Goddess Durga is one of the most important and impressive goddess in the entire Hindu pantheon. She is both a warrior goddess as well as epitome of motherhood. Unlike many of the goddess who are seen along with their male consorts, she stands by herself. Her very existence was for something that the male gods could not achieve, both individually and collectively.
Does this not make her a formidable entity? How is she different, if at all? After all she was created by the male gods and given a task to accomplish, so is she not abiding by the dictates of the male gods? So what makes her so different?
If we analyse closely Durga goes against all that a Hindu woman represents (please take note that here we are not talking of the woman of the 21st century, English speaking, blog-reading, urban educated woman, we are referring to the woman of the yester-ages – phew…..that was on time!). In majority of our mythologies, a woman is generally with a consort, derives succor from her male partner and is at the whims and mercy of the males around her (I will not be dragged into controversy by naming a few of the mythical female characters who personify such a state). A general impression of the females has been that of subjugation, surrender and those who live in the shadows of the male deity/partner.
But Durga is different. She is a woman in the male domain of activities. She is a warrior who fights a mighty demon who could not be vanquished by all the gods together. She is adept in the use of all arms and has the energy to wage a battle for nine days. Another aspect is the dwelling grounds of the goddess. She is the one who stays in mountains, a space which is generally kept outside the boundaries of the society or civilisation. The hard terrain, unlivable conditions of the mountains does not deter her. Sometimes she is the daughter of
Himalaya and sometimes she is the resident of Vindhyas (as Vidhyavasini), or as Ma Sherawali, all are mountainous abodes. She rides a lion or a tiger, both ferocious animals, on whom she has total control, again a shade far from feminine.
References of worshiping Durga is found in both Ramayana (Ram worshiping before his battle with Ravana) and in Mahabharata (first by Yudhishtira in Virata-parva and then by Arjuna in Bhisma-parva). In all the instances, it is to achieve victory in the impending war. This led to the practice of Kings later worshiping Durga as a goddess who aids achieving military success and is followed even today in some parts of the country where arms and weapons are worshiped as a part of the festival. There are references of Shivaji worshiping Ma Bhavani (a form of Durga) in History.
Some would say that a Mother is she who takes care of her children and saves them from all dangers (whatever they be), and that the role Durga has played is still within the larger domain of the feminine sphere of activities – as defined by the patriarchy!
Do you agree?