The spirit of Durga Puja transcends boundaries and can be felt in Singapore
10/10/2016 5:19:08 PM
|written By : Basabi Banerjee|
Come September, every Bengali’s pulse quickens in heightenedanticipation of Durga Puja, the most important religious festival in their calendar. Ma Durga, known by various other names, Chandi, Bhadrakali and Parvati among them, finds her most popular form in Mahishasuramardini, the invincible goddess who slays the demon that had wreaked havoc on heaven and earth, reducing the gods to a deplorable state of wretchedness. The Markandeya Purana tells of the gods pooling their powers to create a strikingly beautiful ten-armed goddess equipped with divine weapons. After engaging in a long and fearsome battle with Mahishasur, king of the demons, she drives her spear into his heart, restoring peace and order to a world on the brink of destruction.
It is through such stirring tales in the Devibhagavat and the Durgasaptashati that we come to an understanding of the symbolic significance of the Durga narrative, which is about cleansing the world of negativity, and, on a personal level, ridding ourselves of the dark qualities (tamo guna) of selfishness, greed and ignorance. Scholars have pointed out that since ‘Durga’ means ‘fort’, the goddess symbolically drives home the message that spiritual enhancement, though difficult to achieve when imprisoned in a material world, is worth a formidable internal struggle to free oneself of negative influences.
Ma Durga has many manifestations, each accompanied by a fascinating story, such as the one relating to the origin of Chamunda, the goddess Kali who emanated from Ma Durga’s forehead to vanquish the demons Chanda, Munda and Raktajiba. The terrifying sight of the blood flowing down her mouth brings to mind Raktajiba’s power to create a demon from every drop of blood he spilled in battle. Chamunda ensured that the demons’ army was not replenished with hundreds of fresh recruits, by drinking every drop of blood that flowed from Raktajiba’s battle-wracked body.
Worshipped in September/October every year, Ma Durga has both a terrifying and gentle aspect: the mighty slayer of Mahishasura, she is also the mother of the universe, looking to shower her devotees with love. As Shiva’s wife, Gaurie or Parvati, she descends from her heavenly abode with her divine children, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik, to visit her parental home. The sea of humanity that throngs the streets of Calcutta during Durga Puja are testament to the fresh energy and hope with which the goddess inspires her devotees.