Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Essence Of Devi In Hindu Mythology

Devi - Prakriti or Nature, the manifestation form of Universe
Religion exists to help man come to terms with life. Through sacred narratives, rituals and imagery, religion provides a lens through which life may be viewed. In other words, religious stories, symbols, customs and beliefs create a worldview. This worldview gives the believer meaning and purpose. It explains why things happen in life the way they do. It informs the believer of his place the world and his role in life.

The Shakta tradition offers us a perspective of life through images and narratives of the goddess. Every picture, whether it is Lakshmi sitting on a lotus or Saraswati holding a lute, has something to tell. Every story, be it the marriage of Parvati or the battles of Durga, reveals something new about life. 

The lessons that come through can jolt people out of complacency and force them to confront issues, memories, desires and secrets that have long been suppressed. For the Devi embodies the world, and not everything in the world is pleasant or beautiful.

Durga and the Untamed Nature

Devi Durga - serene even in violent war
The image of Durga  is fascinating, with her lion, holding weapons and other objects in her 10 arms, impaling the buffalo-demon, presents a tremendous visual. Goddess Durga is not known for fierce but recognize a calm look albeit performing a violent act.

The buffalo-demon could be signified as man lust to rule the world. The demon epitomizes lust, ambition, arrogance and violence and try to get hold of nature. But nature, as portray as Devi can't be controlled. She will do her work and never be ruled by anyone. The demon destroys trees, calls flood, dry rivers for his own comfort, but then Durga, the unconquerable one, straightens up everything and the demon in a garb of man stands humbled once again.

Saraswati and Lakshmi

Lakshmi & Saraswati - Hindu goddesses of wealth & Wisdom
Saraswati and Lakshmi are the two most popular goddesses in Hinduism. Saraswati enlightens, Lakshmi enchants. Saraswati represents intellectual wealth – knowledge, arts, wisdom and learning. Lakshmi represents material wealth – food, clothing, shelter, fortune and beauty.

Knowledge generates wealth; wealth, in turn, support educational institutions and artistic ventures. Thus intellectual pursuits and economic activities need each other. Man seeks both Saraswati and Lakshmi but often ends up with only the one. This is because, say the scriptures, the two goddesses have a hostile relationship. 

Tales of Saraswati-Lakshmi quarrels drive home the idea that intellectual and artistic endeavors are often at odds with economic and political activities. Wisdom can invalidate the value of worldly wealth and earthly power. Worldly wealth and earthly power, in turn, can corrupt and compromise all intellectual and artistic activities. 

Gauri, Kali and the Cycle of Life

Kali in Tantric worship
Parvati, the consort of Shiva, is worshiped in two forms: as Gauri holding a child and as Kali dancing amidst corpses. As Gauri, the goddess adorns with a green sari, possesed sixteen love-charms and sitting demurely beside her husband. Kali, the naked goddess adorns with human skulls and drinks blood and destroy all enemies with her tremendous rage.

Gauri represents sex and the life-giving aspect of Nature. Kali represents violence and the life-taking aspect of Nature. Thus Parvati represents the impersonal ability of Nature to create and destroy life. As Sati, she dies and is then reborn as Parvati, thereby informing the world that what goes around comes around. That is the way of Nature. Even Shiva, the greatest ascetic, has to endure loss and the pangs of separation.

Devi and the Savagery of Existence

Fierce form of Devi
There are certain forms of the goddess like that of Bhairavi that rouse fear, even disgust. Hair unbound, fangs bared, blood-soaked tongue stretched out, Devi dances amongst corpses, accompanied by dogs and jackals, bedecking her body with entrails and blood. Cackling, fearsome hags surround her; a scorpion crawls up her shriveled body. Why does the goddess often appear ‘demonic’?

When we use the word ‘demonic’, we are actually saying that some manifestations of the goddess are unpalatable to our taste. No matter how hard we try, our world is filled with images that we cannot look at our come to terms with – hyenas killing pregnant deer, tornadoes wiping out entire villages, fatal diseases striking babies, raped etc. We forget that everything happens in this world is under Nature, nature is not just mountains, meandering rivers, green fields etc. Nature is a manifestation of Devi, every atom of this universe is some manifestation of that eternal God. Hence, the goddess is at the same time beautiful and ugly, alluring and repulsive.

Imagine a rotting corpse. The sight is ghastly. But for the maggot breeding within the corpse, that ‘ghastly’ object would be ‘home’. What is horrible from our point of view is wonderful from the maggot’s point of view. When a scorpion stings, it stings because that is its personality, not it is evil or devil.

The ability to accept and appreciate every manifestation of Devi is sign of enlightenment. Hence, to Devi does every offers the salute

Yaa devi sarvabhuuteshhu maatrirupena sansthitah

Yaa devi sarvabhuuteshu shaktirupena sansthitah

Yah devi sarvabhuuteshhu shaantirupena sansthitah

Namastasyaih namastashyaih namastashyaih namo namah

“O goddess of the universe, visualizing you the embodiment of motherhood, power and peace, I salute you, salute you, salute you.”

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