Demystifying Durga-Kali (Devi)
by Achintyachintaka on 24 Oct 2012 4 Comments

This is the season of Nav-ratri - nine nights, the celebration of which centers around the worship of Durga Devi in most parts of India and in the Indian Diaspora overseas. Most Hindus are knowledgeable about the significance of this festival. To enjoy these special nine nights with fun and frolic while simultaneously engaging in prayers or puja rituals and various other forms of worship including dance, burning the effigy of Ravana, etc. does not require that the devotee necessarily contemplate on the mystery of Durga and what she stands for.

All devis are manifestations of Durga. Their thousand names are listed in the Lalita Sahastranaama and another revered compilation of 700 verses describing the nature of the devi in Durga Saptashati. We limit ourselves to the importance of the concept of ‘night’ and the form in which this Devi resides in the human consciousness.

Brahman (Cosmic Consciousness) is without any qualities and also without any dimensions. However, the Universe is a space-energy-mass-complex and assumes the dimensions of time (Kaal), energy (Shakti), and many other forms and dimensions. There was no light before the Moola Prakriti (beginnings of manifest Universe) began evolving. So literally the long night before the origin of Universe was followed by Dawn (Usha) in the Consciousness which illuminates in the human consciousness the objects in the world, adding a quality of intelligence (primordial schemata to make sense of what is perceived by the senses and giving them a meaning).


It becomes one of the early manifestations in the evolution of consciousness. This devi will be revered as Usha in the microcosm and in the macrocosm on Earth it will be concretely experienced in the early morning hours as dawn. The intuitive awe and respect for this agency of the Mahat-tatva (Universal Intelligence, Mahadhee) in the macrocosm and Dhee in the microcosm will elevate Usha as devi in the subjective sphere for the Bhakta (devotee) and for anyone who is capable of contemplating and deciphering this phenomenon. Emergence of Usha in the consciousness will for the devotee lead to removal of the metaphorical darkness resulting from Avidya. Usha is thus the harbinger of enlightenment.


The night is called Ratri and Durga devi is named Ratri Devi remaining all dark, meaning maintaining avidya as well as capable of removing the darkness of ignorance (which may be loosely translated as Avidya). Hence in this pleasant season of fall, when the nights are so very optimal for human comfort, worship of Ratri Devi for nine nights is a spiritual experience if the human consciousness can tune into Ratri Devi. 


It is the beauty of Vedic agama shastra to have such rituals and contemplations designed to lead human consciousness step by step closer and closer to the Universal Consciousness (Brahman) through the worship of Ratri Devi and Usha devi. The above interpretation is based on paraphrasing of Vedokta Raatri Sookta. How grateful the devotee will be to Brahma-vidyamayi Usha devi if he can actually experience this metaphorical sister of Ratri Devi who presents him the gift of brahma jnana.

This Devi is very difficult to reach (‘dur-ga’ difficult to ascend) because she covers and conceals the Brahman with a veil of Maya. She is therefore called Mahamaya or Vishnumaya and is an obstacle in the path of self-realization if the devotee is a jnana yogi and wants to experience Brahman in his individual consciousness. She can also be, poetically speaking, or intuitively, identified with all the aspects of drives in the human consciousness that bind it to objects in the microcosm. These are the existential states experienced from time to time when consciousness is dominated by these drives.  


Paraphrasing from the Tantroktam Devi Sooktam, we may say that human awareness of the objective or external world and internal world (derived knowledge which appears very real because it can be consensually verified by other members of the same species and even other living beings, and is an absolute necessity for survival) is called Chetana and Durga is also named Chetana.

Buddhi or human intellect is also a form of Durga who resides in the human consciousness as Buddhi (Buddhi Rupena Samsthitaa). She also resides in the human microcosm as Nidra (sleep) so necessary for survival and symbolically opposite of awareness (Nidra rupena samsthitaa). She (Durga or Mahamaya) binds the human mind to the material world through hunger, Kshudha (Kshudha rupena samsthitaa).

Durga in this vein is called Chhaya (shadow as perceived by consciousness), Shakti (implied here as Pranashakti in tantric parlance), Trushna (thirst), Kshanti (this author translates the word as compassion or humility), Jaati (one's identity as an individual since birth), Lajjaa (shyness or modesty), Shanti (Peacefulness), Shraddha (faith and trust), Kanti (lustre of intelligence or lustre of the skin), Lakshmi (consciousness of material possessions or a drive for material possessions), Vritti (proclivity to act at subjective level in the form of thoughts and can also mean attitude), Smriti (memory), Dayaa (mercy, pity), Tushti (contentedness), Matru (mother principle or maternal quality with Vatsalya, maternal love), Bhranti (proclivity for confusion or illusion), Indriyanaam Adhishthatree (in charge of all the senses of all living beings), and thus this Devi has eternally pervaded all beings (individual consciousness in all sentient beings).

Bhuteshu Satatam Tasyeii, Vyaptidevyeii namo namah. Thus we can see how Durga, Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati are also in the microcosm in the human consciousness and it is only through Her grace that the individual devotee becomes cognizant of Her pervasive presence in him/her and all around him/her. What a fantastic journey in the Science of Consciousness the festival of Navaratri offers to Hindus every year as an opportunity to gain such profound insight into his/her consciousness as being pervaded by Durga and be able to accept Her as his/her Universal Mother (Amba ) and Mother (Matru) of all creation and manifest universe.

Devas and Devatas are in this respect unique to Hindus among the currently existing civilizations. Hindus can justly be proud that they have such devasdevatas, and devis that are real and can be intuitively perceived, and that they can relate to once they as individuals attain the inner inclination to love, adore, revere and accept the Devi as his/her desired (Ishtadevata.

Happy Navaratri and happy Dussehra to everyone who has struggled through this article!

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