Durga Puja And Its Multiple Stories
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.