Durga Puja And Its Mul­ti­ple Sto­ries

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Ecstasy Of Ideas - M N Kundu

Since the puja dates back to an­cient times and en­com­passes sev­eral stages of God-con­scious­ness of hu­man­ity from na­ture wor­ship to im­mer­sion in cos­mic con­scious­ness, di­verse sto­ries are as­so­ci­ated with it, with so­cio-eth­i­cal, mytho­log­i­cal and spir­i­tual con­tent. It is there­fore im­per­a­tive to view the puja from a holis­tic per­spec­tive.

The wide­spread be­lief on the oc­ca­sion is that it de­notes vic­tory of good over evil. Devi Durga as man­i­fes­ta­tion of the cos­mic power prin­ci­ple cov­ers power of will, ac­tion and knowl­edge of en­tire cre­ation in which good and evil are two op­po­sites in the stu­pen­dous drama of cre­ation. Yet, the ab­so­lute supremacy of Spirit over mus­cle-power needs re­as­sur­ance from time to time, for a much needed so­cio-eth­i­cal les­son.

The well-known episode of Devi Ma­hat­myam in Markandeya Pu­rana, of killing demons like Mahisha­sura in fierce bat­tles by the god­dess, and minute de­scrip­tions of the bat­tle with the buf­falo-de­mon, is cathar­tic. Ne­taji Sub­has Chan­dra Bose, who ar­ranged puja in Man­dalay jail in 1926 dur­ing his de­ten­tion there, wrote, “In Durga, we see Mother, Moth­er­land and the Uni­verse all in one. She is at once Mother, Moth­er­land and the Uni­ver­sal spirit..... It (Durga Puja) is a source of aes­thetic en­joy­ment, in­tel­lec­tual recre­ation and re­li­gious in­spi­ra­tion af­ford­ing abid­ing so­lace.”

The an­nual home­com­ing of Uma, daugh­ter of the Hi­malayas and Maneka, sat­is­fies the Ben­gali mother’s emo­tional con­cern for her mar­ried daugh­ter in her mar­i­tal home. Her visit with off­spring be­comes a do­mes­tic theme, unit­ing daily life with the divine theme. This has in­spired in­nu­mer­able melo­di­ous lyrics called Ag­a­moni, in Ben­gal.

Supreme sac­ri­fice of Sati dur­ing Dak­shaya­jna on the hu­mil­i­a­tion of her hus­band Shiva and his cos­mic dance, is a pop­u­lar theme full of sci­en­tific and spir­i­tual sig­nif­i­cance. Devi as the pri­mor­dial en­ergy prin­ci­ple could not ex­ist with­out cos­mic con­scious­ness ly­ing at the heart of all cre­ated things. Na­ture dis­solves into noth­ing­ness with­out con­scious­ness. In­de­pen­dence of Spirit as be­ing Supreme, over and above na­ture, is as­serted through this mytho­log­i­cal nar­ra­tive.

Then there is the metaphor­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion of man’s spir­i­tual jour­ney to Self-re­al­i­sa­tion from wher­ever we are. Nur­tur­ing na­ture in the form of Naba­p­a­trika gives way to wealth pro­tected by God­dess Lak­shmi as daugh­ter of Devi Durga. When sub­tle in­tel­li­gence rep­re­sented by Gane­sha is ap­plied to nur­tur­ing na­ture, wealth in the form Lak­shmi evolves. Ma­te­rial pros­per­ity begets two as­so­ci­ates – learn­ing and fine arts rep­re­sented by Saraswati and mil­i­tary prow­ess for pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion rep­re­sented by Kar­tikeya.

Ma­te­rial pros­per­ity and mil­i­tary prow­ess beget ar­ro­gance and ego­tism, un­less these are ac­cepted as gifts of the Divine for fur­ther progress. But the per­ni­cious ego shel­tered un­der beastly ig­no­rance – per­son­i­fied by the buf­falo in the im­age – and iden­ti­fy­ing it­self to be om­nipo­tent, breaks the nat­u­ral law of har­mony and peace. At this spir­i­tual cri­sis, pri­mor­dial na­ture in the form of Durga in­ter­venes to pro­tect us. It is vic­tory of uni­ver­sal life force over in­di­vid­ual ego­ism and up­hold­ing of cos­mic cause over in­domitable ego.

Fi­nally, Devi Durga is united with Shiva af­ter her worldly play is done for es­tab­lish­ing divine re­al­i­sa­tion through an evo­lu­tion­ary process. Hence all pe­riph­er­als are im­mersed into the ocean of cos­mic con­scious­ness which is the cul­mi­na­tion of spir­i­tual progress in­volv­ing dis­so­lu­tion of delu­sive man­i­fes­ta­tion of ap­par­ent re­al­ity.

Apart from so­cio-cul­tural cel­e­bra­tion unit­ing all in en­joy­ment and en­gage­ment, the puja caters to the con­cern of all through mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tives.

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