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Durga Puja Essay

"The Ten Wisdom Goddesses: Mahavidyas and the Assertion of Femininity in Indian Thought"

There exists in India a group of strange Goddesses, ten in number. One of them is shown holding her own freshly severed head, which feeds on the blood flowing from her headless torso; another holds a pair of scissors while sitting triumphant atop a corpse; a third is depicted as an old and ugly widow riding a chariot decorated with the crow as an emblem. The series continues - an unusual assemblage to say the least.

The story behind their birth is equally interesting and paradoxically of a romantic origin. Once during their numerous love games, things got out of hand between Shiva and Parvati. What had started in jest turned into a serious matter with an incensed Shiva threatening to walk out on Parvati. No amount of coaxing or cajoling by Parvati could reverse matters. Left with no choice, Parvati multiplied herself into ten different forms for each of the ten directions. Thus however hard Shiva might try to escape from his beloved Parvati, he would find her standing as a guardian, guarding all escape routes.

Each of the Devi's manifested forms made Shiva realize essential truths, made him aware of the eternal nature of their mutual love and most significantly established for always in the cannons of Indian thought the Goddess's superiority over her male counterpart. Not that Shiva in any way felt belittled by this awareness, only spiritually awakened. This is true as much for this Great Lord as for us ordinary mortals. Befittingly thus they are referred to as the Great Goddess's of Wisdom, known in Sanskrit as the Mahavidyas (Maha - great; vidya - knowledge). Indeed in the process of spiritual learning the Goddess is the muse who guides and inspires us. She is the high priestess who unfolds the inner truths

The spectrum of these ten goddesses covers the whole range of feminine divinity, encompassing horrific goddess's at one end, to the ravishingly beautiful at the other. These Goddesses are:
1) Kali: the Eternal Night
2) Tara the Compassionate Goddess
3) Shodashi the Goddess who is Sixteen Years Old
4) Bhuvaneshvari the Creator of the World
5) Chinnamasta the Goddess who cuts off her Own Head
6) Bhairavi the Goddess of Decay
7) Dhumawati the Goddess who widows Herself
8) Bagalamukhi the Goddess who seizes the Tongue
9) Matangi the Goddess who Loves Pollution
10) Kamala the Last but Not the Least

Durga - The Slayer Of Mahishasura

Once upon a time there lived a demon (Asura) named Mahisha. He found great happiness in hurting people. Once, he decided to pray to lord Brahma, who he thought would give him a boon, which would make him invincible.

Mahisha performed severe penances praying and fasting for months as he stood on one foot. The three worlds trembled under the strength of his penances and a pleased lord Brahma came to give him a boon. Mahisha asked for immortality, which the lord said he could not have as every creature that was born had to die. Mahisha decided that he would ask for a boon that would make him as good as immortal. He asked that no man should be able to kill and, if he had to die it should be only at the hands of only a woman. He was sure that no woman could ever fight against him however strong she may be.

Now that Mahisha was invincible, he and the other asuras went about hurting and killing everyone on earth and then went on to the heavens to fight the Gods. Even Indra's thunderbolt could not withstand the asura attack. Mahisha drove out the Gods and took over Indra's throne. Mahishasura started harassing all pious people who continued praying to Vishnu or Shiva. The Gods and people were depressed and decided to ask lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma concentrated hard and used their radiant energies, which were joined by the energies from Indra, and the other Gods. This godly energy took the form of a divine lady with thousand arms. In each arm she carried a weapon belonging to all Gods. This was Durga Devi.

She mounted a fiery lion and roared. It was a roar that shook mountains and created huge waves in the seas. Even Mahisha was worried for a second, but his vanity took over when he saw that the terrible form was that of a woman. Durga created a large army from her breath to fight Mahisha's army and then fought with Mahisha who came in the form of a Buffalo. As he struggled to set himself from the Buffalo form she killed him with her sword delivering the earth and heavens of the Burden called Mahishasura.

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