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Other Forms Of Shakti: Kali - Durga

 

"She, the cosmic strength of the universe, the dominate mother of all, para-sakti, by nine forms and 7 incarnates of the gods, there is no force stronger than her."

 

She is the Shakti or energy of the Universe, the power of the cosmic world, which envelops the three lokas (worlds). The powerful god Shiva sings her praises and she pervades the thoughts of Brahma and Vishnu. She is said to be the creative aspect of Divinity, the power through which creation commences. She is the active female principle Prakriti, in union with the soul of the Universe, Purusa, manifested as one of the forms of the consort of Shiva - Parvati, Sati, Uma, Kali, Durga, Chandi, Gauri, Annapoorna.

Even Shiva, the ever-protective spouse, was breathless with fear when Sati revealed her several forms. She wished to return to her father's house, but Shiva, fearing for her, forbade her to go. Sati declared that she was the Mother of Creation and even Shiva had no right over her, and to Shiva's bewilderment he saw her first as Kanya, the gentle one; Shitala, the goddess of disease; Gauri, the earth mother; the fearsome Kali and Durga, the killer of demons, and he realized her strength and bowed to her wishes. Shiva himself proclaims that without Shakti he is unable to create or destroy and that he is himself inert like a corpse. Shakti is the all-powerful concept of the Mother Goddess, Devi, and her worship forms a very important part of Indian history and civilization.

All ancient civilizations had the mother goddess as an all-powerful concept. In India the worship of the Mother Goddess is seen first in the 5th - 6th century BC in images recovered from Mehrangarh, now in Baluchistan, even prior to the Indus Valley Civilisation. These figures were hand-modeled, mostly in clay and were obviously installed in all households to ward off evil and ill health. The life-giving mother image has always been associated with good luck and prosperity, and since survival depended on the bounties of Nature and the elements, the Earth was conceived as the Mother - Dharti Mata (Mother Earth).

The earth became her body and the mountains, rivers and valleys represented her physical features. Vegetation was her adornment and when angry with her children, the Mother with held her bounty by drying up rivers and causing famine in the land. To circumvent her fickle nature, she had to be humored and propitiated and thus all her aspects were to be worshipped.


Within the vast bosom of Dharti Mata were created her other incarnations the river goddesses Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati, all receiving their energy from the Supreme Goddess Mahadevi, who encompasses all the regional devis, including the ones in the broader Hindu pantheon. Thus Parvati was the child of the Mountains, Sita the child of the Earth and Lakshmi the daughter of the Ocean.

Fertility and life were associated with the Mother, so all forces of creation and the agricultural deities had naturally to be accepted as female. Since grain gathering, an important activity of the primarily agricultural Dravidians, was essentially a female domain, the female deities flourished. And the Mother was especially benevolent towards women, listening to their prayers and entreaties for the welfare of their husbands and children. The concept of the Divine Spirit as Mother was basic and could be comprehended by the simplest of minds. Human beings could please her with simple offerings and prayers. She could be invoked for specific afflictions such as disease or barrenness. One fasts on specific days for the longevity and good health of one's spouse.

The coming of the Aryans, with their emphasis of vigour and masculinity, brought with it the Brahminical religion. Indra, Agni, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, were the gods who guided the destinies of the world. They were the archetypal Aryans, the role models for the conquering race. And yet, try as they might, the preachers of the new religion could not relegate the primordial beliefs in the Mother Goddess to the background. Not wishing to forego their influence on a large part of the population, they decided that wisdom lay in inculcating the Devi cult into the folds of the Brahminical beliefs. They saw the advantage of a 'marriage' between the gods and the ever-powerful Devi, thus effectively subjugating the female to the male principle.

Consequently, all the gods acquired consorts who were said to be incarnations of the Mahadevi. But to the masses, the Mother was still the Protector and the bestower of favors. The female deities came to be envisaged as the active and productive principle while the male gods were seen as passive and otherworldly. Their transcendence made them remote and too distant to concern themselves with daily existence. It was the Devi who was approachable and who could carry the messages of ordinary mortals to the gods - Parvati beseeches her husband to give up his meditation and attend to the prayers of his devotees. She can be worshipped in many forms - fierce as Durga and Kali or gentle and loving as Sita and Parvati.

Since creation was the prime activity of the Supreme Being, the male and female aspects came together as the Linga and yoni, seen in the worship of Shiva. This embodies the union of the soul of the Universe, Purusa, with the primordial essence, Prakriti, representing nature.

Prakriti is the cosmic energy, which manifests itself in the evolution of Nature while Purusa is the transcendent and changeless Spirit. Prakriti or Shakti when worshipped alone, is depicted as fierce, imbibing the energies of the gods to protect her devotees, but when worshipped with her consorts, she is seen as the peacemaker, gentle and amiable, in fact, the Mother Goddess embodies paradox - she is gentle and fierce, beautiful and ugly, erotic and chaste.

Devi rules every aspect of life and so is often worshipped in groups like the Saptamatrikas (Seven Mothers) or the Nav Durga (Nine Durgas), yet all these are manifestations of the Great Goddess, Mahadevi.

The seven Mother Goddess were created to vanquish the demon Andhakasura, who, besides his other evil deeds, once attempted to kidnap Parvati, Shiva's attempt to kill Andhakasura only resulted in several demons being born from each drop of his blood, which touched the earth. Shiva then created Yogeshwari, who prevented the blood from falling to the ground. Seven of the gods, Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara (Shiva), Kaumara (a form of Vishnu), Varaha, Indra and Yama (Death), created their own Shaktis and sent them to assist Yogeshwari, thus destroying the demon. These goddesses were the female forms of the gods and carried all the symbols associated with them as well as their names - Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheswari, Kaumari, Varahini, Indrani and Chaumunda.

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva may have reduced the power of the Devi as their consorts, but the two most powerful manifestations of the Mother Goddess - Durga and Kali - are still worshipped in their own right and form a cult of their own. In these incarnations the goddesses are not subservient to the gods and are themselves worshipped as the highest manifestation of the divine. The worship of Shakti is common among Tantric sects, which generally have rituals embodying the fierce aspects of the female deities.

Whatever name she goes by and irrespective of her manifestations, she is the source of all things, the Universal Creation, "the form of Immensity". Combining both strength and gentleness, she stands at the very heart of creation and of Being. She is the enricher of mankind and the giver of supreme bliss. 

 

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