Lessons I learnt from Durga

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This is the auspicious time of Navaratri so happy Maha Navaratri to you all!

This nine day festival was the first I celebrated when I lived in Mumbai, joining my neighbours for nine nights of dancing and celebration in honour of the goddess Durga. On the eighth day Ashtami my daughter had the honour of being invited to my neighbour’s house to represent one of the nine forms of the mother goddess – kanjak devis and take part in a puja which involved being treated as the goddess herself. Much to her bemusement and delight they washed her feet, fed her the most delicious puri, halwa and chana and given a red chunni scarf and some pocket money (which was duly spent on sweets!)

Recently I have been having a tough time of it and more than ever am feeling the need to welcome the mother goddess into my life and realise her within myself. I’ve not chosen to fast, but alongside my partner have given up alcohol and am generally participating in the idea of purification and reflection of oneself.

The festival has different rituals associated with it in different areas of India but all have the same sentiment – the triumph of good over evil, the appreciation of fertility and creative, feminine energy as a force to accomplish that and the importance of learning (in some states this is when children write their first alphabet or begin tutoring). The way in which I have chosen to interpret this festival is to meditate and learn about myself and better ways of thinking positively and to how appreciate myself and gain much needed confidence in order to have the strength to nurture and care for the loved ones in my life – my partner, daughter, our families and my friends.

Here, in order, are the nine forms of the goddess and my reflections on each:

Shailaputri/Parvati

She is the wife of Shiva and mother nature. She is the daughter of the mountain and the rock foundation or root of spirituality. Worshiped on the first day she represents to me the beginning of my spiritual journey and the importance of being grounded and to understand that each and every one of us are a part of nature. In every reincarnation she marries Shiva. From a romantic angle she makes me think of my partner and how the feminine energy unites with the masculine and how this is part of becoming spiritually whole. This also has the meaning of hope that every person can obtain enlightenment.

Bharmacharini

This form of the goddess is to do with penance. By submitting herself to suffer every torment and overcoming them she was rewarded by acceptance as wife to Shiva. While this may annoy feminists it can be interpreted in a different way and this is it’s meaning to me (see my previous article on Vat Savitri here). On a very personal level it means that I cannot progress in my relationship or be a good wife to my husband until I have found the strength within myself to overcome all my demons, both physical and mental. Only I can do this and it is not a gift any man can give to me.

Chandraghanta

She is the goddess form of grave and bravery. She defeats demons and persuades lord Shiva to change his form to something much nicer to save her mother. For me she represents the fearless warrior that is inside each one of us that can be unleashed to save the ones we care for. As a mother her spirit is strong and she represents the protective feelings I have for my partner and my family. She teaches that to be this triumphant warrior one must remain serene and calm and not lose our grace in anger.

Kushmanda

She is known as the cosmic egg from which the universe was created. I love the fact that the Hindu creation story has a female creator. Though creation is a loose term as everything, both masculine and feminine are part of her. Her story reminds me that I am a part of something great – the universe and that it is all one thing and many things at the same time. To be whole you need to accept all of it – positive and negative, masculine and feminine as part of the same cosmic egg. Plus I love the phrase cosmic egg.

Skandamata

This goddess took an adopted son and he defeated an evil demon and saved the world. She is about selfless love. As an adopted person this story is a dear one to my heart. She teaches me to love selflessly and not for personal gain and in return good karma will be attained. One day I hope to adopt a child and return the gift that was given to me.

Katyayani

I’m not sure how much I understand this form of the goddess – I know she is known as the third eye goddess and her legend includes details where she slays a king who thinks he can win her love through fighting. I have also hear that if you fast in her honour you will get the husband you wish to obtain unless that happens to be Krishna, in which case he will steal your clothes while you are bathing.

Kaalratri

She is the most violent form of the goddess – the destroyer. However what she destroys are negative things like demons and fear. She teaches me to behave the same with my negative emotions and remove all negative energy from my life.

Mahagauri

Another goddess form I do not entirely understand. She is to do with Parvati having fair and dark complexions and fairness being the desired one. Explains a bit about the obsession in India with having fair skin (goes way back before the British ever colonised India). All a bit dubious to me. I think the reading I take out of her story is that Lord Shiva washed away all of the dirt and suffering from Parvati in the river Ganga. If I can strive towards enlightenment then I can look forward to the same and become spiritually ‘fair’.

Siddhidatri

She is the giver of supernatural power and indeed gave to Lord Shiva. When I think of this I think back to Shailaputri – the root and mother nature. Supernatural power and divine knowledge can be attained by all of us as it is a part of all of us as we all come from mother nature. For some reason this revelation makes me very happy and makes my everyday problems disappear into insignificance.

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About anenglishwomaninmumbai

A writer, event production manager, sound engineer and mother, living, working and loving life in Mumbai, London and beyond.
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4 Responses to Lessons I learnt from Durga

  1. I love everything about ‘hinduism’ Its what I think I really believe in, a much more philosophical/spiritual way of believing.

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  2. Its interesting how things are so varied throughout India. I live in the birthplace of Krishna and the reason he stole the clothes of Gopis while they were bathing was to teach them about respecting themselves (boys were watching them bath nude) and honouring the Goddess Yamuna Ji they were bathing in. You may have noticed if you’ve travelled throughout India many people keep their inner wear on when bathing for this reason. We actually have a Katyayani temple here and it is one of the Shakti Peethas. The third eye reference is correct fasting in her honour will help you to see your truth, your true purpose and what you may be blinded to by Maya. You are also right that she is the one to be worshipped for those seeking a husband but I’ve never been able to figure out why, I’ll keep you posted if you ‘ll do the same if any revelations occur 😉

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    • Thanks! What a wonderful reply! I have much to learn and love to hear more of the stories about the different festivals and gods and goddesses. I’m also definitely seeking my truth – maybe the husband part is about your true love. Your true love is to you like Shiva is to Parvati – two parts of a whole. Maybe I’m just a romantic but there is something very spiritual about the love between two people and sacred about marriage. I’m sure you can make the journey to enlightenment alone (we are all alone in the end) but I would much rather make it at the side of the man I love and experience this life as a half of a pair.

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