Goddess Durga devi
Durga Devi is a very popular and revered deity in India, more so in Bengal and eastern India. She is also worshipped as Kali, Chandi, Kaushiki and is seen as a beautiful motherly woman riding a lion, with ten arms, each carrying a weapon. Those who worship her believe that she is the protector and the bestower of all opulence and prosperity. However, in truth, she is the deity in charge of the Lord’s material energy. Let us look into our scriptures to understand some interesting facts regarding the worship of Durga Devi and the right mood in which one should approach her.
Who is Goddess Durga?
Goddess Durga is the deity in-charge of the Lord’s material energy.
The supreme Lord’s energy can be categorized as – internal energy (spiritual), marginal energy (all living entities) and external energy (material). The supreme Lord uses His material energy to accomplish creation – maintenance – destruction of the material world, and the personification of that shakti or material energy is Goddess Durga. She is the presiding deity of the Lord’s material energy and controls the entire material realm or the Devi dham which comprises of millions of universes. Durga literally means one who controls the durg, (durg in hindi means kila or fortress); and we living entities are trapped within this prison of the material world life after life. We are conditioned by the three modes of material nature (sattva guna, rajo guna, tamo guna) i.e we are influenced by maya and are under the spell of illusion. Maya means that which is not (ma - not, ya – this). We forget our true identity and are strongly made to believe that by fulfilling our material desires and sense gratification, we will be happy.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells us that:
daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāṁ taranti te
This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.
-Srimad Bhagavad Gita 7.14
So the conditioned soul is tightly tied by the ropes (gunas) of material energy and the only way to get free from the clutches of material nature is by surrendering at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna.
However common people are generally distracted under the influence of rajo and tamo gunas. To fulfill their material desires – prosperity, good health, wealth, fame etc. they approach various demigods and Durga devi; who in reality are controllers of specific departments under the Lord’s administration. It is generally believed that Goddess Durga bestows material wealth, opulence, fame, beauty etc. (rupang dehi, dhanang dehi, jayang dehi, yaso dehi). In our scriptures, there are recommendations for worshiping different Gods for different purposes. So they follow those rules eg. fasting on certain days, puja etc. to appease these demigods, for immediate fulfillment of their material desires.
kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.
- Srimad Bhagavad Gita 7.20
Although after appeasing Goddess Durga, our material desires might be fulfilled; actually her kindness is only a delusion, since we continue in the cycle of birth and death, because the wheel of karma is the instrument of punishment here. It is said that mother Durga is like the mistress of the prison where we living entities, are all prisoners. To escape from this prison we must surrender at the lotus feet of Krishna.
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
-Srimad Bhagavad Gita 7.19
So we have already had millions of births and if we wish to escape from this bondage of birth and death, we should approach Lord Krishna and surrender unto Him.
The greatness of Lord Krishna
Thus Durga devi has been given the responsibility to oversee the creation, maintenance and destruction (sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya) of the material world and she performs these duties in accordance with the Lord’s will. This is clearly stated in the Brahma Samhita - a compilation of prayers spoken at the time of creation, by Lord Brahma, in the glorification of Lord Govinda (Sri Krishna).
chāyeva yasya bhuvanāni bibharti durgā
icchānurūpam api yasya ca ceṣṭate sā
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
The external potency Māyā who is of the nature of the shadow of the cit potency, is worshiped by all people as Durgā, the creating, preserving and destroying agency of this mundane world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda in accordance with whose will Durgā conducts herself
- Brahma Samhita 5.44
So it is said that Lord Krishna engages Durga Devi or Maya (shadow or reflection of the cit shakti, the true substance); in creation, preservation and maintenance of the material world. Hence Lord Krishna engages His material energy through the agency of Goddess Durga. Krishna desires and mother Durga executes that will. She may execute His will as yogamaya or mahamaya. Yogamaya is that which connects a devotee in the loving transcendental service of the Lord and Mahamaya is that which brings the living entity under the spell of illusion, thereby making them forget Krishna. Lord Balaram was transferred from the womb of mother Devaki to the womb of mother Rohini, by this yogamaya shakti of the Lord. Goddess Durga is subordinate to the will of the supreme Lord. She is His pure, humble servant and she carries out His orders, as a pure exalted Vaishnavi.
The fact that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Controller and the other demigods assist Him, is also mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita.
ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa, āra saba bhṛtya
yāre yaiche nācāya, se taiche kare nṛtya
Lord Kṛṣṇa alone is the supreme controller, and all others are His servants. They dance as He makes them do so.
- Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita 5.142
The Goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, Brahmaji and Shiva are not independently powerful but are powerful as the expansions of the Lord and are engaged in His service. Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita that He is the supreme controller of the material world, though He remains aloof from it.
This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.
-Srimad Bhagaavd Gita 9.10
It is said that we the jivas, which are the Lord’s marginal energy (tatastha shakti), have forgotten our true identity and so life after life, we take birth within this material world which is a place of suffering. To get out of this prison, we must approach Lord Krishna and surrender unto His lotus feet. By worshiping Durga Devi, we cannot enter the kingdom of the Lord which is Goloka Dham and Hari Dham. Goddess Durga controls living entities in the material world or the Devi Dham. Above the Devi Dham is the Hari Dham and still above it is Goloka Dham which is the eternal abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita:
yānti deva-vratā devān
pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ
bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā
yānti mad-yājino ’pi mām
Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me.
- Srimad Bhagavad Gita 9.25
So worship of Durga devi, can grant us temporary material opulence and benefits, but we continue to remain in the prison of this material world.
So our right understanding about Goddess Durga should be:
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