India is the land of the Divine Mother, honouring her wonderful names, forms and manifestations on all levels of existence, great and small. India as a country is revered as Bharat Mata, Mother India, through Vande Mataram, we honour the Mother.
The Mother Goddess is Bhumi Devi, Mother Earth. Yet she is also infinite space, boundless time and the highest bliss. Above all she is Shakti, power and motivation, especially Chit Shakti, the power of consciousness that is the Self of all beings.
In India, the Goddess is the Universal Mother, Jagadamba, Jaganmata. She has the power to create, sustain and dissolve the entire universe, to put the soul under the bondage of maya or release it into the Supreme Brahman beyond all limitations.
Every male deity or deva has his female counterpart or Devi, Saraswati and Brahma, Lakshmi and Vishnu, Shiva-Shakti, Sita-Ram, Radha-Krishna, without whose grace he cannot function.
Mother Goddess Durga is depicted as riding on a lion or a tiger. A tiger symbolizes unlimited power. Durga riding a tiger indicates that She possesses unlimited power and uses it to protect virtue and destroy evil. The lion is a symbol of uncontrolled animalistic tendencies (such as anger, arrogance, selfishness, greed, jealousy, desire to harm others etc.) and Her sitting on it reminds us to control these qualities, so that we are not controlled by them.
She is usually shown wearing a red sari. The color red symbolizes action and the red clothes signify that She is destroying evil and protecting mankind from pain and suffering.
Thus, Goddess Durga symbolizes the Divine forces (positive energy) that is used against the negative forces of evil and wickedness. She represents pure energy (positive), known as divine light or jyoti that is the embodiment of feminine and creative energy.
This month we must pray to Maa Durga, the Universal Mother, asking Her to use Her destructive power to remove the vices within us (anger, selfish desires, greed, ego and undue attachments), imperfections and faults; and purify us to become a receptacle of her Divine Shakti—Anandamayi Shakti.
There are several mantras for Goddess Durga, but the most simple and easy mantra to remember is “Om Sri Durgaya Namah.” It is believed that by chanting this mantra regularly the Divine Mother will remove the physical, mental and worldly problems in life and shower us with her unlimited blessings.
No country in the world demonstrates such enduring reverence for the Great Mother Goddess, as does India. The Goddess is celebrated in every form, aspect and quality, through music, art, ritual, mantra and meditation. She is honoured in women, the Earth, nature and the transcendent beyond all expression. Her worship is full of splendour, delight, mystery and wonder.
The Goddess is Shakti, meaning power, the resort of all transformative energy and cataclysmic force that mere human logic cannot comprehend. She possesses martial and regal forms that all must bow down before in awe. During the Navaratri – India’s famous autumn festival of the Goddess – she is worshipped as Durga, the supreme Shakti, holding all majesty, wisdom and grace.
Durga is the Mother of the universe from who comes forth the creation, sustenance and dissolution of all beings and all worlds. She is Chit-Shakti, the power of consciousness, out of which the cosmos coalesces as matter, life and mind.
India as a sublime culture and profound civilisation is the gift of Ma Durga. Durga is the Goddess who personifies India as a whole and its incredible vitality, from her presence in village shrines to her representation of the highest yogic spirituality. Bharat mata is Durga with her imperious lion. She was the image behind India’s independence movement, which worked through her inspiration, such as Sri Aurobindo so eloquently lauded.
Mother Goddess Durga is first honoured in the famous Vedic Durga Sukta, composed of Vedic verses to Agni going back to the most ancient Rigveda.
Mother Goddess Durga arises from Agni, the universal principle of fire and light, as its force of purification. Durga holds the radiant colours of Agni as its most powerful flame. She is the cosmic form of Agni as the Sun/Surya, which is why she rides the lion. She dwells like the Sun, as the Atman in the hearts of all beings.
Durga shines brilliantly with the power of tapas, which is the Yoga Shakti, the ascending yogic force. Tapas is focused concentration that generates the heat necessary to transform the mind. It is the inward turning of awareness that draws the light of perception within us, dispelling the darkness of our subconscious nature. Mother Goddess Durga wields the power of tapas like a lightning bolt to remove all wrong thoughts, fears and attachments. To understand and honour Durga we must introduce tapas into our own lives, rigorously developing our power of discernment for introspection and self-inquiry.
Durga as a term means a fortress or a citadel where we retire for protection. Ma Durga as our spiritual mother is our ultimate refuge from the many hostilities of the outer world. Yet the term Durga also means going beyond difficulty, with the ultimate difficulty being death itself. Ma Durga takes as a ship across the sea. In this regard Durga, like Agni, is the power of the Divine Word, Pranava or OM that delivers us from the darkness of Maya to the eternal truth of the Supreme Brahman.
Mother Goddess Durga is the ultimate iconic form, present in every expression, movement and mood, natural and supernatural.
Worship of the Goddess
There is no other country in the world with so many distinctive temples to the Goddess or so many colourful festivals dedicated to her celebration as India. There are innumerable forms of the Goddess as the nine Durgas, ten Mahavidyas, eight Lakshmis and 64 Yoginis.
She is not only the underlying unity of all existence; she has personal aspects at every place in nature and for each creature. She is your mother and the mother of all, present in every process of life, starting with our every breath.
The Devi is auspicious Lakshmi, regal Durga, fierce Chandi, artistic Saraswati, and blissful Lalita. She is not just the mother but also the girl child, consort, warrior princess, queen, high priestess, and supreme yogini. She embraces the whole of life and all the roles of the womanhood from the home to society to the entire cosmos.
The Goddess is lauded through every possible image, sculpture, chant, dance, mantra, and ritual. There is no restriction as to how we can approach her, except to do so with love and respect. She is the ultimate iconic form, present in every expression, movement and mood, natural and supernatural.
The Divine Mother in various religions of the world
Divine feminine qualities are recognised by different religions in various ways. Christianity has the Madonna and her beautiful paintings. But in Christian theology, the Madonna is not the Divine Mother and does not have the power to create or dissolve the universe. She is the mother of Jesus, helps you by virtue of her son, and is rarely depicted without him.
Islam and Judaism have feminine terms for the Divine, particularly as wisdom and compassion, but the Divine is primarily called Father. They allow no images of the Goddess, and have not always been tolerant of her worship.
Worship of World Mother was more common in ancient times and remains so in native traditions. Pagan images of the Goddess from the ancient world are abundant, intricate and sublime. Indigenous people revere Mother Earth as a sacred presence in all that they do. The Mother Goddess remains an essential part of our global spiritual heritage that India has best preserved for the benefit of all humanity.
Honouring the Mother of the Universe
The Universal Mother is specially honoured as Durga, who takes us across all difficulties, during the famous autumn festival of Navratras, which celebrates her splendour and delight. It ends with her decisive defeat over all the intractable powers of darkness on Vijay Dashami, the tenth day of victory. This joyous autumn festival remains the largest and most important event in the global worship of the Divine Mother today.
Yet the Goddess is not a deity apart from ourselves. She dwells within us as the Yoga Shakti, the inner power of boundless awareness that guides us to the realisation of our true Self beyond birth and death.
In this age of aggression, intolerance and terrorism, let us look to the Mother of the Universe, however we may wish to approach her, as the basis of lasting world peace and happiness.
Seeing the Divine Mother everywhere leaves no room for hatred or duplicity anywhere. The unity of the universe rests upon the Universal Mother, who takes the shape of all creatures and resides within them as their inmost feeling and knowing.
Durga’s protective force
Durga means she who takes us beyond all difficulties. She is the divine energy that protects the soul from duality, adversity and opposition, known and unknown. As Durga-Tara she delivers us across the turbulent ocean of ignorance to the radiant other shore beyond all darkness. She carries us over all dangers like a ship across the sea, as Vedic chants poetically reverberate.
Durga arises from agni, our inner flame of immortal life, awakening our motivation to reach the highest bliss. She is born from the power of tapas, the wholehearted concentration of our aspiration to immutable truth. She is the spiritual fire on Earth who removes all impurities for the soul to shine. Her lion indicates her ruling solar force that illumines all existence.
Durga grants us the transformative knowledge that takes us to a higher level of existence beyond all that we have previously thought possible. She is the Yoga Shakti dwelling in the heart that opens us up to the clear light of self-realisation, the revelation of our true divine nature that stands above all time, space and karma. The Kundalini Shakti arises and works within us through Durga’s force.
Durga’s sword is the source of all dharmic ruling power at spiritual and mundane levels. She commands the celestial army and its earthly counterparts struggling for truth and justice in society. Shivaji Maharaj of the Marathas and Guru Gobind Singh of the Sikhs, among many other great leaders of India, received her sword and ruled by its support. Arjuna went to Durga for her blessings prior to consulting Sri Krishna on the battlefield. Sri Krishna affirmed to him Durga’s message of fearless resolve in the face of adharma.
Yet we cannot in our mere human nature wield Durga’s sword. We must draw out the Shiva consciousness within us to do so. We must surrender to her and let her direct us, taking the role of her devotees. All weapons, whether material or spiritual, should first be consecrated to Ma Durga, so that we use them wisely, without any pride or pity in their application.
As Mahishasura Mardini, Durga slays Mahishasura, the personification of ignorance, darkness and tamas. Vijaya Dashami is her glorious tenth day of victory, after displaying her nine magnificent forms, ending with Siddhidatri, her highest blessing aspect who grants all boons and accomplishments. This nine day dynamic display of Shakti takes us to a new vision and unlimited horizon on the culminating tenth day.