One of the most invoked forms of the Great Goddess is her manifestation
as the youthful, multi-armed deity who successfully battles the
mighty buffalo demon that symbolizes among other things, the elemental
powers of brutish ignorance. In her this incarnation she is referred
to as Durga, the 'unattainable'.
Great Goddess Durga was born from the energies of the male divinities
when the gods lost the long drawn-out battle with the asuras
(demons). All the energies of the gods united and became supernova,
throwing out flames in all directions. Then that unique light,
pervading the Three Worlds with its luster, combined into one,
and became a female form.
Devi projected an overwhelming omnipotence. The awesome three-eyed
Goddess was adorned with the crescent moon. Her multiple arms held
auspicious weapons and emblems, jewels and ornaments, garments and
utensils, garlands and rosaries of beads, all offered by the gods.
With her golden body blazing with the splendor of a thousand suns,
seated on her lion or tiger vehicle, Durga is one of the most spectacular
of all personifications of Cosmic Energy.
tremendous power of the Goddess was poised ready for the grim
battle to wipe out demonic forces, the asuras whose exaggerated
ego-sense was destroying the balance of the universe, and
whose sole purpose was to dominate and control.
was the universal war between knowledge and ignorance, truth
and falsehood, the oppressor and the oppressed. The world
shook and the seas trembled as the Goddess engaged the Great
Demon Mahisasura and his hosts in fierce battle, creating
her own female battalions from her sighs breathed during the
Great Goddess first annihilated the army of the titan. Then
she roped his own mighty buffalo-form with a noose.
demon escaped, however, emerging from the buffalo body in
the form of a lion.
the Goddess beheaded the lion, whereupon Mahisa, by virtue of
his Maya-energy of self-transformation, escaped again, now in
the form of a hero with a sword.
the Goddess riddled this new embodiment with a shower of arrows.
But then the demon stood before her as an elephant, and with
his trunk reached out and seized her. He dragged her towards
him, but she severed the trunk with the stroke of a sword.
demon returned, now, to his favorite shape-that of the giant
buffalo shaking the universe with the stamping of its hoofs.
But the Goddess scornfully laughed, and again roared with
a loud voice of laughter at all his tricks and devices.
called out to the shouting monster: "Shout on! Go on shouting
one moment more, you fool, while I sip my fill of this delicious
brew. The gods soon will be crying out for joy, and you shall
lie murdered at my feet.
Even while she spoke, the Goddess leapt into the air, and from above
came down on the demon's neck. She dashed him to the earth and sent
the trident through his neck.
The adversary attempted once again to abandon the buffalo-body,
issuing from its mouth in the shape of a hero with a sword; but
he had only half emerged when he was caught. He was half inside
the buffalo and half outside, when the Goddess, with a swift and
terrific stroke, beheaded him, and he died.
chief demon Mahisasura was thus dead, and the gods praised the Goddess,
joyfully worshipping her with flowers, incense and fragrant paste:
[a name of Durga] dost overspread the universe
with thy power.
The power of all divine beings is drawn into Thy from.
Thou art Great Mother, worshipped by all divine beings and Sages.
We bow ourselves in devotion to Thee.
us with all that is good for us.
We bow before Thee, O Devi,
Thou who art the good fortune of the virtuous,
Ill-fortune in the house of the evil,
Intelligence in the minds of the learned,
Faiths in the hearts of the good,
The modesty of the high born.
- Devi Mahatmya.
world was at peace again. The skies cleared, the rivers kept their
courses, there was sweet singing and dancing. The winds blew softly,
the sun shone brilliantly, the sacred fires burned steadily. Strange
sounds that had arisen in the various quarters died away. The departing
Durga offered the gods a boon. She promised that as 'Sakambhari'
she would nourish the world in time of need with the vegetation
grown from her own body, and that in her 'terrible' form she would
deliver her worshippers from their enemies, and bless them. Then
she vanished from the very spot on which the gods were gazing.
the reveries of Mahisa are exterminated. Into this wondrous male
fantasy intrudes the Mother Goddess. She lures and entices him and,
because she represents the power of the unconscious and the pull
downward and backward into the protective womb, the demon unwittingly
plunges into her dangerous orbit. In a throwback to reciprocal animal
mating postures, they dance in mutual desire and dread. Mahisa is
forced into sacred, single combat with the fascinating but enigmatic,
dangerous creature. On the battle stage the disguise of each is
penetrated; then the demon and the Goddess are reduced to their
true nature; in the last analysis they are alike. Finally, like
the ancient bull-kings who were themselves royal sacrifices, fecundators
of the earth, bearers of vicarious guilt, hero is transformed into
victim and, having lost his position in heaven, now Mahisa loses
his very life. He is decapitated by the Mother Goddess, and on earth,
paradise is restored, but only temporarily, for the demon inevitably
returns to earth for the eternal cyclical repetition of the entire
myth is saturated with the potential for violence inherent in the
male-female oppositions. As the story unfolds, the relationship
between Mahisa and the goddess is manifested at many levels: psychologically
both demon and goddess become what the other is, both behave like
ferocious animals and one never knows what will happen in the next
instant, as the constant alternations, which range from the bestial
to the divine, are the only reality. Thus each of the antagonists
can be symbolically interpreted as now the monster/dragon, now with
feminine or with masculine attributes. Each can represent justice
and power or evil and danger; and each contributes to the orgiastic
disorder necessary for recreation. The myth thus transcends the
male-female alternative, signifying psychic totality. The condition
of the contemporary urban dweller who howls in fear in the dark
as he confronts the bad animal of his nightmare differs little from
the fright syndrome of the jungle dweller, forced into struggle
with a live animal. Until the dreamer awakes, he is in the same
situation as his prehistoric ancestors were.
the deepest levels of the psyche, ready to spring at random, the
residual animal, source of human energies, seeks recognition. The
unfocused, floating primordial imagery, rooted in the biological
heritage, is stabilized in culture. Externalized projections, first
structured into dance, cultish animal rites, orgiastic fertility
ceremonies and much later into literature, art, myth and ritual,
provide the camouflage of human respectability and channel the anxiety
into an acceptable form. Left to itself without organization, animal
nature will surely erupt. When left unrecognized and unattended,
under stressful conditions, animal impulses break through in random
fashion, and blind fury re-emerges in full force. As repository
for the archaic residue, Mahisamardini, the Goddess who slays the
buffalo, is a therapeutic symbol. Durga's name literally means "Beyond
is an echo of the woman warrior's fierce, virginal autonomy. In
fact many of the figures associated with her are officially virgin.
This is not meant in the limiting sense understood by the patriarchal
order, but rather in Esther Harding's sense: she is "one-in-herself",
or as Nor Hall puts it, "Belonging-to-no-man". As Harding further
observed of 'The Virgin Goddess': 'Her divine power does not depend
on her relation to a husband-god, and thus her actions are not dependent
on the need to conciliate such a one or to accord with his qualities
and attitudes. For she bears her identity through her own right.'
disappearance of Durga from the battlefield after the victory over
aggression expressed one of the deepest truths of the episode, for
the feminine action in the cosmic drama is without retentive, ego-seeking
ambition. Durga is linked also with some of the oldest known prayers
for humankind's protection. In the Ramayana, Rama went to Lanka
to rescue his abducted wife, Sita, from the grip of Ravana, the
Emperor of Lanka. Before starting for his battle, Rama aspired for
the blessings of Goddess Durga . He came to know that the Goddess
would be pleased if offered one hundred blue lotuses. But after
traversing the whole world, he could gather only ninety-nine. Rama
finally decided to offer one of his own eyes, which resembled blue
lotuses. Durga, being pleased with the devotion of Rama, appeared
before him, stopped him from committing this act and blessed him.
In the fierce battle that followed, Rama was able to annihilate
Ravana, thus again triumphed good over evil. To this day, this day
is celebrated as Vijaydashmi (Day of Victory), and Goddess Durga
worshipped all over India.
the Mother Goddess, it is believed, controls the fate of all. But
even though she makes her appearance when the male deities conglomerate
their respective energies, she is, in fact, not 'created' by them.
All her incarnations are the result of her will to be in the world
for the benefit of mankind; she chooses when and how to effect her
lilas (play of the Goddess in the world). In this situation her
sudden arrival spells doom for Mahisa, but only after a protracted
interaction during which the confrontations between animal/demon
and Goddess, male and female, son and mother, lover and beloved,
equal combatants, victim and sacrificer, hero and deliverer, are
given due attention as an exploratory venture into the dynamics
of the laws of opposites. Their combat is, in the final analysis,
an enactment of a many-aspected reality, reflecting a mode of thought
which perceives seeming opposites as mere stages in a graduated
spectrum of reality which has a minimum of definite b! oundaries.
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