Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lights of Diwali

Diwali, being the festival of lights, thousands of lamps are lit in and outside every home on the day.
Lamp or Deep is the symbol of knowledge. Lighting the lamp of knowledge within us means to understand and reflect upon the significant purpose of each of the five days of festivities and to bring those thoughts in to our day to day lives. Kalpasutra mentions that the King Chetaka of Vaishali with several confederate kings, had a great lightning of lights, since they said:
"since the light of intelligence (Vardhamana Mahavira) is gone, let us make an illumination of the material matter"


Monday, October 6, 2008


The most important legend which is central to Durga Puja is about Durga, and forms the theme of Chandi. In the Chandi, Durga is mostly referred to simply as Devi, the Goddess, and occasionally as Ambika. She is an independent, supreme Goddess, not the consort of any male God. Chandi is described as the Supreme reality who is a combination of Mahakali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati.
The story of the goddess who protects and restores order to the universe is told in the 700 verse Chandi Path, also known as the Durga Saptashati. As already mentioned, the Chandi is one of the oldest scriptures on Mother Worship. It was obviously composed before the sectarian divisions of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism entered Hinduism. Hence Devi is referred to in this book as the Power of Vishnu and also addressed as Narayani repeatedly.

Durga as Chandi

The Chandi is divided into three parts. In the first part Devi appears as Mahamaya which is described as yoga-nidra of Vishnu. That is to say, Mahamaya is the power of Tamas which makes people lethargic, indolent and sleepy. Under the influence of this cosmic delusive Power, Lord Vishnu went to sleep. At that time two demons by name Madhu and Kaitabh came out the ears of Vishnu and attacked Brahma the Creator God. Brahma then praised the Divine Mother as Mahamaya or Yoga-nidra. Pleased with the petition, she withdrew herself from Vishnu's body. Vishnu now woke up and killed Madhu and Kaitabh.

In the second part Devi appears as Mahishasura-mardini and is also called Chandika. The story goes that when a powerful demon by name Mahishasura was the king of the Asuras (demons), they attacked the Devas (gods) and vanquished them. The defeated gods went to Shiva and Vishnu and complained about the atrocities of Mahishasura. Hearing this, Vishnu, Shiva and other presiding Deities became angry. The rays of their anger combined to form a supremely powerful and dazzlingly bright female Being - the Devi known also as Chandika and Ambika. Seeing the dazzling brightness of the Devi, Mahishasura first sent his army to attack Her. But the Divine Mother exterminated them all. Then Mahishasura, who had the form of a buffalo, himself attacked Her. Devi at once jumped upon his body, pressed his neck with her foot, struck his chest with her spear, and finally cut off his head. The gods being extremely relieved and pleased, praised the Devi, and their praise takes up the rest of the second part of Chandi.

In the third part of the book, Devi appears first as Parvati and then, out of her form, there arises another form known as Kalika. But she continues to be referred to as Ambika. The third part narrates another valorous act of the Divine Mother. Once upon a time two brothers, Shumbha and Nishumbha became lords of the three worlds, and the gods lost everything. Coming to know of the beauty of Kalika, they sent word to her asking her to come to them. When she spurned their order, they at first sent two demons, Chanda and Munda, to capture her. Seeing them, Ambika became angry and out of that anger there issued forth a terrible form known as Kali who fought with the demons. Finally Kali cut off the heads of Chanda and Munda. She thus came to be called Chamunda. Now Shumbha and Nishumbha themselves rode in their chariots and attacked Ambika and Kali. After a protracted battle Ambika herself destroyed Shumbha and Nishumbha.

The image of Durga as Mahishasuramardini epitomizes the Chandi. To understand the significance of the image we have to understand the significance of the Chandi. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: Jini Brahma tini Shakti, tini i Ma "He who is Brahman is Shakti, and He himself is the Mother of the Universe".
In modern times the Divine Mother, born as Sri Sarada Devi, has given us this assurance: ''Always remember, there is somebody behind you … Place your burden upon me and remain unperturbed.'' This is also the last message of the Chandi.

Om Namah Chandikaya

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Worship of God as Mother has prevailed in India from prehistoric times. It was perhaps in vogue in Mohenjodaro-Harappa civilization. In the Rig Veda, there is a wonderful hymn known as Devi-Suktam (which is chanted during Durga Puja days) in which the Divine Mother declares that She moves with the Rudras, Vasus, Adityas, and all other gods, that She is the power of all gods, that She is the Queen of the world, and so on.
The Durga Puja is celebrated in various parts of India in different styles. But the one basic aim of this celebration is to propitiate Shakti, the Goddess in Her aspect as Power, to bestow upon man all wealth, auspiciousness, prosperity, knowledge (both sacred and secular), and all other potent powers. Whatever be the particular or special request that everyone may put before the Goddess, whatever boon may be asked of Her, the one thing behind all these is propitiation, worship and linking oneself with Her. There is no other aim. This is being effected consciously or unconsciously. Everyone is blessed with Her loving mercy and is protected by Her.
Durga represents the Divine Mother. She is the energy aspect of the Lord. Without Durga, Shiva has no expression and without Shiva, Durga has no existence. Shiva is the soul of Durga; Durga is identical with Shiva. Lord Shiva is only the silent witness. He is motionless, absolutely changeless. He is not affected by the cosmic play. It is Durga who does everything.
Shakti is the omnipotent power of the Lord, or the Cosmic Energy. The Divine Mother is represented as having ten different weapons in Her hands. She sits on a lion. She keeps up the play of the Lord through the three attributes of Nature, namely, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. Knowledge, peace, lust, anger, greed, egoism and pride, are all Her forms.
Devi worship is, therefore, worship of God's glory, of God's greatness and supremacy. It is adoration of the Almighty. It is unfortunate that Devi is ignorantly understood by many as a mere blood-thirsty Hindu Goddess. No! Devi is not a vicious demoness nor is She the property of the Hindus alone. Devi does not belong to any religion. Devi is that conscious power of God. The words Devi, Shakti, etc., and the ideas of different forms connected with these names are concessions granted by the sages due to the limitations of the human intellect; they are by no means the ultimate definitions of Shakti.
The Upanishad also says: "The supreme power of God is manifested in various ways. This power is of the nature of God, manifesting as knowledge, strength and activity".

Om Hrim Shrim Dum Durgayai namah
Om Hrim Shrim NavaDurgayai namah