DURGA PUJA OR
SALUTATIONS to the Divine Mother, Durga, who exists in
all beings in the form of intelligence, mercy, beauty, who
is the consort of Lord Shiva, who creates, sustains and
destroys the universe.
This festival is observed twice a year, once in the
month of Chaitra and then in Aswayuja. It lasts for nine
days in honour of the nine manifestations of Durga. During
Navaratri (the word literally means "nine nights")
devotees of Durga observe a fast. Brahmins are fed and
prayers are offered for the protection of health and
The beginning of summer and the beginning of winter are
two very important junctions of climatic and solar
influence. These two periods are taken as sacred
opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother. They
are indicated respectively by the Rama-Navaratri in
Chaitra (April-May) and the Durga Navaratri in Aswayuja
(September-October). The bodies and minds of people
undergo a considerable change on account of the changes in
Nature. Sri Rama is worshipped during Ramnavmi, and Mother
Durga during Navaratri.
The Durga Puja is celebrated in various parts of India
in different styles. But the one basic aim of this
celebration is to propitiate Shakti, the Goddess in Her
aspect as Power, to bestow upon man all wealth,
auspiciousness, prosperity, knowledge (both sacred and
secular), and all other potent powers. Whatever be the
particular or special request that everyone may put before
the Goddess, whatever boon may be asked of Her, the one
thing behind all these is propitiation, worship and
linking oneself with Her. There is no other aim. This is
being effected consciously or unconsciously. Everyone is
blessed with Her loving mercy and is protected by Her.
Durga Puja or Navaratri commences on the first and ends
on the tenth day of the bright half of Aswayuja
(September-October). It is held in commemoration of the
victory of Durga over Mahishasura, the buffalo-headed
demon. In Bengal Her image is worshipped for nine days and
then cast into water. The tenth day is called Vijaya
Dasami or Dussera (the "tenth day"). Processions with Her
image are taken out along the streets of villages and
The mother of Durga (that is, the wife of the King of
the Himalayas) longed to see her daughter. Durga was
permitted by Lord Shiva to visit her beloved mother only
for nine days in the year. The festival of Durga Puja
marks this brief visit and ends with the Vijaya Dasami
day, when Goddess Durga leaves for Her return to Mount
Kailas. This is the view of some devotees.
In Bengal, Durga Puja is a great festival. All who live
away from home return during the Puja days. Mothers
reunite with their sons and daughters, and wives with
The potter shows his skill in making images, the
painter in drawing pictures, the songster in playing on
his instrument, and the priest in reciting the sacred
books. The Bengalis save money throughout the year only to
spend everything during the Puja days. Cloth is freely
distributed to the Brahmins.
The woman of Bengal welcomes the Goddess with a
mother's love and sends away the image on the last day,
with every ceremony associated with a daughter's departure
to her husband's home and with motherly tears in her eyes.
This signifies the parting of Durga from Her beloved
Durga Puja is the greatest Hindu festival in which God
is adored as Mother. Hinduism is the only religion in the
world which has emphasised to such an extent the
motherhood of God. One's relationship with one's mother is
the dearest and the sweetest of all human relations.
Hence, it is proper to look upon God as mother.
Durga represents the Divine Mother. She is the energy
aspect of the Lord. Without Durga, Shiva has no expression
and without Shiva, Durga has no existence. Shiva is the
soul of Durga; Durga is identical with Shiva. Lord Shiva
is only the silent witness. He is motionless, absolutely
changeless. He is not affected by the cosmic play. It is
Durga who does everything.
Shakti is the omnipotent power of the Lord, or the
Cosmic Energy. The Divine Mother is represented as having
ten different weapons in Her hands. She sits on a lion.
She keeps up the play of the Lord through the three
attributes of Nature, namely, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas.
Knowledge, peace, lust, anger, greed, egoism and pride,
are all Her forms.
You will find in the Devi Sukta of the Rig Veda
Samhita that Vak, symbolising speech, the daughter of
the sage Anbhirna, realised her identity with the Divine
Mother, the Power of the Supreme Lord, which manifests
throughout the universe among the gods, among men and
beasts and among the creatures of the deep ocean.
In the Kena Upanishad, you will find that the
Divine Mother shed wisdom on Indra and the gods and said
that the gods were able to defeat the demons only with the
help of the power of the Supreme Lord.
The worship of Devi, the universal Mother, leads to the
attainment of knowledge of the Self. The story in the
Kena Upanishad known as the "Yaksha Prasna", supports
this view. It tells how Uma, the Divine Mother, taught the
Truth to the gods. Goddess Shakti thus sheds wisdom on Her
Devi worship is, therefore, worship of God's glory, of
God's greatness and supremacy. It is adoration of the
Almighty. It is unfortunate that Devi is ignorantly
understood by many as a mere blood-thirsty Hindu Goddess.
No! Devi is not a vicious demoness nor is She the property
of the Hindus alone. Devi does not belong to any religion.
Devi is that conscious power of God. The words Devi,
Shakti, etc., and the ideas of different forms connected
with these names are concessions granted by the sages due
to the limitations of the human intellect; they are by no
means the ultimate definitions of Shakti.
The original or Adi Shakti is beyond human
comprehension. Bhagavan Krishna says in the Gita:
"This is only My lower nature. Beyond this is My higher
nature, the life-principle which sustains the universe".
The Upanishad also says: "The supreme power of
God is manifested in various ways. This power is of the
nature of God, manifesting as knowledge, strength and
Truly speaking, all beings in the universe are Shakti-worshippers,
whether they are aware of it or not, for there is no one
who does not love and long for power in some form or
other. Physicists and scientists have now proved that
everything is pure, imperishable energy. This energy is
only a form of divine Shakti which exists in every form.
A child is more familiar with the mother than with the
father, because the mother is very kind, loving, tender
and affectionate and looks after the needs of the child.
In the spiritual field also, the aspirant or the
devotee--the spiritual child--has an intimate relationship
with the Mother Durga, more than with the Father Shiva.
Therefore, it behoves the aspirant to approach the Mother
first, who then introduces Her spiritual child to the
Father for his illumination.
The Mother's Grace is boundless. Her mercy is
illimitable; Her knowledge infinite; Her power
immeasurable; Her glory ineffable; and Her splendour
indescribable. She gives you material prosperity as well
as spiritual freedom.
Approach Her with an open heart. Lay bare your heart to
Her with frankness and humility. Be as simple as a child.
Kill ruthlessly the enemies of egoism, cunningness,
selfishness and crookedness. Make a total, unreserved, and
ungrudging self-surrender to Her. Sing Her praise. Repeat
Her Name. Worship Her with faith and unflinching devotion.
Perform special worship on the Navaratri days. Navaratri
is the most suitable occasion for doing intense spiritual
practices. These nine days are very sacred to the Divine
Mother. Plunge yourself in Her worship. Practise intense
repetition of the Divine Name, having a regular "quota" of
repetitions per day, and the number of hours spent on it.
Devi fought with Bhandasura and his forces for nine
days and nine nights. This Bhandasura had a wonderful
birth and life. When Lord Shiva burnt Cupid with the fire
of His "third eye", Sri Ganesha playfully moulded a figure
out of the ashes, and the Lord breathed life into it! This
was the terrible demon Bhandasura. He engaged himself in
great penance and on account of it obtained a boon from
Lord Shiva. With the help of that boon, he began harassing
the worlds. The Divine Mother fought with him for nine
nights (the demons have extraordinary strength during the
night), and killed him on the evening of the tenth day,
known as the Vijaya Dasami. The learning of any science is
begun on this highly auspicious day. It was on this day
that Arjuna worshipped Devi, before starting the battle
against the Kauravas on the field of Kurukshetra.
Sri Rama worshipped Durga at the time of the fight with
Ravana, to invoke Her aid in the war. This was on the days
preceding the Vijaya Dasami day. He fought and won through
In days of yore, kings used to undertake ambitious
expeditions on the day of the Vijaya Dasami. Those kings
who did not go on such expeditions used to go out hunting
in the deep forests. In Rajputana, India, even up to this
date, people arrange mock attacks on some fort on Vijaya
This day, however, has much to do with the life of Sri
Rama. Nowhere in the history of the world can we find a
parallel to the character of Sri Rama as a man, son,
brother, husband, father or king. Maharishi Valmiki has
exhausted the entire language in describing the glory of
Sri Rama. And, we shall be rightly celebrating the Dussera
if we make honest efforts to destroy the demon of our ego,
and radiate peace and love wherever we go. Let us all
resolve to become men of sterling character. Let us
resolve and act. The story of Sri Rama is known in almost
all parts of the globe, and if we but succeed in following
even a hundredth part of His teachings, we shall make our
lives more fragrant than the rose and more lustrous than
Dussera can also be interpreted as "Dasa-Hara", which
means the cutting of the ten heads of Ravana. So, let us
resolve today to cut the ten heads--passion, pride, anger,
greed, infatuation, lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness
and crookedness--of the demon, Ego, and thus justify the
celebration of Dussera.
Religious observances, traditional worship and
observances at times have more than one significance.
Apart from being the adoration of the Divine, they
commemorate stirring events in history, they are allegoric
when interpreted from the occult standpoint and, lastly,
they are deeply significant pointers and revealing guides
to the individual on his path to God-realisation.
Outwardly, the nine-day worship of Devi is a
celebration of triumph. This nine days' celebration is
offered to the Mother for Her successful struggle with the
formidable demons led by Mahishasura. But, to the sincere
spiritual aspirant, the particular division of the
Navaratri into sets of three days to adore different
aspects of the Supreme Goddess has a very sublime, yet
thoroughly practical truth to reveal. In its cosmic
aspect, it epitomises the stages of the evolution of man
into God, from Jivahood (the state of individualisation)
to Shivahood (the state of Self-realisation). In its
individual import, it shows the course that his spiritual
practice should take.
Let us, therefore, examine in detail the spiritual
significance of Navaratri.
The central purpose of existence is to recognise your
eternal identity with the supreme Spirit. It is to grow
into the image of the Divine. The supreme One embodies the
highest perfection. It is spotless purity. To recognise
your identity with That, to attain union with That, is
verily to grow into the very likeness of the Divine. The
aspirant, therefore, as his initial step, has to get rid
of all the countless impurities, and the demoniacal
elements that have come to cling to him in his embodied
state. Then he has to acquire lofty virtues and
auspicious, divine qualities. Thus purified, knowledge
flashes upon him like the brilliant rays of the sun upon
the crystal waters of a perfectly calm lake.
This process demands a resolute will, determined
effort, and arduous struggle. In other words, strength and
infinite power are the prime necessity. Thus it is the
Divine Mother who has to operate through the aspirant.
Let us now consider how, on the first three days, the
Mother is adored as supreme power and force, as Durga the
Terrible. You pray to Mother Durga to destroy all your
impurities, your vices, your defects. She is to fight with
and annihilate the baser animal qualities in the spiritual
aspirant, the lower, diabolical nature in him. Also, She
is the power that protects your spiritual practice from
its many dangers and pitfalls. Thus the first three days,
which mark the first stage or the destruction of impurity
and determined effort and struggle to root out the evil
tendencies in your mind, are set apart for the worship of
the destructive aspect of the Mother.
Once you have accomplished your task on the negative
side, that of breaking down the impure propensities and
old vicious habits, the next step is to build up a sublime
spiritual personality, to acquire positive qualities in
place of the eliminated demoniacal qualities. The divine
qualities that Lord Krishna enumerates in the Gita, have
to be acquired. The aspirant must cultivate and develop
all the auspicious qualities. He has to earn immense
spiritual wealth to enable him to pay the price for the
rare gem of divine wisdom. If this development of the
opposite qualities is not undertaken in right earnest, the
old demoniacal nature will raise its head again and again.
Hence, this stage is as important in an aspirant's career
as the previous one. The essential difference is: the
former is a ruthless, determined annihilation of the
filthy egoistic lower self; the latter is an orderly,
steady, calm and serene effort to develop purity. This
pleasanter side of the aspirant's Sadhana is depicted by
the worship of Mother Lakshmi. She bestows on Her devotees
the inexhaustible divine wealth or Deivi Sampath. Lakshmi
is the wealth-giving aspect of God. She is purity itself.
Thus the worship of Goddess Lakshmi is performed during
the second set of three days.
Once the aspirant succeeds in routing out the evil
propensities, and develops Sattwic or pure, divine
qualities, he becomes competent to attain wisdom. He is
now ready to receive the light of supreme wisdom. He is
fit to receive divine knowledge. At this stage comes the
devout worship of Mother Saraswathi, who is divine
knowledge personified, the embodiment of knowledge of the
Absolute. The sound of Her celestial veena awakens
the notes of the sublime utterances of the Upanishads
which reveal the Truth, and the sacred monosyllable, Om.
She bestows the knowledge of the supreme, mystic sound and
then gives full knowledge of the Self as represented by
Her pure, dazzling snow-white apparel. Therefore, to
propitiate Saraswathi, the giver of knowledge, is the
The tenth day, Vijaya Dasami, marks the triumphant
ovation of the soul at having attained liberation while
living in this world, through the descent of knowledge by
the Grace of Goddess Saraswathi. The soul rests in his own
Supreme Self or Satchidananda Brahman. This day celebrates
the victory, the achievement of the goal. The banner of
victory flies aloft. Lo! I am He! I am He!
This arrangement also has a special significance in the
aspirant's spiritual evolution. It marks the indispensable
stages of evolution through which everyone has to pass.
One naturally leads to the other; to short-circuit this
would inevitably result in a miserable failure. Nowadays
many ignorant seekers aim straight at the cultivation of
knowledge without the preliminaries of purification and
acquisition of the divine qualities. They then complain
that they are not progressing on the path. How can they?
Knowledge will not descend until the impurities have been
washed out, and purity is developed. How can the pure
plant grow in impure soil?
Therefore adhere to this arrangement; your efforts will
be crowned with sure success. This is your path. As you
destroy one evil quality, develop the virtue opposite to
it. By this process you will soon bring yourself up to
that perfection which will culminate in identity with the
Self which is your goal. Then all knowledge will be yours:
you will be omniscient, omnipotent and you will feel your
omnipresence. You will see your Self in all. You will have
achieved eternal victory over the wheel of births and
deaths, over the demon of worldliness. No more pain, no
more misery, no more birth, no more death! Victory,
victory be yours!
Glory to the Divine Mother! Let Her take you, step by
step to the top of the spiritual ladder and unite you with