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Durga Festival and Navratri

 

Explanations based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda, Rishikesh

The Durga Festival/ Vijaydashmi/ Navratri represent the triumph of righteousness over evil. Such an outcome presupposes and embodies qualities that are essential for victory in this eternal battle between good and evil. But first  what is the  legendary setting of Navratri.

What is Navratri

Navratri, Navaratri or Navaratra is a Hindu festival of worship and dance. The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit; Nava - Nine and Ratri - nights. The following 9 forms of godesses are worshipped during these nine days: Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba or Jagadamba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika or Chandi, Lalita, and Bhavani. The festival is celebrated for nine nights twice every year during mid-March and the beginning of October, although as the dates of the festival are determined according to the Hindu lunar calendar, the festival may be held for a day more or a day less depending on the calendar.

Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses. On the first three days, the goddess is invoked as a powerful spiritual force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. During the next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the consort of Brahma as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.

Gujaratis perform their traditional dances Garba & Dandiya-Raas during Navratri. The women-folk dance in a circle, singing 'Garbas' or traditional songs. Dandiya-Raas is played with wooden sticks (dandiyas). Apart from Gujrat, Garbas are performed in other states & cities like Mumbai. Beautifully decorated 'mandaps' are set up for playing garba & dandiya by various cultural societies, housing commitees & youth social groups. Young men-women wear colourful traditional dresses and play Garba with great enthusiasm.The mood of Navratri is very colourful & unique. In various parts of India,the Ram-Leela is performed during Navratri. Ram-Leela is a stage enaction of Ramayana,the story of Lord Rama.

The tenth day, also known as Vijaya Dasami (day of Victory over evils), Dussehra is significant to launch new activities or beginning of learning. It signifies the good winning over the evil. It is believed that on this day, Lord Rama had killed the demon Ravana. So, on Dassera, effigies of Ravana are burnt all over India.

 

During Navratri, some devotees of Durga observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. A period of introspection and purification, Navratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures.

On the tenth day of October, Navratri, the holiday of Dussehra, an effigy of Ravana is burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil.

Navratri is also significant in a large part of indian homes, for the nine nights of the mother goddess who appears in 9 forms, each one being worshipped for a day. The nine forms signify various traits that the goddess influences us with. The Devi Mahatmya and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are cited.

Depending on the region of the country, there are different episodes from the epics which are chosen as being representative ofthe culminating act of victory over evil

 

The Keno Upanishad, part three, known as Yaksha Prasna says:
"The supreme power of God is manifested as Knowledge, Activity and Strength".

The Bhagavad Gita describes the same in different words.
Ch14,Verse 5."Purity, passion and inertia- these qualities, born of nature, bind fast in the body".

These three qualities are known as guNAs - Sattva- Rajas and Tamas.

Each of these three guNAs is represented by a colour. Sattva is white (colour of purity). Sattva is represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Saraswati. Saraswati wears white. Sattva binds by attachment to happiness and knowledge. Sattva is luminous and healthy.
(Gita Ch.14-Verse 6.)

The colour of Rajas is red, represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Lakshmi. She wears red. Rajas is of the nature of activity, passion and ambition, the source of thirst for physical enjoyment. Rajas binds one by attachment to action.

 
-(Gita Ch.14. Verse 7.)

The Rajasic person runs after power, position, name, fame and comforts, and involves himself in endless activities to acquire material wealth.

When we worship goddess Lakshmi for spiritual wealth, she bestows on her devotees the inexhaustible divine wealth or Daivi Sampat (which is described in the Gita, Ch.16, Verses 1,2 and 3). Divine wealth or the wealth of 26 divine qualities, brings with it material prosperity as well.
[ Visit page Daivi Sampat - Divine Wealth

Tamas is black, represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Kali. She is sometimes depicted in dark blue.

Tamas is born of ignorance, deluding all embodied beings. Tamas binds fast in heedlessness, sleep, indolence, laziness (Gita Ch.14 Verse 8). Tamas is that binding force with a tendency to lethargy (lack of energy, vitality), sloth and foolish actions. It causes non-discrimination or delusion. It binds one who associates the Self with the body. A tamasic person acts under the compulsion of the body. He has no power of judgment. His actions are not guided by reasons. His senses are dull.

These are all baser animal qualities, the lower diabolical nature in man.We pray to mother Kali, as Durga the terrible, as supreme power and force, to destroy all our impurities, our vices, our defects. She is to fight and annihilate these demons. This is the 'strength' aspect of shakti as mentioned in the Upanishad. Mother Kali is the power that guides and protects the devotee's spiritual practice from its many dangers and pitfalls.
Mother Kali represents the ferocious and destructive aspect of TIME.

In contrast with creative force in nature, this power is ever active disintegrating forms and structures. It drives heavenly bodies back into their nebulous state.

In the Kenopanishad, part three, (Yaksha Prashna), 12th Mantra, the Divine Mother is described as a woman wonderously fair, daughter of the snowy mountain Himavat, her name Hemavati or Uma.

She is the energy aspect of the Lord. Her other name is Durga. This cosmic energy or shakti is the omnipotent power of the Lord. We call her Durga, the Divine Mother.

Lower states of ignorance and egoism are typified by or personified as demons with such names as Dhumralochan, Chanda and Munda, which should be destroyed by the sudden burst of energy and rough handling. Dumralochan (the smoky-eyed, a person whose understanding is clouded by ignorance) stands for the grosser state of ignorance and egoism. Munda means the low. Munda is the low profile of our egoism. Chanda means fierce. Chanda is the more horrible and fierce side of it. Shumbha and Nishumbha signify more enlightened aspects of egoism. Shumbh means to shine.

Mahishasur stands for ignorance and stubborn egoism. Raktabij represents the more subtle states of desire which multiply endlessly to create more problems.

Navaratri (nine nights) - Durga

The nine days'  worship is divided into


three days of worship for each of the three goddesses-


1. Kali, the goddess of strength for protection and valor


2. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth


3. Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.

Three days are allotted to indicate the discipline and training to be practiced at the three levels of personality namely physical, mental and intellectual to achieve the goal set for each type of worship. The nine days of spiritual discipline and training are only symbolical. In actual practice, the time required to achieve such discipline will run into many months if not a few years.

Vijaydashmi

The tenth day, Vijaydashmi, is the day of victory, representing the day of enlightenment when all vasanas are destroyed and the knowledge of the Self has dawned in the individual. The individual is said to have attained God-realisation. The triumph of having moved from the ignorant state of JIVAHOOD (embodied soul) to the enlightened state of SHIVAHOOD. This day marks the triumph of spirit over matter, of victory of divine qualities over evil qualities, of the removal of ignorance by the light of wisdom and knowledge.

The victory of Durga is the triumph of the aggressive good over evil, the destruction of vasanas / subtle impressions, desires, and the realisation of the divine Self.

In modern language, Saraswati represents pure science and Lakshmi represents applied science. Thus Lakshmi flows from Saraswati. First comes the worship of Saraswati through scientific research and then acquisition, assimilation and distribution of knowledge. This is followed by the worship of Lakshmi through the application of knowledge in all fields of human development and welfare.

The Legend

The goddess Durga was created by the three gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara - for overpowering the demons. A fierce light came out of the mouths of the three gods. All that light united and became one. It was a huge mount of light , throwing flames on all sides. That united light grew into a female form known as Durga - Mahamaya. Siva gave her a trident like his own. Vishnu gave her a counterpart of his own chakra. Varuna gave the conch, Agni gave the missile named shakti. Vayu gave bow and arrow, Indra gave vraj and bell. Yama gave danda and the sea gave the noose. Brahma gave rudraksh beads and the ascetics gave water pot. Vishwakarma gave her weapons of sorts and powerful amulets. The Himalayas gave her a lion to ride upon. Thus armed and adorned, the goddess sent forth a loud cry that filled all space, and the echo reverberated with terrible noise, striking terror all round.

The demons sent their most powerful representative Mahishasur in the form of a buffalo to fight Durga. The buffalo represents the lower animal instincts in human beings in an aggressive form. The goddess represents the higher, nobler tendencies also in an aggressive form - the form of Durga.

The Demons

The 16th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is entitled "The yoga of the division between the divine and the demoniacal". Ch.16-Verse 4, The Lord says:

"Hypocrisy,arrogance, self-conceit, anger, and also harshness and ignorance, belong to one who is born in a demoniacal state".

Ch.16-Verse 7.-"The demoniacal know not what to do and what to refrain from; neither purity nor right conduct nor truth is found in them".

Ch.16, Verse 8. - "They say: 'this universe is without truth,
without a moral basis, without a God, brought about by a mutual union with lust for its cause, what else?'

Ch.16,Verse 11.-"Giving themselves over to immeasurable cares ending only with death, regarding gratification of lust as their highest aim, and feeling sure that that is all".

Ch.16,Verse 12. - "Bound by a hundred ties of hope, given over to lust and anger, they try to obtain by unlawful means hoards of wealth for sensual enjoyment".

Ch.16,Verse 17.- "Self-conceited, stubborn, filled with the pride and intoxication of wealth, they perform sacrifices (to deceive the world and not out of faith and sincerity) out of ostentation, contrary to scriptural ordinances.

Ch.16-Verse18.- "Given over to egoism, power, haughtiness, lust and anger, these malicious people hate Me in their own bodies and those of others".

"Triple is the gate of this hell"

Ch.16,Verse 21- "Triple is the gate of this hell, destructive of the self-
Lust. Anger and Greed- therefore one should abandon these three".

Ch.16,Verse 22.- "A man who is liberated from these three gates to darkness, practises what is good for him and thus goes to the Supreme goal".

(When these gates to hell are abandoned, the path to salvation is cleared for the aspirant. He gets the company of sages, which leads to liberation. He receives spiritual instructions and practises them. He hears the scriptures, reflects, meditates and attains self-realisation).

Ch. 16, Verse 23.- "He who, having cast aside the ordinances of the scriptures, acts under the impulse of desire, attains neither perfection nor happiness nor the supreme goal".

Gita Ch.16, Verse 24.- "Therefore let the scripture be the authority in determining what ought to be done and what ought not to be done".

('He who desires the welfare of the Self should not disregard the commands of the sacred scriptures. A man who is anxious to attain eternal bliss should respect the Vedas, and the Smritis, which lay down the codes of right conduct. He should readily renounce whatever the scriptures ask him to abandon, and accept whatever he is directed to accept. Treat the scriptures with great respect'.) - Swami Shivananda, Divine Life Society, Rishikesh.

Durga - The sole refuge of men when attacked by robbers


From the MahabharataVirata Parva, Section VI:
Translated by sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

"And while Yudhishthira was on his way to the delightful city of Virata, he began to praise mentally the Divine Durga, the Supreme Goddess of the Universe, the giver of prosperity, the enhancer of the glory of the worshipper's family, and the destroyer of Asuras. Divine Durga always rescues the worshipper sunk in sin, like a cow in the mire, who in the hours of distress calls upon that eternal giver of blessings for relieving him of their burdens.

O Thou that has slain the Mahishasura, that Thou art praised and worshipped by the gods for the protection of the three worlds. Thou art the great Kali, capable of going everywhere at will, and bestowing boons on Thy devotees, Thou art ever followed by Brahma and the other gods. By them that call upon Thee for the relief of their burdens, and by them also that bow to Thee at daybreak on earth, there is nothing that cannot be attained in respect either of offspring or wealth. And because you rescue people from difficulties when they are afflicted in the wilderness or sinking in the great ocean, it is for this that Thou art called DURGA by all. Thou art the sole refuge of men when attacked by robbers or while afflicted in crossing streams and seas or in wilderness and forests. Those men that remember thee are never prostrated, O great Goddess.

Thou art Fame, Thou art Prosperity, Thou art Steadiness, Thou art Success; Thou art the Wife, Thou art men's Offspring, Thou art Knowledge, and Thou art the Intellect. Thou art Beauty, Forgiveness, Mercy and every other thing. You dispel, worshipped by your devotees their fetters, ignorance, loss of children and loss of wealth, disease, death and fear. And they in the world who will recite the Mother's attributes and achievements will be freed from their sins. And they who will invoke Her in exile or in the city, in the midst of battle or of dangers from foes, in forests or in inaccessible deserts, in seas or in mountain fastnesses, there is nothing that they will not obtain in this world".

___________________________________

Hymn to Durga


Uttered by Arjuna on the eve of the battle of
Kurukshetrabetween Pandavas and Kauravas

The Mahabharata

Bhishma Parva


Section XXIII Bhagavad Gita Parva

Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Addressing Dhritarashtra

Sanjaya said: Beholding the Dhartarashtra (Kaurava) army approach for fight, Krishna said these words for Arjuna’s benefit.

The holy one (Krishna) said: Cleansing thyself, O mighty armed one, utter on the eve of the battle thy hymn to Durga for (compassing) the defeat of the foe.

Sanjaya continued: Thus addressed on the eve of the battle by Vasudeva (Krishna) endued with great intelligence, Pritha’s son Arjuna, alighting from his car (chariot), said the following hymn with joined hands.

Arjuna said: I bow to thee, O leader of Yogins, O thou that art identical with Brahman, O thou that dwellest in the forest of Mandara, O thou that are freed from decrepitude and decay, O Kali, O wife of Kapala, O thou that art of a black and tawny hue. I bow to thee O bringer of benefits to thy devotees, I bow to thee, O Mahakali, O wife of the universal destroyer, I bow to thee, O proud one, O thou that rescuest from dangers, O thou that art endued with every auspicious attribute.

O thou that art sprung from the Kata race, O thou that deservest the most regardful worship, O fierce one, O giver of victory, O victory’s self, O thou that bearest a banner of peacock plumes, O thou that art decked with every ornament, O thou that bearest an awful spear, O thou that holdest a sword and shield.

O thou that art the younger sister of the chief of cowherds, O eldest one, O thou that wert born in the race of the cowherd Nanda! O thou that art always fond of buffalo’s blood, O thou that wert born in the race of Kusika, O thou that art dressed in yellow robes, O thou that hadst devoured Asuras assuming the face of a wolf, I bow to thee that art fond of battle!

O Uma, O Sakambhari, O thou that art white in hue, O thou that art black in hue, O thou that hast slain the Asura Kaitabha, O thou that art yellow eyed, O thou that art diverse-eyed, O thou of eyes that have the colour of smoke, I bow to thee.

O thou that art the Vedas, the Srutis, and the highest virtue, O thou that art propitious to Brahmanas engaged in sacrifice, O thou that hast a knowledge of the past, thou that art ever present in the sacred abodes erected to thee in cities of Jamvudwipa, I bow to thee. Thou art the science of Brahma among sciences, and thou that art that sleep of creatures from which there is no waking.

O mother of Skanda, O thou that possessest the six (highest) attributes, O Durga, O thou that dwellest in accessible regions, thou art described as Swaha, and Swadha, as Kala, as Kashtha, and as Saraswati, as Savitra the mother of the Vedas, and as the science of Vedanta.

[Note: Both Swaha and Swadha are Mantras of high efficacy. Kala and Kashtha are divisions of time. Saraswati implies speech.]

With inner soul cleansed, I praise thee, O great goddess, let victory always attend me through thy grace on the field of battle. In inaccessible regions, where there is fear, in places of difficulty, in the abodes of thy worshippers, and in the nether regions (Patala), thou always dwellest. Thou always defeatest the danavas. Thou art the unconsciousness, the sleep, the illusion, the modesty, the beauty of all creatures.

Thou art the twilight, thou art the day, thou art Savitri, and thou art the mother. Thou art contentment, thou art growth, thou art light. It is thou that supportest the Sun and the Moon and that makes them shine. Thou art the prosperity of those that are prosperous. The Siddhas and Charanas behold thee in contemplation.

Sanjaya continued: Understanding (the measure of) Partha’s (Arjuna’s) devotion, Durga who is always graciously inclined towards mankind, appeared in the firmament and in the presence of Govinda (Krishna), said these words:

The goddess said: Within a short time thou shalt conquer thy foes, O Pandava. O invincible one, thou hast Narayana (again) for aiding thee. Thou art incapable of being defeated by foes, even by the wielder of the thunderbolt himself.

Sanjaya continued: Having said this, the boon-giving goddess disappeared soon. The son of Kunti, however, obtaining that boon, regarded himself as successful, and the son of Pritha then mounted his own excellent car. And then Krishna and Arjuna, seated on the same car (chariot), blew their celestial conches.

The man that recites this hymn rising at dawn, has no fear any time from Yakshas, Rakshasas, and Pisachas. He can have no enemies; he has no fear from snakes and all animals that have fangs and teeth, and also from kings. He is sure to be victorious in all disputes, and if bound, he is freed from his bonds. He is sure to get over all difficulties, is freed from thieves, is ever victorious in battle and wins the goddess of prosperity forever. With health and strength, he lives for a hundred years.

I have known all this through the grace of Vyasa endued with great wisdom. Thy wicked sons, however, all entangled in the meshes of death, do not, from ignorance, know them to be Nara and Narayana. Nor do they, entangled in the meshes of death, do not, from ignorance, know that the hour of this kingdom has arrived. Dwaipayana and Narada, and Kanwa, and the sinless Rama, had all prevented thy son. But he did not accept their words. There where righteousness is, there are glory and beauty. There where modesty is, there are prosperity and intelligence. There where righteousness is, there is Krishna; and there where Krishna is, there is victory.

___________________________________

Durga Saptashati

The Devisukta of the Rig Veda

Explanations based upon the writings of
Shree Devadatta Kali

Devisukta is a hymn of eight verses found in the most ancient Hindu sacred text, the Rig Veda (in the 10th mandala)

The Devisukta (RV 10.125) declares that the Goddess is the power expressed through all the gods, that they are united in her who shines with consciousness, that her presence is all-pervading, that she supports all of creation, that she is the source of righteousness and the revealer of truth, that she is the source of all worlds, yet that she shines transcendent beyond them. Among Shaktas this Vedic hymn is held in high esteem and is considered to be the source from which the entire Chandi sprang. Later, the Chandi itself was elaborated upon in the Puranas and Tantras.

The Chandi goes by two other names. The most common and widely recognized is Devimahatmya [The Glory of the Goddess]. The other is Sri Durga Saptashati [Seven Hundred Verses to Sri Durga]

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Durga Festival and Navratri

 

Explanations based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda, Rishikesh

The Durga Festival/ Vijaydashmi/ Navratri represent the triumph of righteousness over evil. Such an outcome presupposes and embodies qualities that are essential for victory in this eternal battle between good and evil. But first  what is the  legendary setting of Navratri.

What is Navratri

Navratri, Navaratri or Navaratra is a Hindu festival of worship and dance. The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit; Nava - Nine and Ratri - nights. The following 9 forms of godesses are worshipped during these nine days: Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba or Jagadamba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika or Chandi, Lalita, and Bhavani. The festival is celebrated for nine nights twice every year during mid-March and the beginning of October, although as the dates of the festival are determined according to the Hindu lunar calendar, the festival may be held for a day more or a day less depending on the calendar.

Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses. On the first three days, the goddess is invoked as a powerful spiritual force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. During the next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the consort of Brahma as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.

Gujaratis perform their traditional dances Garba & Dandiya-Raas during Navratri. The women-folk dance in a circle, singing 'Garbas' or traditional songs. Dandiya-Raas is played with wooden sticks (dandiyas). Apart from Gujrat, Garbas are performed in other states & cities like Mumbai. Beautifully decorated 'mandaps' are set up for playing garba & dandiya by various cultural societies, housing commitees & youth social groups. Young men-women wear colourful traditional dresses and play Garba with great enthusiasm.The mood of Navratri is very colourful & unique. In various parts of India,the Ram-Leela is performed during Navratri. Ram-Leela is a stage enaction of Ramayana,the story of Lord Rama.

The tenth day, also known as Vijaya Dasami (day of Victory over evils), Dussehra is significant to launch new activities or beginning of learning. It signifies the good winning over the evil. It is believed that on this day, Lord Rama had killed the demon Ravana. So, on Dassera, effigies of Ravana are burnt all over India.

 

During Navratri, some devotees of Durga observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. A period of introspection and purification, Navratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures.

On the tenth day of October, Navratri, the holiday of Dussehra, an effigy of Ravana is burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil.

Navratri is also significant in a large part of indian homes, for the nine nights of the mother goddess who appears in 9 forms, each one being worshipped for a day. The nine forms signify various traits that the goddess influences us with. The Devi Mahatmya and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are cited.

Depending on the region of the country, there are different episodes from the epics which are chosen as being representative ofthe culminating act of victory over evil

 

The Keno Upanishad, part three, known as Yaksha Prasna says:
"The supreme power of God is manifested as Knowledge, Activity and Strength".

The Bhagavad Gita describes the same in different words.
Ch14,Verse 5."Purity, passion and inertia- these qualities, born of nature, bind fast in the body".

These three qualities are known as guNAs - Sattva- Rajas and Tamas.

Each of these three guNAs is represented by a colour. Sattva is white (colour of purity). Sattva is represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Saraswati. Saraswati wears white. Sattva binds by attachment to happiness and knowledge. Sattva is luminous and healthy.
(Gita Ch.14-Verse 6.)

The colour of Rajas is red, represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Lakshmi. She wears red. Rajas is of the nature of activity, passion and ambition, the source of thirst for physical enjoyment. Rajas binds one by attachment to action.

 
-(Gita Ch.14. Verse 7.)

The Rajasic person runs after power, position, name, fame and comforts, and involves himself in endless activities to acquire material wealth.

When we worship goddess Lakshmi for spiritual wealth, she bestows on her devotees the inexhaustible divine wealth or Daivi Sampat (which is described in the Gita, Ch.16, Verses 1,2 and 3). Divine wealth or the wealth of 26 divine qualities, brings with it material prosperity as well.
[ Visit page Daivi Sampat - Divine Wealth

Tamas is black, represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as goddess Kali. She is sometimes depicted in dark blue.

Tamas is born of ignorance, deluding all embodied beings. Tamas binds fast in heedlessness, sleep, indolence, laziness (Gita Ch.14 Verse 8). Tamas is that binding force with a tendency to lethargy (lack of energy, vitality), sloth and foolish actions. It causes non-discrimination or delusion. It binds one who associates the Self with the body. A tamasic person acts under the compulsion of the body. He has no power of judgment. His actions are not guided by reasons. His senses are dull.

These are all baser animal qualities, the lower diabolical nature in man.We pray to mother Kali, as Durga the terrible, as supreme power and force, to destroy all our impurities, our vices, our defects. She is to fight and annihilate these demons. This is the 'strength' aspect of shakti as mentioned in the Upanishad. Mother Kali is the power that guides and protects the devotee's spiritual practice from its many dangers and pitfalls.
Mother Kali represents the ferocious and destructive aspect of TIME.

In contrast with creative force in nature, this power is ever active disintegrating forms and structures. It drives heavenly bodies back into their nebulous state.

In the Kenopanishad, part three, (Yaksha Prashna), 12th Mantra, the Divine Mother is described as a woman wonderously fair, daughter of the snowy mountain Himavat, her name Hemavati or Uma.

She is the energy aspect of the Lord. Her other name is Durga. This cosmic energy or shakti is the omnipotent power of the Lord. We call her Durga, the Divine Mother.

Lower states of ignorance and egoism are typified by or personified as demons with such names as Dhumralochan, Chanda and Munda, which should be destroyed by the sudden burst of energy and rough handling. Dumralochan (the smoky-eyed, a person whose understanding is clouded by ignorance) stands for the grosser state of ignorance and egoism. Munda means the low. Munda is the low profile of our egoism. Chanda means fierce. Chanda is the more horrible and fierce side of it. Shumbha and Nishumbha signify more enlightened aspects of egoism. Shumbh means to shine.

Mahishasur stands for ignorance and stubborn egoism. Raktabij represents the more subtle states of desire which multiply endlessly to create more problems.

Navaratri (nine nights) - Durga

The nine days'  worship is divided into


three days of worship for each of the three goddesses-


1. Kali, the goddess of strength for protection and valor


2. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth


3. Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.

Three days are allotted to indicate the discipline and training to be practiced at the three levels of personality namely physical, mental and intellectual to achieve the goal set for each type of worship. The nine days of spiritual discipline and training are only symbolical. In actual practice, the time required to achieve such discipline will run into many months if not a few years.

Vijaydashmi

The tenth day, Vijaydashmi, is the day of victory, representing the day of enlightenment when all vasanas are destroyed and the knowledge of the Self has dawned in the individual. The individual is said to have attained God-realisation. The triumph of having moved from the ignorant state of JIVAHOOD (embodied soul) to the enlightened state of SHIVAHOOD. This day marks the triumph of spirit over matter, of victory of divine qualities over evil qualities, of the removal of ignorance by the light of wisdom and knowledge.

The victory of Durga is the triumph of the aggressive good over evil, the destruction of vasanas / subtle impressions, desires, and the realisation of the divine Self.

In modern language, Saraswati represents pure science and Lakshmi represents applied science. Thus Lakshmi flows from Saraswati. First comes the worship of Saraswati through scientific research and then acquisition, assimilation and distribution of knowledge. This is followed by the worship of Lakshmi through the application of knowledge in all fields of human development and welfare.

The Legend

The goddess Durga was created by the three gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara - for overpowering the demons. A fierce light came out of the mouths of the three gods. All that light united and became one. It was a huge mount of light , throwing flames on all sides. That united light grew into a female form known as Durga - Mahamaya. Siva gave her a trident like his own. Vishnu gave her a counterpart of his own chakra. Varuna gave the conch, Agni gave the missile named shakti. Vayu gave bow and arrow, Indra gave vraj and bell. Yama gave danda and the sea gave the noose. Brahma gave rudraksh beads and the ascetics gave water pot. Vishwakarma gave her weapons of sorts and powerful amulets. The Himalayas gave her a lion to ride upon. Thus armed and adorned, the goddess sent forth a loud cry that filled all space, and the echo reverberated with terrible noise, striking terror all round.

The demons sent their most powerful representative Mahishasur in the form of a buffalo to fight Durga. The buffalo represents the lower animal instincts in human beings in an aggressive form. The goddess represents the higher, nobler tendencies also in an aggressive form - the form of Durga.

The Demons

The 16th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is entitled "The yoga of the division between the divine and the demoniacal". Ch.16-Verse 4, The Lord says:

"Hypocrisy,arrogance, self-conceit, anger, and also harshness and ignorance, belong to one who is born in a demoniacal state".

Ch.16-Verse 7.-"The demoniacal know not what to do and what to refrain from; neither purity nor right conduct nor truth is found in them".

Ch.16, Verse 8. - "They say: 'this universe is without truth,
without a moral basis, without a God, brought about by a mutual union with lust for its cause, what else?'

Ch.16,Verse 11.-"Giving themselves over to immeasurable cares ending only with death, regarding gratification of lust as their highest aim, and feeling sure that that is all".

Ch.16,Verse 12. - "Bound by a hundred ties of hope, given over to lust and anger, they try to obtain by unlawful means hoards of wealth for sensual enjoyment".

Ch.16,Verse 17.- "Self-conceited, stubborn, filled with the pride and intoxication of wealth, they perform sacrifices (to deceive the world and not out of faith and sincerity) out of ostentation, contrary to scriptural ordinances.

Ch.16-Verse18.- "Given over to egoism, power, haughtiness, lust and anger, these malicious people hate Me in their own bodies and those of others".

"Triple is the gate of this hell"

Ch.16,Verse 21- "Triple is the gate of this hell, destructive of the self-
Lust. Anger and Greed- therefore one should abandon these three".

Ch.16,Verse 22.- "A man who is liberated from these three gates to darkness, practises what is good for him and thus goes to the Supreme goal".

(When these gates to hell are abandoned, the path to salvation is cleared for the aspirant. He gets the company of sages, which leads to liberation. He receives spiritual instructions and practises them. He hears the scriptures, reflects, meditates and attains self-realisation).

Ch. 16, Verse 23.- "He who, having cast aside the ordinances of the scriptures, acts under the impulse of desire, attains neither perfection nor happiness nor the supreme goal".

Gita Ch.16, Verse 24.- "Therefore let the scripture be the authority in determining what ought to be done and what ought not to be done".

('He who desires the welfare of the Self should not disregard the commands of the sacred scriptures. A man who is anxious to attain eternal bliss should respect the Vedas, and the Smritis, which lay down the codes of right conduct. He should readily renounce whatever the scriptures ask him to abandon, and accept whatever he is directed to accept. Treat the scriptures with great respect'.) - Swami Shivananda, Divine Life Society, Rishikesh.

Durga - The sole refuge of men when attacked by robbers


From the MahabharataVirata Parva, Section VI:
Translated by sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

"And while Yudhishthira was on his way to the delightful city of Virata, he began to praise mentally the Divine Durga, the Supreme Goddess of the Universe, the giver of prosperity, the enhancer of the glory of the worshipper's family, and the destroyer of Asuras. Divine Durga always rescues the worshipper sunk in sin, like a cow in the mire, who in the hours of distress calls upon that eternal giver of blessings for relieving him of their burdens.

O Thou that has slain the Mahishasura, that Thou art praised and worshipped by the gods for the protection of the three worlds. Thou art the great Kali, capable of going everywhere at will, and bestowing boons on Thy devotees, Thou art ever followed by Brahma and the other gods. By them that call upon Thee for the relief of their burdens, and by them also that bow to Thee at daybreak on earth, there is nothing that cannot be attained in respect either of offspring or wealth. And because you rescue people from difficulties when they are afflicted in the wilderness or sinking in the great ocean, it is for this that Thou art called DURGA by all. Thou art the sole refuge of men when attacked by robbers or while afflicted in crossing streams and seas or in wilderness and forests. Those men that remember thee are never prostrated, O great Goddess.

Thou art Fame, Thou art Prosperity, Thou art Steadiness, Thou art Success; Thou art the Wife, Thou art men's Offspring, Thou art Knowledge, and Thou art the Intellect. Thou art Beauty, Forgiveness, Mercy and every other thing. You dispel, worshipped by your devotees their fetters, ignorance, loss of children and loss of wealth, disease, death and fear. And they in the world who will recite the Mother's attributes and achievements will be freed from their sins. And they who will invoke Her in exile or in the city, in the midst of battle or of dangers from foes, in forests or in inaccessible deserts, in seas or in mountain fastnesses, there is nothing that they will not obtain in this world".

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Hymn to Durga


Uttered by Arjuna on the eve of the battle of
Kurukshetrabetween Pandavas and Kauravas

The Mahabharata

Bhishma Parva


Section XXIII Bhagavad Gita Parva

Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Addressing Dhritarashtra

Sanjaya said: Beholding the Dhartarashtra (Kaurava) army approach for fight, Krishna said these words for Arjuna’s benefit.

The holy one (Krishna) said: Cleansing thyself, O mighty armed one, utter on the eve of the battle thy hymn to Durga for (compassing) the defeat of the foe.

Sanjaya continued: Thus addressed on the eve of the battle by Vasudeva (Krishna) endued with great intelligence, Pritha’s son Arjuna, alighting from his car (chariot), said the following hymn with joined hands.

Arjuna said: I bow to thee, O leader of Yogins, O thou that art identical with Brahman, O thou that dwellest in the forest of Mandara, O thou that are freed from decrepitude and decay, O Kali, O wife of Kapala, O thou that art of a black and tawny hue. I bow to thee O bringer of benefits to thy devotees, I bow to thee, O Mahakali, O wife of the universal destroyer, I bow to thee, O proud one, O thou that rescuest from dangers, O thou that art endued with every auspicious attribute.

O thou that art sprung from the Kata race, O thou that deservest the most regardful worship, O fierce one, O giver of victory, O victory’s self, O thou that bearest a banner of peacock plumes, O thou that art decked with every ornament, O thou that bearest an awful spear, O thou that holdest a sword and shield.

O thou that art the younger sister of the chief of cowherds, O eldest one, O thou that wert born in the race of the cowherd Nanda! O thou that art always fond of buffalo’s blood, O thou that wert born in the race of Kusika, O thou that art dressed in yellow robes, O thou that hadst devoured Asuras assuming the face of a wolf, I bow to thee that art fond of battle!

O Uma, O Sakambhari, O thou that art white in hue, O thou that art black in hue, O thou that hast slain the Asura Kaitabha, O thou that art yellow eyed, O thou that art diverse-eyed, O thou of eyes that have the colour of smoke, I bow to thee.

O thou that art the Vedas, the Srutis, and the highest virtue, O thou that art propitious to Brahmanas engaged in sacrifice, O thou that hast a knowledge of the past, thou that art ever present in the sacred abodes erected to thee in cities of Jamvudwipa, I bow to thee. Thou art the science of Brahma among sciences, and thou that art that sleep of creatures from which there is no waking.

O mother of Skanda, O thou that possessest the six (highest) attributes, O Durga, O thou that dwellest in accessible regions, thou art described as Swaha, and Swadha, as Kala, as Kashtha, and as Saraswati, as Savitra the mother of the Vedas, and as the science of Vedanta.

[Note: Both Swaha and Swadha are Mantras of high efficacy. Kala and Kashtha are divisions of time. Saraswati implies speech.]

With inner soul cleansed, I praise thee, O great goddess, let victory always attend me through thy grace on the field of battle. In inaccessible regions, where there is fear, in places of difficulty, in the abodes of thy worshippers, and in the nether regions (Patala), thou always dwellest. Thou always defeatest the danavas. Thou art the unconsciousness, the sleep, the illusion, the modesty, the beauty of all creatures.

Thou art the twilight, thou art the day, thou art Savitri, and thou art the mother. Thou art contentment, thou art growth, thou art light. It is thou that supportest the Sun and the Moon and that makes them shine. Thou art the prosperity of those that are prosperous. The Siddhas and Charanas behold thee in contemplation.

Sanjaya continued: Understanding (the measure of) Partha’s (Arjuna’s) devotion, Durga who is always graciously inclined towards mankind, appeared in the firmament and in the presence of Govinda (Krishna), said these words:

The goddess said: Within a short time thou shalt conquer thy foes, O Pandava. O invincible one, thou hast Narayana (again) for aiding thee. Thou art incapable of being defeated by foes, even by the wielder of the thunderbolt himself.

Sanjaya continued: Having said this, the boon-giving goddess disappeared soon. The son of Kunti, however, obtaining that boon, regarded himself as successful, and the son of Pritha then mounted his own excellent car. And then Krishna and Arjuna, seated on the same car (chariot), blew their celestial conches.

The man that recites this hymn rising at dawn, has no fear any time from Yakshas, Rakshasas, and Pisachas. He can have no enemies; he has no fear from snakes and all animals that have fangs and teeth, and also from kings. He is sure to be victorious in all disputes, and if bound, he is freed from his bonds. He is sure to get over all difficulties, is freed from thieves, is ever victorious in battle and wins the goddess of prosperity forever. With health and strength, he lives for a hundred years.

I have known all this through the grace of Vyasa endued with great wisdom. Thy wicked sons, however, all entangled in the meshes of death, do not, from ignorance, know them to be Nara and Narayana. Nor do they, entangled in the meshes of death, do not, from ignorance, know that the hour of this kingdom has arrived. Dwaipayana and Narada, and Kanwa, and the sinless Rama, had all prevented thy son. But he did not accept their words. There where righteousness is, there are glory and beauty. There where modesty is, there are prosperity and intelligence. There where righteousness is, there is Krishna; and there where Krishna is, there is victory.

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Durga Saptashati

The Devisukta of the Rig Veda

Explanations based upon the writings of
Shree Devadatta Kali

Devisukta is a hymn of eight verses found in the most ancient Hindu sacred text, the Rig Veda (in the 10th mandala)

The Devisukta (RV 10.125) declares that the Goddess is the power expressed through all the gods, that they are united in her who shines with consciousness, that her presence is all-pervading, that she supports all of creation, that she is the source of righteousness and the revealer of truth, that she is the source of all worlds, yet that she shines transcendent beyond them. Among Shaktas this Vedic hymn is held in high esteem and is considered to be the source from which the entire Chandi sprang. Later, the Chandi itself was elaborated upon in the Puranas and Tantras.

The Chandi goes by two other names. The most common and widely recognized is Devimahatmya [The Glory of the Goddess]. The other is Sri Durga Saptashati [Seven Hundred Verses to Sri Durga]

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