Durga Sadhana: Significance in the Context of Dharmik Civilisational Nationalism

We can develop a new Yoga Shakti to bring in a new yuga, a new world age for all humanity. Vedic Yogic and meditation teachings are already bringing major changes into the world mind. Yet there remains a tyrannical Mahishasura of greed, violence, arrogance and fanaticism that must be removed to allow the higher forces to fully manifest.

By Dhvanit Goswami, Learner at Rashtram

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु विष्णुमायेति शब्दिता ।

नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥

Yā dēvī sarvabhūtēṣū viṣṇumāyēti śabditā
namastasyai, namastasyai, namastasyai namō namaḥ

Translation: 

O Mother!Thee, who is present everywhere as the Power of Vishnu;
I Bow to Thee! I Bow to Thee! I Bow to Thee again and again!

The aforementioned shloka forms the initial part of the hymn sung by the Devatas praising Goddess Chandi in the fifth chapter of the Durga Saptashati, which is an integral part of the Shakta tradition [1]. Also known as Chandi Path, the text is part of the Markandeya Purana, which describes the three aspects of Devi, namely Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati representing the three Gunas (qualities) Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva respectively.  Mahakali is the divine aspect of the Goddess which is the cause and controller of time or “Kala” and hence of all  actions. Mahakali is the personification of Kriya Shakti (the force of action). She inspires the sadhaka for the performance of righteous actions. Mahalakshmi, personifies Iccha-Shakti (the force of the will). She inspires the power of mind, concentration and meditation for overcoming mental dullness and pride.  Mahasaraswati, the personification of Jnana-Shakti (knowledge), removes the doubts and imparts Atma-Jnana (self-knowledge) [2]

Thus, when Lord Vishnu incarnated as Sri Krishna, he was accompanied by Yogamaya who was born as the daughter of Yashoda and Nanda. In his previous incarnation as Sri Rama, as per the tradition it is said that he had venerated Goddess Durga before going to battle against Ravana. Thus, the festival of Durga Puja celebrated on large scale in Bengal and rest of the eastern part of India, starts from the sixth day of Sharadiya Navaratri with “Akal Bodhan”, as it is believed that it is the day when Goddess Durga was invoked by Sri Rama. Vijayadashmi signifies both victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura as well as of Sri Rama on Ravana. 

In Durga Chalisa, the following verses mention how Adi Shankaracharya, who was initially ignorant about the power of Shakti later understood his fault. 

जोगी सुर मुनि कहत पुकारी। योग न हो बिन शक्ति तुम्हारी॥शंकर आचारज तप कीनो।काम अरु क्रोध जीति सब लीनो॥निशिदिन ध्यान धरो शंकर को।काहु काल नहिं सुमिरो तुमको॥शक्ति रूप को मरम न पायो।शक्ति गई तब मन पछितायो॥शरणागत हुई कीर्ति बखानी।जय जय जय जगदम्ब भवानी॥Jogi Sur Muni Kahat Pukaari, Yog Na Hoye Bina Shakti TumhariShankara Acharaj Tap Ati Keenho, Kaam Krodh Jeet Sab Leenho
Nishidin Dhyan Dharo Shankar Ko, Kaahu Kaal Nahin Soumiro Tumko
Shakti Roop Ko Maram Na Payo, Shakti Gayi Tab Man Pachitayo
Sharnagat Huyi Kirti Bakhaani, Jai Jai Jai Jagadambe Bhavani

Civilisational significance of Shakti Upasana:

For thou art Durga holding her ten weapons of war,
        Kamala at play in the lotuses
        and Speech, the goddess, giver of all lore,
        to thee I bow!
        I bow to thee, goddess of wealth,
        pure and peerless,
        richly-watered, richly-fruited,
        the Mother!
        I bow to thee, Mother,
        dark-hued, candid,
        sweetly smiling, jewelled and adorned,
        the holder of wealth, the lady of plenty,
        the Mother!

The above verses are the translation of the fourth stanza of the song Vande Mataram in prose by Sri Aurobindo. The original composer of the song Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay has personified Bharat Mata (Mother India) as the three aspects of Devi according to the Shakta tradition as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The original verses in Sanskrit are: 

त्वं हि दुर्गा दशप्रहरणधारिणी        
कमला कमलदलविहारिणी 
वाणी विद्यादायिनी, 
नमामि त्वाम् नमामि कमलां 
अमलां अतुलां 
सुजलां सुफलां मातरम् ।। ४ ।।
वन्दे मातरम् ।
Tvaṃ hi Durgā daśapraharanadhārinī
Kamalā kamala-dalabihārinī
Bānī bidyādāyinī
Namāmi tvaṃ
Namāmi kamalām
Amalāṃ atulām,
Sujalāṃ suphalāṃ Mātaram
Vande Mātaram

Goddess Chandi, the upholder of Ṛta (cosmic equilibrium), commands the celestial army and its earthly counterparts struggling for truth and justice in society. The upasana of Mother Durga guides the sadhaka at spiritual and mundane levels. Thus, from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, Guru Gobind Singh (tenth and the last living Guru of Sikhism) to modern era the revolutionaries of Bengal and Sri Aurobindo himself were guided in their Dharmik struggle against injustice by the power of Divine Mother Durga. [3]

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja was an ardent devotee of Goddess Tulaja Bhavani. His famous “Bhavani Talwar” (Bhavani Sword) is said to be the blessing he received from Devi.

The sacred geography of Bharatavarsha is thus referred as “Bharat Mata”, as the landmass of Indian subcontinent is not seen just as a mere geological piece of land, but the land which is a pious living entity, worthy to be worshipped. She is personified as the form of Maa Durga. She is considered as the very embodiment of the Sanatana Indian consciousness. From Vaishno Devi, Jwalaji, Naina Devi in Himalayas of north to Kamakhya and Kalighat in the east, from Hinglaj (now in Pakistan), Ambaji & Pavagadh in west to Chamundeshwari in south, the four corners of original geography of Bharatavarsha are dotted with Shakti Peethas dedicated to different forms of Goddess Chandi. Abanindranath Tagore, who for the first time in the history painted Bharat Mata on canvas, depicted her as a sadhvi clad in saffron robes with her four hands upholding sheaves of rice, a cloth of white, a japamala (beads for meditation) and a book. Her head is haloed and lotuses bloom at her feet. The luminous tinge of yellow at her feet and her head attracts the viewer to look at her feet and her crown first. It is not a mere coincidence that the time period when he painted Bharat Mata, i.e. in the year 1905, coincided with the time when Vande Mataram became the slogan of the indigenous uprising against the British Imperialism. [4]

Bharat Mata, painted by Abanindranath Tagore in 1905

Bharat Mata and the slogan Vande Mataram dedicated to her became the driving force behind India’s independence struggle. Even today, she is the symbol of the  struggle of decolonising the people of Bharata that is rooted in indigenous Dharmik values, against both Western Imperialism driven by globalisation and Middle Eastern colonialism. Thus for invoking both physical and intellectual vigour, in order to fight the battles of narratives as well as countering physical annihilation, she is the divine force we need to invoke. To slay the Mahishasura, who personifies ‘Avidya’ in the form of ignorance, darkness and tamas inherent in the human nature, we need to surrender to her. All our weapons, whether material or spiritual, should first be consecrated to Maa Durga, so that they can be used wisely in order to strive towards the decolonisation of Bharata in a genuine Dharmik way. 

As Pandit Vamadeva Shastri says:

Today we must bring back the power of Durga to deal with our mounting global crisis from the environment, to health and social and political divisions. This requires we revive Dharmik and Yogic traditions that honour the Goddess as our inner guide. Awakening a deeper Yoga Shakti can restore India to its ancient throne as Vishvaguru, the guru of nations – with its Rishi vision leading humanity on the path to higher consciousness. Its profound Yogic teachings can help awaken and guide all people on both individual and collective levels.

Awakening Durga’s Shakti within us requires that we fearlessly and relentlessly challenge the forces of darkness, including our own weakness of will that allows us to tolerate or excuse negativity and corruption. It requires that we awaken the Arjuna in each one of us to achieve our highest Dharma.

We can develop a new Yoga Shakti to bring in a new yuga, a new world age for all humanity. Vedic Yogic and meditation teachings are already bringing major changes into the world mind. Yet there remains a tyrannical Mahishasura of greed, violence, arrogance and fanaticism that must be removed to allow the higher forces to fully manifest. [5]

To conclude, the following verse from the “Hymn to Durga” composed by Sri Aurobindo captures the spirit of Dharmik civilizational rejuvenation in its best form [6]

Mother Durga! India lies low in selfishness and fearfulness and littleness. 

Make us great, make our efforts great, our hearts vast, make us true to our resolve. 

May we no longer desire the small, void of energy, given to laziness, stricken with fear…..

References:

  1. https://www.drikpanchang.com/lyrics/durga-saptashati/chapters/fifth-chapter/durga-saptashati-fifth-chapter.html
  2.  http://indiafacts.org/understanding-navaratri-vedanta/
  3. https://www.esamskriti.com/a/Himachal-Pradesh/Naina-Devi-Temple.aspx
  4. https://rashtram.org/abanindranath-tagore-and-the-making-of-the-modern-indic-art/
  5. https://www.vedanet.com/the-meaning-of-durga/
  6. http://www.sriaurobindoinstitute.org/saioc/Sri_Aurobindo/karmayogin_newspaper/hymn_to_durga