India is a country where a lot of festivals are celebrated for various goddess’s the most famous being Navratri, which is a nine-day festival where Goddess Durga who is a form of the primordial divine force Shakti is worshipped.
Being a vast country where the goddess is revered and worshipped for her strength, in the present day most people are having misconceptions about the stories of the goddess and her valor. Some use it as a way to represent feminism but end up representing it in the wrong way whereas some use it to harbor their own political agendas in the name of religion. But are we truly forgetting the reason why Durga came into existence?
I think we should go back to the story and the origins of the warrior goddess who in the present day is the most sought-after topic for every debate.
Durga who is also known as ‘Shakti’ or ‘Adi- parashakti’ is represented in the Hindu pantheon as the fierce form of mother goddess with eight arms each carrying a weapon, riding a lion and often defeating Mahishasur (Buffalo demon) and appears in the Vedic text as wife of Lord Shiva, Shakti.
The story of Durga starts with a boon, Ramba who was an asura performed severe penance to please the gods and seeing this Lord Agni gets pleased and appears before him ready to grant him a boon for it. The asura asks for a son who cannot be killed by a man or a beast and the god grant him the boon but he also advises him that when the son is born he himself should worship lord Brahma to invoke the same boon so that he becomes more powerful.
Ramba falls in love with Princess Shymala who was cursed to be a buffalo and could change forms thus from their union Mahishasur is born who was named so because of his mother who was cursed to be a ‘Mahishi’ (a buffalo) and he could change forms to a buffalo and various other animals.
Once he grows up and discovers about the boon he performs penances to please lord Brahma and asks him for the same boon as his father did and Brahma unwillingly grants him the boon thus Mahishasur becomes a powerful demon who would not be defeated either by man or a beast. Thus, Mahishasur began his conquest to conquer the three realms ‘Earth, Heaven, and Hell’. Empowered by his boon Mahishasur became undefeatable and he terrorized the people on Earth by destroying and conquering kingdoms and mercilessly killing people who stood up against him. The people on Earth feared for their lives and prayed to the gods to protect them meanwhile the asura was not satisfied with conquering earth and invaded the heavens and defeated Lord Indra and his army and the devatas were driven out of the heavens.
They ran to Lord Brahma for help who in turn took them to “Vaikuntha” the abode of Lord Vishnu where Lord Shiva and he was already discussing over the issue. All the gods concluded that since Mahishasur could not be defeated by man or beast only a woman could defeat him thus they combined all their forces and from this combination of divine forces, Goddess Durga took birth.
She was given various weapons by all the gods Lord Shiva bestowed her with his trident, Lord Vishnu granted her his Sudarshan chakra, Lord Varuna gave her a conch shell, Lord Agni granted her a powerful weapon called ‘Sathagani’ capable of slaying the asuras, the mountain god gave her a lion and various other gods bestowed her with weapons. Riding the lion when the fierce warrior Goddess reached the gates of ‘Amravati’ the capital city of heavens which was now being ruled by Mahishasur, all the asuras present were mesmerized by her beauty when Mahishasur’s minister told him about the beautiful lady who stood at their gates and just by hearing her description the asura was mesmerised by her beauty and lusted for her , he asked his minister to take his proposal to her and request her to be his queen and if she refuses to capture and bring him to her. When his soldiers and minister go to the goddess with the proposal she laughs it off and tells them that she had come there to slay him and not to be his bride, when the minister reported this back to the demon king he was furious and asked his best man to capture and bring her to him as he had now decided he would make this adamant woman his queen. He sent forth his best warriors Tamra, Bashkala, Durmukha but all were slain finally Mahishasur appeared before her and requested her to accept his proposal since he was the most powerful man as he had defeated the gods himself and was the sole ruler of the three realms , Durga told him that she came into existence to put an end to his and thus a fierce battle was fought between them, Mahishasur changed forms in order to defeat the goddess but she finally killed him in his buffalo form. After his death, Lord Indra was restored with his kingdom and Durga was given the title of ‘Mahishasurmardini’ (slayer of Mahishasur).
It was ever since this day she was worshipped as a warrior goddess who single-handedly defeated the entire army of asuras. A supreme force that came into existence with the powers of all gods, today we worship her various television dramas are made on her where she is represented as the embodiment of supreme female force, what a woman can do and the inner strength that every woman has which unleashes when there is evil around. Any woman who is strong headed and stands up for herself and others against any wrongdoing is said to have the spirit of Durga, but today we are projecting feminism through it in the wrong manner, demeaning men and uplifting women was never the meaning of Feminism or women- empowerment. Feminism means providing equal rights to women so that men and women can both together help in improving or making the society better. But not everybody is adhering to the true meaning and it has now become a battle of men vs women, proving it to everyone that women can do what all men can do but that was never the point as we all know women have always been respected and considered equal to men in all religions and cultures, she was created to do everything that a man cannot do not compete with them and stoop down to low level in order to prove themselves.
Recently a lot of incidents have been happening in this fight of men vs women especially considering religious agendas like women marching into various temples and the supreme court passing the order for a menstruating women to enter any temple and this has by far been a commendable decision since all human beings have the right to do what they like and how they like and I personally believe a menstruating women cannot be considered impure as it is a biological function of the female body and it is as important as all other functions of the human body so calling it impure and banning them from visiting certain places is an extremely narrow-minded approach even though we are living in the 21st century. But even then we must not forget that in this era to prove that women are equal to men we cannot demean the opposite gender there have always been certain traditions and festivals that have been designated to women whereas there are others which are solely for men and that is the beauty of our culture and religion we have festivals and traditions for everything and everyone but by not accepting that and having no clue about our origins and forming decisions on various issues and passing orders is negligent and obnoxious.
We must remember that it has always been shiv-shakti , “Ardhnareshwar” which has always tried to tell us that Shiva and Shakti together are the essence of life of this universe, they together are the supreme force that dwells within all the beings, together the two of them are everything and apart they are both incomplete and nothing, Durga was also created by compiling the forces of all the gods, together Men and women have always restored balance and created a better society.
Thus, even our culture our texts have always told us about the power of men and women together , so I believe even we should not forget this and work on gender equality so that the two genders can together enhance each other rather than fight against each other because it has been famous in all religions and mythology the fight of ‘The Asuras and The Devatas’, ‘The fight of the Titans and Olympians’ has gone for eons with no end.
I think we would not want another fight or battle of men and women to add to this list.