Not that there has been any doubt about the entity we all call Goddess Durga, she is One, she is unique and she is a permanent presence in our culture. A country such as India has numerous occasions when we worship our deities and Gods, but there is a very special place that this particular Goddess has in our hearts. She is unrivalled in the celebration of her incarnation on Earth, whether you worship her in totality or a part of her persona, for there are many facets to the Goddess who goes by the name Duga/Durge.
The impersonation of Shakti for some, she is the prime example of Shakti, the Vedic equivalence of ‘power’. The cult which goes by the name ‘Shakti Cult’ holds her as the epitome of power that has ever incarnated on Earth. That she is female is a strange twist to the tale, as one would associate Shakti to Man, she stands in stark contrast to this generalisation, in the fact that she is woman. Here, Hinduism teaches us a very important lesson, a lesson that on Earth, women outdo men in strength. No! You’d say, but let us look at this picture from an angle where we do not wear our tainted glasses that looks at things as they appear to be rather then as they are, per se!
Who births us, and who holds our world as their own, even sacrificing their own needs? A man may dominate the fairer sex through mere brute force, but it is just that—brute force! Machines can now outdo men in all spheres of masculine prowess; does that make machines more powerful than men? No, surely not, for we run those machines. If we look at our world closely, we will see that men are but expressions of energy and the highest energy in the form of power lies with women, in everything they do. I have always had a suspicion that women let men believe in their superiority out of love for them, and we are the gullible ones who go around assuming that we rule the world! That is humour; seriously though, all faiths agree that the highest power is the power of love and women outdo us in all spheres regarding this one utmost expression of strength—their love.
Having said that, let us look at what Durga Puja means to us, here on the Earthly plain. For Devotees, it means that yet again, Durga manifests on Earth to strike evil at the root and for them, it is a moment where visiting the temple, offering and taking Prasad, observing the ritual fast, makes this a very special occasion for them. For school children, this is holiday time and I am sure they love Durga for the simple reason that they have fun roaming the various Pandals set up during the Puja days. She gives them smiles and in India, she is a reason for public holidays for all and sundry, whatever your job. For office goers and teachers, she is reason for celebration in the holidays that she gives them and for many, this is a time to buy new clothes and other things that they were planning to buy! For Artisans, this is a busy time when the statuettes they build are sold and they earn enough to sustain themselves for the hard days that follow. For businessmen, this is a very auspicious and a time of such fevered working that they don’t have time to count their blessings, blessings in the form of more business and more money. For sellers of clothes, and apparel, this is the best time of the year when everyone wants new clothes and whether it is designer clothes you are planning to buy or that shirt that you always had your eyes on, this is the august occasion of doing so! For the food and beverage industry, they thank the Goddess for the high demand their fare is part of for everyone wants to eat out, all of a sudden! Restaurants, Food Joints, Cafes, Bakeries, do brisk business and they secretly thank the Goddess too, with the fortune that they are blessed with!
Thus, we see that Durga is an expression of not just ‘power’ as I had stated in the start, but the power of joy, the power of celebration, the power that full tummies bring on the homeless and the hungry, the power of the children’s smiles, the power of the businessman’s plenty, the power of the overworked teacher getting a few days off, the power of goodwill and bonhomie.
This is how Durga slays Mahisasura every year, year upon year, and it is the way only a woman could have chosen! No war, no killing, no deviousness, just simple ‘love’. There are many who decry the occasion saying that it is a waste. There are a lot of things that Durga Puja is, but the silent answer to a lot of prayers makes this a moment worth celebrating!