in the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in the United Kingdom**

These pages are a tribute to all the forms she has ever taken to reach us and touch our lives. From Durga to Kali, to Anat and Inanna, from Frejya to Isis, from Cybele to Diana – let us know her and hear her voice. In these pages I will bring to you my experience of the life-long love of one of the most ancient forms of the goddess known to us. I will also document my journey to know more about the goddesses whose voices were silenced by violence and the ones who are rising again.

I hope these pages will become a resource for all current worshippers of the goddess to know more about her other forms and for those who are searching for her, to arrive at her love.

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* For more beautiful images by Anna Dittman, please visit http://escume.deviantart.com/

** For more information about the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in the UK, visit  http://goddesstemple.co.uk/