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Woman power

I was sent these two pictures by a friend today morning. Today is Ashwin Shuddha Pratipada according to our Panchang and the day marks the beginning of the Sharadiya Navaratra. Nine days of piety and devotion , dedicated across the country to the feminine Deity known across India as Durga. The nine forms of the Devi are worshipped on the nine days.

The festival has always intrigued me from my childhood.

The thought of Navaratri opened up an interesting set of thoughts, all going back to Adi Shakti or Adi Parashakti. She is considered in the Shakta way of thinking to be the Supreme Being.She is also referred to as “Parama Shakti”, Adi Shakti, “Mahashakti”, “Mahadevi”, “Mahakali”, or “Mahagauri”, “Satyam Shakti”, or even simply as “Shakti”. Parvati represents one incarnation of Adi Parashakti.

Adi Shakti appeared to King Himalaya and revealed her divine, eternal knowledge to him. She explained herself, in the Vedic syntax, as having neither beginning nor end (Anaadi and Anant) . She is the only, eternal truth. The whole universe is her creation. She is the only victor and also the manifestation of victory itself. She is the manifested, un-manifested and a transcendent form of divinity. She then displayed her scarcely seen form to him:  Satyaloka located in her forehead; the universe she had created was in the form of her radiant hair; the two heavenly luminous bodies closest to us were her eyes; in her ears were the four disha, the Vedas just her words; death, affection and emotion were her teeth; and Maya represented by her smile.

Her Supreme stature in the divine pecking order is best described in the Devi Purana, where Devi talks to the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh) as follows: “I am Adi Parashakti. I am the owner of this universe. I am the Absolute Reality. I am dynamic when in the feminine form and static in masculine form. You have appeared to govern the universe through my energy. You are the masculine form of Absolute Reality, while I am the feminine form of that Reality. I am beyond form, beyond everything, and all the divine powers are contained within me. You must know that I am the Eternal limitless energy.” 

She then said to Brahma, the creator: You will be generator of the universe; the Goddess Sharada will be your consort, she will be recognized as the goddess of wisdom and the primeval sound. Lord Brahma, this goddess will be with you when you create the universe. (Sharada is the same as Saraswati)

She spoke to the preserver, Vishnu:  Lord Narayana ! You are formless, yet you take form. I assign you to be the preserver of the universe. You will take many different incarnations in order to save this universe’s inhabitants. Oh Narayana! You have created Lord Brahma, and Brahma will further create thirty three kinds of gods and goddesses. As Mahamaya, I will reappear from your mystic sleep. Your consort will be Lakshmi. Vishnu, this goddess will be with you when you rule/maintain the universe. When life evolves, you will take the form of Vishnu, the one who will perform the task of observing and preserving this universe.

At Last she instructed Shiv: Oh Rudra Shiv, the Great God, you are the personification of time, which is above all. You will perform the task of destroying and regenerating this universe. When you are formless, time stands still. It is due to my power that you become dynamic and are capable of bringing about the destruction and regeneration of this universe. Mahakali is myself, my full form, whereas Laxmi and Saraswati are just my cloned, partial forms but due to meditation, you will surpass all my forms. It is then that I will incarnate from your left half in my manifested form. This form will be my truest manifested form. Lord Shiva, she will perform the task of destroying evil and will be your consort. This gives rise to the Ardhanari Nateshwar form of Shiv.

I found this concept particularly attractive, as the feminine form being the origin of the Universe and also giving rise to the male forms of energy as well as assigning them their roles. It is this Adi Shakti that is celebrated during Navaratri, over the nine days.

The nine forms of Durga are referred to as :

Shailputri
The first day of Navaratri is dedicated to Shailputri, who is the first manifestation of Goddess Durga, literally meaning “Daughter of the Mountains”

Brahmacharini
The second day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Brahmacharini, a soft, meditative form of this goddess that symbolises Parvati when she was deep in meditation to please Shiva.

Chandraghanta : a fierce 10-armed goddess with a crescent moon on her forehead, which gives her the name. She rides on a tiger to destroy all that is evil and wicked.

Kushmanda
Chaturthi celebrates Kushmanda ( word that is derived from three roots – ‘Ku’ (little), ‘Ushma’ (warmth or energy) and ‘Anda’ (egg), which means the creator of the universe.

Skandmata
Skandmata is worshipped on the fifth day (Panchami) is also known as Panchami. Skandmata has four arms, carries a lotus in two of her arms with a sacred Kamandalu and a bell in the other two. She also carries a little Kartikeya on her lap and because of this Kartikeya is also known as Skanda. She is the benevolent form and her hand is always in the blessing mode.

Katyayani 
Shashthi is dedicated to Katyayani, a form of Shakti. Also known as the warrior goddess, Katyayani is one of the most dynamic and violent forms of Goddess Parvati. She has four arms and carries a sword. She is considered to be the daughter of Rishi Katyayan and rides a lion.

Kaalratri
Saptami is the day of Kaalratri. Durga has adopted a dark complexion to kill demons. She is a four-armed deity who rides a donkey, carries a sword, a trishul, and a noose. She has a third eye on her forehead (akin to Shiva’s third eye) that is believed to contain the entire universe.

Mahagauri
Durgashtami, the eighth day of the Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri, who is a four-armed deity and rides a bull or a white elephant. She carries a Trishul and a damru in her hands.

Siddhidatri

The Navami, the final day of Navaratri is devoted to a form shown as a four-armed deity sitting on a lotus, holding a Gada, Chakra, a book and a lotus in her hands. This form of Goddess Durga signifies perfection, She combines power, learning, peace.

The Nine forms of Durga celebrated during Navaratri are (starting from top left going to the right from top to bottom row); Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri.

In the Shakta belief system, Adi Parashakti is regarded as the one who can control all the nine planets (Navagraha). She divides herself to Shakti i.e. Durga who splits herself to operate nine planets to maintain cosmic order, Vidya Shakti i.e. Kali as the source for 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu and Maya Shakti, to delude the beings to illusion. As Durga Shakti She is the one who splits herself into Navadurga that govern the energy of the nine planets. (In the Hindu way of thinking the Navagraha includes the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, and the two malefic planets, Rahu and Ketu). Rahu represents materialism, mischief, fear, dissatisfaction, obsession and confusion. Rahu is also associated with politicians and the occult sciences. Like Ketu, Rahu is also a mortal enemy of the sun and moon. Rahu and Ketu in the Hindu astrology play a role in the creation of eclipses.

  • Shailaputri controls the effect of the Moon, the celestial body closest to Earth. (Pratipada)
  • Mangal, the provider of good/bad fortune is governed by Brahmacharini. (Dwitiya)
  • Chandraghanta controls and governs Shukra. (Tritiya)
  • The Sun is governed by Kushmanda . (Chaturthi)
  • Skandamata governs Budha. (Panchami)
  • Brahaspati, the God of learning is governed by Katyayani. (Shashthi)
  • Kaalratri governs Shani. (Saptami)
  • Mahagauri influences and controls Rahu. (Ashtami)
  • Ketu is governed by Goddess Siddhidaatri (Navami)

I found it particularly interesting to see womanhood portrayed by Durga/ Devi as the creator, the nourisher and the destroyer, too….

Isn’t it paradoxical that with such a legacy, we continue to suppress and abuse Her Manifestations amongst us, very sadly. Give it a thought and be happy the Adi Parashakti has deemed it fit to spend time and energy creating humankind. May She guide us through the finite journey in all her wisdom so that we may, at the end be one with her supreme, divine being.

I found this journey of discovery and revisiting the Adi Shakti and the 9 relevant forms for Navaratri fascinating and educative. Please let me know your feedback and thoughts.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

26 replies on “Woman power”

Plethora of information. Saraswati and Lakshmi being cloned forms of the Devi Durga herself is debatable and probably needs some further clarification as I knew them for good 72 years as Durga’s daughters.🙄🙄
In a single word, the narrative is indeed Amazing. More so as it originates from a brilliant, academic, knowledgeable, successful, approachable, amiable and leading personality who deals with matters pertaining to the heart.
Anyone leaving his clinic gets minimum 5 years extra life in exchange for the modest fees one pays.
This is straight from where it matters – THE HEART.

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Thanks Dasji. The description I have given is from the Vedic description. Basically starts with the premise that Adishakti gave rise to every other being including the triumvirate of Gods and other Goddesses. Thanks for your kind words. Much obliged for your appreciation. Hope I can live up to your effusive praise

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Ours is the society which worships Durga as Shakti .North Indians specially are supposed to be Shakti pujak but it is the same society where birth of daughter is mourned.They won’t welcome Durga at home.Gender discrimination, female foeticide, dowry deaths, rapes all forms of violence against women are on rise day by day..
खूप ढोंगी संस्कृती आहे आपली
Sad but true !

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Very true. The paradox surprises me and pains me most. In a country where we deify women and worship them, we also objectify them and carry out the most abominable acts of a most heinous variety against women.

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प्रथमं शैलपुत्री च द्वितीयं ब्रह्मचारिणी।
तृतीयं चन्द्रघण्टेति कूष्माण्डेति चतुर्थकम् ॥1॥

पञ्चमं स्कन्दमातेति षष्ठं कात्यायनीति च।
सप्तमं कालरात्रीति महागौरीति चाष्टमम्॥2॥

नवमं सिद्धिदात्री च नवदुर्गाः प्रकीर्तिताः।
उक्तान्येतानि नामानि ब्रह्मणैव महात्मना॥3॥

Above is a part of Devi kavacham that we recite daily at home. It truly energies you, such is the power of Devi shakti🙏
I have come out of many adverse situations due to this शक्ति that I have been manifesting since so many years. Being a Bengali, since childhood, I have seen Devi being worshipped in many forms and there are many more apart from these nine, for controlling our Navagraha.

You have given such an excellent brief of the vast Devi Purana , that saves time for those who just want to know for knowledge sake.
We can keep on writing on Devi shakti and Devi Roopam and never finish. It is so vast that each time when I read, I come to know something new. Even Shiva-Parvati conversations are in many forms in the form of ब्रह्मोवाच, शिव उवाच, मार्कण्डेय उवाच and many more.

So nice of you to choose this topic at the time when Devi is in her full form and showering her blessings on all of us. 🙏

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Faith helps us focus our energies. Even if there is no higher being, the power of faith is such that we are able to surmount obstacles with greater ease and lesser pain. This is not just a superstition. It has been proven repeatedly in many life threatening illnesses as well, including malignancies and severe infections

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India has always honoured the spiritual role of women & the feminine principle. We can observe this in the widespread worship of the Goddess in its numerous forms starting with Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati & Kali, along with their many temples & sacred sites.
In traditional societies, the role of women is centered in taking care of the home & raising children. That noble function remains forever relevant & rightfully so. Today women are also entering into the work force, assuming a variety of occupations. This is materialistic society’s demand or so called necessity in the garb of development of modern civilisation with smaller families & a wider scope for education availble to women. The role of the woman is being redefined accordingly, but it is still unclear as to who the new woman is or what she should aspire for.
Western perspectives on women’s rights dominate in the modern women’s movement even in India which are formulated in a role play of masculine image of aggression & assertion. They do not afford adequate respect for women’s inner qualities of caring, nourishing, nurturing, peace-making & social integration. Many women throughout the world are completely confused as to who they are or how to develop supportive feminine values. Balancing family, education & career can be very daunting for most.
In India there is a traditional concept of women’s empowerment as Shakti. Shakti refers not to the power of aggression that divides & causes conflict but to the power of integration that unites and brings peace. Shakti is the force of wisdom & enlightenment, not ignorance & inertia, a creative not a destructive energy. It gives refinement & sensitivity, not crudeness & intolerance.This is the real understanding of shakti. Not male bashing as interpreted by many & confused with the so called women empowerment & modernism.
We can observe this in the widespread worship of the Goddess in numerous forms starting with Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati etc. Shakti unfortunately is misunderstood today as promoting the separate self, need for space, me time, not being a doormat & encouraging personal self-assertion as the highest goal. This is contrary to its true meaning of developing community & unity, extending to the entire universe as a single family. Awakening Shakti affords us a greater capacity in life, giving us the vitality & awareness to accomplish many different roles, tasks & considerations. It is a capacity that arises from aligning ourselves with the vast forces of nature & the divine energies behind the movement of life. When Shakti awakens, we are more artistic, articulate, inspired but for a higher purpose & rise above self. Shakti is the power of Dharma to uphold, support & develop, which brings about cohesion & consolidation. Such Shakti is the Yoga Shakti, the power to unify our individual nature with the Universal Being, fostering awareness & harmony. Shakti energises Dharma in the outer world & Yoga Sadhana in the individual. Shakti is a power of selfless service & sharing, not of domination & exploitation.Shakti requires that our actions become Karm Yoga, a focused & dedicated offering to a higher power. This inner Shakti has no ideology & moves as a flow of grace.
An awakening of Shakti can aid in developing a truly democratic society, but only if such a democracy seeks to empower a higher consciousness, not just our material desires. Democracy today often ends up promoting the separate self, leading to social fragmentation. It ultimately leaves the individual alone & depressed, feeling alienated from life, community & other people. Shakti works best with community as Sangha Shakti, encouraging like-minded individuals to work together for their mutual well-being. India needs to promote a new Shakti among its women, starting with young girls, empowering, ennobling, educating & enlightening them. This is a necessary initiative for members of all religious groups. Women are too often left behind in education, sometimes under the excuse of religious propriety. If girls do not receive a good education by the age of fifteen, it becomes difficult for them to take their true role in society or to be confident as to who they truly are.Such education for girls should address the necessary fields of modern learning & must also honour feminine values & the Shakti or spiritual power that women can manifest. Women are natural healers because of their caring nature. Another area is communication & art where women have natural skills to beautify & harmonise. In addition, the traditional arts and crafts that women uphold should be preserved. Yet women should also be honoured & allowed to bring their full creative talents and insights into the world at large.
India as a country is looked upon in a strong feminine light upon as Bharat Mata & Ma Durga. The Universal Mother is the deity or energy behind the country, its art, culture, yoga and spirituality. That Shakti can bless all of us, but only if we care to honour it in our society & in our owm minds as well. We all need to have a fresh perspective on gender equality & role- play. In my opinion you can be an empowered simply by making use of your natural feminine abilities. Both men & women need to realize that nature has bestowed us with different set of abilities & accept & respect it, that will make happy lives & a great enlightened society.

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Sir,
Extremely well scripted article with resplendent pictures of Durga!!

My few cents
Maa Durga is a matriarchal goddess figure. This is someway should be embodied by today’s woman. Every now and then, there appears a demon in the form of Mahishasur who needs to be killed. The battle ensued between demons and gods, mystical power Durga emerged. The example set by Goddess Durga of not feeling inferior at any cost is phenomenal! This legend may be told and retold but what we learn is even powerful gods also needed Durga for slaying evil,ie Streeshakti!!
The woman can emulate all nine forms of Durga.
And Durga reveals the fighting zeal of Mother to uproot evil.
Everytime the tale reveals that whatever the circumstances be, never think that you are incapable of putting up a brave front!!
While concluding, I pray
“Let the shakti of Durga be present in each woman who fights her life’s battles everyday”
🙏

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Wonderful article about Navratri and the power given to women by Vedas and puranas.
Today’s men should be taught to change their perspective of a woman .

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Namaskar sir ji …
Kai baar kai logo se ya koi kisi pandit . Maharaj se Navratri parv ka itihas.articals padhhe he…bate suni he…par ek dr.se itani gahan jankari ,gyan ekdum paheli bar prapt hua…
Docters se ye sub padhhana, sunana ek aam aadami ko aachrya to dega hi …

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