Navaratri – Day 5

Navaratri – Day 5


Monday, the 29th September was the panchami, the fifth day of navaratri. There was no outside programme. After attending to my routine sadhana, I decided to recite all the four stutis (hymns) from the sacred scripture “Devi Maahaatmyam”. This book is also known as “Durga saptashati” or more popularly simply as “Chandi”.

Chandi contains FOUR hymns.

The four Hymns are:

Brahma-stuti also known as Tantrik Ratri Suktam (Chapter 1): In the first episode, we find two asuras called Madhu and Kaitaba. In order to slay them Brahma needed the help of Divine Mother who was covering Lord Vishnu as yoganidra. So he prays to Her so that she withdraws from Vishnu. verses 72 to 87
Sakradi-stuti (Chapter 4): At the end of second episode, the Goddess Durga wins the battle with demon Mahishasura. He and his hordes were eliminated. The chief of devatas Indra praises her… verses 1 to 27
The “Ya Devi” Hymn also known as Aparajita-stuti or Tantrik Devi Suktam (Chapter 5): At the beginning of the third episode, at another time the devatas were in danger. Unable to cope up with their situation, they realise that Goddess had given an assurance in the past. They recall the Goddess’s promise to assist them and offer a hymn to the Goddess…verses 8 to 81
Narayani-stuti (Chapter 11): At the conclusion of the third episode, the twin brother demons Sumbha and Nisumbha were destroyed. Happy at the victory gained by the help of Devi Durga, the devatas sing this hymn…verses 8 to 22 “Narayani namostute” but ideally from verses 3 to 35.

The first hymn was chanted collectively every day in our daily satsang.

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Glory of the Goddess – 3

A Summary written by my Guest-writer Kissoon Behari continues from last week’s post. In today’s post he deals with Section Three of the Devi Mahatmyam. Chapters 5 to 13 fall under this Section which are dedicated to Mahasaraswati. Thus the Summary concludes with this instalment.



Sumbha and Nisumbha, two proud and powerful demons, had conquered the three worlds and looted the heavens. The exiled devas remembered the boon that the Divine Mother had granted them: ‘If they called upon Her in times of difficulties and troubles, She would put an immediate end to all their sorrows.’ So they went to the Himalaya Mountain and sang in praise of the Devi and worshipped Her in various ways. The hymn that the devas sang is called the “Aparajita Stutih”. (Aparajita means “The Invincible”.) This stotra is also known as the “Tantrika Devi Sukta”.

Mother Parvati came there to bathe in the Ganga. When She asked the devas whom they were praising, an auspicious goddess emerged from her physical body, and answered, “This hymn is addressed to Me by the devas who have all been defeated by Sumbha and Nisumbha.”

After the shining Ambika had issued forth, Mother Parvati turned dark, and was thereafter called Kalika.

Canda and Munda, two servants of Sumbha and Nisumbha, informed their lords of the exceedingly beautiful Ambika. Sumbha, filled with a desire to possess the Devi, sent a messenger to Her so that She might quickly come to them in love. But the Mother Durga answered that She had made a ‘foolish’ promise: Only he who conquered Her in battle and removed Her pride would be Her husband. The messenger indignantly returned.

The reply annoyed and angered Sumbha. He then sent Dhumralocana to fetch Her, by force, if necessary. But the Devi reduced him to ashes by merely uttering the syllable ‘hoom’. The army, too, was destroyed.

Sumbha was enraged when he heard of the fate of his general and his army. In his fury, he ordered Canda and Munda to bring Her by force.

When Devi Ambika, seated on Her lion on a golden peak, saw the army of demons, Her face became dark with anger. From Her forehead issued Kali. Her form was terrible, and she was armed with a sword and noose. She destroyed the entire host of demons and beheaded Canda and Munda, and presented their heads to Candika. Because She had slain Canda and Munda, Mother Candika playfully said that She (Kali) would be famed as ‘Camunda’!

Sumbha was overcome and infuriated. He ordered the immediate mobilisation of all demons. The Divine Mother and Kali were surrounded on all sides. Then there issued from the bodies of all the devas their saktis who went to help Candika, Whatever was the form of the deva, whatever his ornaments and weapons, whatever his vehicle – in that very form his saktl advanced to fight the asuras. Thus from Lord Brahma emerged Brahmani, carrying a rosary and water pot, and riding on a chariot drawn by swans. Mahesvari, the sakti of Lord Siva, was seated on a bull, holding a trident and adorned with the crescent moon. The sakti of Lord Visnu was seated on Garuda, holding conch, club, bow and sword.

The Goddess Ambika (here identified with: Durga or Chandi) Leading the Eight Matrikas in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija, Folio from a Devi Mahatmya – (top row, from the left) Narashmi, Vaishnavi, Kumari, Maheshvari, Brahmi. (bottom row, from left) Varahi, Aindri and Chamunda, drinking the blood of demons (on right) arising from Raktabija’s blood and Ambika.

From the body of the Devi Herself there issued her own sakti. It was fierce and terrible.

This sakti sent Lord Siva as a messenger to Sumbha and Nisumbha with the message: “The demons should let Indra and the other gods once again rule the three worlds, and enjoy the sacrificial oblations. The demons should go to the nether world if they wished to live.”

The wrath and indignation of the demons were roused, and they made an onslaught on the Devi. But the saktfs crushed the demon hordes.

Seeing this, the great asura Raktabija strode forward into battle. When his drops of blood fell to the ground, there rose from the earth as many asuras as powerful and fierce as Raktabija himself. The more he was wounded and the more blood fell on the ground, the greater grew the demon forces.

Then Candika asked Kali (Camunda) to quickly take in the drops of blood from Raktabija as She struck him. In this way, Raktabija grew weaker and weaker, and eventually lost his powers. Having become bloodless, the once powerful demon fell helpless on the ground, never to rise again.

Enraged by the annihilation of Raktabija and his army, Sumbha and Nisumbha made an assault on the Devi. Nisumbha struck Her on the head, but She rendered his attack ineffectual, and flung him on the ground. Seeing his brother unconscious, Sumbha became furious. He approached Her in his chariot, splendid and shining, holding excellent weapons in his eight arms.

She smote Sumbha who lost consciousness. Then up rose Nisumbha and gave battle to the Devi. Candika pierced him in his heart. From his heart came forth another person of great valour and strength. The Devi laughed and severed his head.

When Sumbha saw his brother who was as dear to him as his own life was slain, he was filled with a raging fury. He accused Her of being puffed up with the pride but was resorting to the strength of others.

The Devi smilingly answered, “I am all alone in the world. Who else is there beside Me?” So saying, She absorbed all the saktis into Herself and stood alone.

A long and dreadful combat ensued. The Devi destroyed all his weapons, whirled him around and flung him down to the ground, and pierced him in the chest with a deadly dart.

After the destruction of Sumbha and the annihilation of the demons, the universe became happy and there was peace everywhere. Then the joyous devas sang praises to the Divine Mother. This hymn is known as the “Narayan! Stutih”.

The devas received a boon from the Devi: She would destroy all their enemies and all the afflictions in the three worlds. She added that She would overcome all obstacles and difficulties of anyone who, with concentrated mind and deep devotion, prayed to Her constantly with these hymns.

Having blessed them all, the Devi vanished on the spot as the gods looked on.

In this chapter, the Divine Mother herself lists the benefits of reciting the DM.
The Devi will put an end to all troubles of one who constantly recites the DM with devotion and concentration. These include all forms of afflictions from external sources, such as from natural calamities and people and animals; as well as from internal or psychological causes. The DM should be recited on the 8th, 9th and 14th days of the month.
She will always dwell where this poem is chanted. Even if the householder devotees perform her sacrifice and worship without proper knowledge of the rituals, She will still happily accept them. The chanting of the hymns makes the mind pure, and glorifying Her brings the devotees closer to Her.

The Rsi concludes by saying that it is the Devi who has created the universe, and She who causes delusion. Taking the form of Lakshmi, She bestows prosperity; but she also brings ruin and destruction. When She is praised and worshipped with flowers, incense, perfumes, etc, She bestows all forms of wealth and joys and a mind that turns towards dharma.

The Rsi once more says that it is the Devi who brings about delusion even in men such as the king and the merchant who have the ability to discriminate. He entreats them to worship the Devi who grants both worldly and heavenly enjoyments as well as final liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.
Suratha and Samadhi wanted a vision of the Mother. They thus practised penances and control of mind and senses, and worshipped the Mother with puja and havan for three years. Then Mother appeared to them and granted them boons. The king would regain his lost kingdom, and when he died, he would be born as Savarni, the son the Surya, and become the eighth Manu.
The merchant received that supreme knowledge that brings about final liberation.





1 When Mother Parvati asks “Who is being worshipped?” Ambika emerges from within Her and answers. The extremes of ignorance and knowledge are seen in Her. Spirit and knowledge are of the quality of light, hence Ambika is also called “Gauri, which means “The Fair”.

Within each of us the same range of possibilities exists. All knowledge is within us, and each soul is potentially divine. The more this divinity is expressed, the more does one shine.

2 The aspect of evolution is stressed in Mother Parvati: As daughter of the Himalaya Mountain, she is the mineral kingdom; Her mount is the lion, king of beasts; and as Kausiki, She is knowledge, secular and spiritual. Thus, in Her, all levels and aspects of creation are symbolically embodied, and She is therefore the Supreme Queen.

3 Although the Supreme Divinity is before Canda and Munda, they, being of a tamasic nature, can only see the outward beauty of the Mother. The messenger, too, is unable to understand the deeper significance behind the Mother’s reply: “He who will conquer Me in battle, he who will break My pride, he who is My match in the world in strength shall be My husband.” Siva is Her husband. He is beyond the control of the gunas, completely free from attachment to the world. As the world with its maya cannot bind him, we say that he has conquered the world, that is, has conquered the pride of the Mother when She has expressed Herself as the universe. None of the demons have any notion of the divinity they confront. Knowledge attained is proportional to one’s sacrifice or austerity (tapas) and self-surrender.

4 Sumbha and Nisumbha are really robbers who have looted the world of all its material grandeur. What an irony that, in a bid to allure the Divine Mother to them, they are offering them to Her who is Herself all wealth and beauty!

5 There is Divine Will and Individual Will. When the Individual Will subordinates itself to the Divine Will, that is, surrenders to Divinity, it is the way to beatitude. But when the Individual Will goes counter to the Divine Will, it is the way to hell – if not hell itself! The devas have such powers and knowledge as will allow them to perform the work of the Mother. But the demons channel all their energies to disrupt Her Divine Plan. Accordingly, a power sufficient to overcome the demons is released by the Divine Mother at different stages in the contest.

Dhumralocana: The name means “smoky-eyed”, and so suggests veiled perception. He is thus ignorance and the grossest state of egoism. The Devi shows annihilates him by a mere “hum”.

Canda and Munda: They were the first to have a vision of Ambika. They represent the lower and more horrible aspect of our ego.

When the Devi Candika encounters these demons, there emanates from Her forehead the awesome and ferocious Kali. As Her origin is associated with the third eye, She represents the intellectual and intuitive faculties.Kali seeks out and destroys the little lower self (which is ruled by rajas and tamas) so that it will attain progressively higher levels of knowledge.

Raktabija: Rakta means “blood” and bija means “seed”. Raktabija thus means one whose seeds are blood. When the blood of Raktabja falls to the ground, it produces demons similar to him. He therefore represents the desires of the mind which endlessly multiply themselves. The killing of Raktabija by Camunda means the destruction of the mental modifications by the awakenings of spiritual consciousness

Sumbha and Nisumbha: Sumbha is the more enlightened aspect of egoism. The word itself means ‘to shine’. Nisumbha is attachment.

Both Sumbha and Nisumbha seek enjoyment in the external world. Hence Sumbha declares, “We are the enjoyers of the best objects”. But they are slaves of their passions.

6 Sumbha accuses Mother Durga of pride and arrogance, but really this is an instance of projecting his own qualities onto Her. She withdraws the Saktis, the numerous powers that She had projected, and stands alone. In this act, She reveals to him that She is the One behind the many, that the entire creation is but Her own Self.


Glory of the Goddess – 2

A Summary written by my Guest-writer Kissoon Behari continues from last week’s post. In today’s post he deals with Section Two of the Devi Mahatmyam. Chapters 2 to 4 fall under this Section which are dedicated to Mahalakshmi. The final part will appear in this blog on 7th November, 2012.


CHAPTERS 2 and 3


Mahisasura was a powerful demon who conquered the devas and occupied the throne of Indra, the king of the heavens. The gods, headed by Lord Brahma, complained to Lord Visnu and Lord Shiva who were outraged. From their faces as well as from the bodies of the gods there issued forth great masses of light which combined and formed into the Devi. The gods gave Her weapons identical to their own, as well as jewels and ornaments, insignia, and a lion to ride on.

The Devi pervaded the three worlds. Her terrible roar filled the whole universe. It consoled the devas but agitated the asuras. Her sighs became Her battalions and fought the demon hosts. Although Mahisasura had many valiant generals in his army, the Devi destroyed them all.

As his army was being destroyed, Mahisasura assumed his buffalo form. The Devi bound the demon with Her noose, but he quitted his buffalo form and became a lion. As soon as She cut off his head, he appeared as a man armed with a sword. When She struck him with Her arrows, he changed into an elephant. As he tugged at Her lion, She cut off his trunk, and the demon resumed his buffalo form.

The Mother then quaffed a divine drink, leapt upon the demon, pressed his neck with Her foot and struck him with Her spear. Mahisasura half issued forth in his real form from the buffalo mouth. The Devi struck off his head with Her great sword. The demon army perished and the gods rejoiced.


Lord Indra and all the devas, with concentrated minds, sang praises to the Devi. This hymn is known as the “Sakradi Stutih”. The Divine Mother was greatly pleased and granted them a boon: Whenever they would think of Her, She would destroy their calamities. And if mortals praised Her with these hymns, She would be gracious towards them and grant them all prosperity.





On the evolution ladder, we human beings stand the highest. But having evolved from the animal world, we quite evidently still possess some animalistic tendencies and qualities. Evolution may have stopped at the physical/physiological level, but continues at the psycho-social and spiritual levels. This is essentially a struggle between the lower man in whom animal tendencies are predominant and higher man wanting to express his divinity. This conflict is represented to us in the drama of Mahisaura.

“Mahisa” means a buffalo, an animal which loves filth and mud, and enjoys being dirty. He thus represents the warped mind in the pursuit of shameless pleasures, one whose life is unregulated and wild, and is characterised by indiscrimination, indolence, frivolity, and delusion.

The Devi is expressed through the combined light that emanates from the devas themselves. It is the power of the Devi Herself that is in them. Thus it is not that the devas ‘created’ the Devi; rather, it is that the Devi who is the sum total of the powers of the Devas (and much more!) revealed Herself.

The implication is that to control or overcome our lower nature, one has to use the combined positive resources that lie within one – else each one will be conquered just as the devas were expelled from their heavens one by one. We should remember that while the devas occupy their own heavens, they are also resident in our bodies. Thus Lord Surya is in the eyes, Indra in the hands, etc. (See here an informative article well tabulated)

During the battle with the Devi, Mahisasura changes from one form to another. It is a dramatic portrayal of the evolution process and tendencies that accompany it. Thus, the elephant represents lust, the lion anger. Finally, a man half emerges from the buffalo body. This is the emergence of the higher man. The Devi cuts off his head, that is, She cuts off the head of the ignorant man and by Her grace bestows higher knowledge.

Divine Mother in the form of Sri Rajarajeshwari


Glory of the Goddess – 1

Durge smritaa harasi bheetim ashesha jontoh
swasthaih smritaa matimateeva shubhaam dadaasi|
Daaridraya dukha bhaya haarini kaa twadanyaa
sarvopakaara karanaaya sadaardra chittaa ||
When called to mind in a difficult pass, you remove fear for every person.
When called to mind by those in happiness, you bestow a mind still further pious.
Which Goddess but you, O Dispeller of poverty, pain and fear, has
an ever sympathetic heart for helping everyone?
The Composite Image of Divine Mother Durga as worshipped in our Headquarters Belur Math contains Ganesha, Karthik, Lakshmi and Saraswati

Today is Vijaya dashami. My hearty and happy Shubha Vijaya Greetings to every one of you. Brother Saradaprabhanandaji, officials and devotees join me in wishing Mother’s blessings to all.

Here Navaratri was celebrated in all its solemnity. Everywhere i.e., in all our branches, the devotees assembled in large numbers. Three of our centres i.e. HQ, Chatsworth and Pietermaritzburg had, of course did the navaratri function with Sri Sri Durga’s benign form without the demon Mahishasur in murti (3 ft height). These clay images were prepared locally by a lady devotee.

My first Talk during Navaratri function was at Phoenix Sub-centre. There, more than 500 senior citizens were present to whom I narrated the glory of Goddess Durga. On the same evening, I had the opportunity to visit our Chatsworth branch where I was blessed to speak on “Saptashloki Durga”. The second day took me to Pietermaritzburg and in our Sub-centre there I dealt with the same topic. On the third day I was in Estcourt where I attended the Satsang at Maha Gayatri Mandir. The temple was packed to its capacity, attended by almost all Hindu groups. There I spoke on the three functions of the Divine Mother viz., the projection, sustenance, and dissolution.

On the fourth day, of course on my return, I stopped at Pietermaritzburg to attend the grand function organised by PMB Sanatan Ved Dharam Sabha. Here more than 300 people participated. My subject of Talk was on the “Three Aspects of Sri Durga” namely Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. I spent my Fifth and sixth days in performing morning puja and attending the evening satsangs at Durban HQ and quietly listening to different speakers. On the 7th day at the same Satsang, I took up again explaining the “Saptashloki Durga” verses. On the 8th evening I was invited by Redcliff Hindu Temple where again I spoke on the glory of Goddess Durga. On 9th evening which is Vijaya Dashami day, the topic “Significance of Vijaya Dashami” was dealt with.    

In all this running about and stating the events with lots of “I” (which perhaps not pleasing to read), what was the feeling in the core of my heart? That She, the Divine Mother has been acting, directing and instructing and making me a worthy instrument in Her hands. I was ever praying that this blissful mood may continue.

On Mahashtami day, after Master’s puja (that included the Kalash puja, Ganesha puja and Jai Durga’s puja) at the Temple, we gathered at the Nischalananda Hall where Sri Durga Havan was performed to the chanting of entire Devi Mahatmyam. The Chamunda mantra was recited 108 times by all the assembled in unison at every oblation of vilva leaf into the sacrificial fire.

The tradition of observing Navaratri here among the Hindus is a mixture of North-South combination. Our Centre follows the mainstream practice and hence the Bengal type Durga puja is not yet inroduced. Thus the first three days were dedicated to Mahakali, next 3 days to Mahalakshmi and the last 3 days to Mahasaraswati. The 10th day is of course Dasserah or Vijaya dashami when Mother Saraswati is invoked. This year we had only 8 days as the 2nd and 3rd tithi fell on the second day itself. It is to be noted that throughout the Navaratri days we had everyday Satsang in the evening. On the Vijaya dashami day the sky was partly clouded, not windy and one by one the murtis, after the farewell puja at the sea beach, were immersed in the surging waters. On that day when the murti was taken out for immersion, Saraswati’s picture was kept.

All the days were spent in a blissful mood for which we are grateful to our Sri Thakur, Ma and Swamiji. And this feeling of joy is nonetheless due to the gracious blessings of all senior monks and loving vibrations from the younger brothers all over the globe.

During the Navaratri we all read portions from Devi Mahatmyam. This is an authoritative scripture on the Mother worship. Many devotees though read it with all faith and devotion want to know what the story in brief is. Reading the English translation of the Sanskrit verses “as it is” would probably drown a person in extreme details and hence would lose the thread of the story. Here comes the importance of having a neat narration without the complexities of descriptions so that at one glance, the reader who is not conversant with Indian vernaculars gets the core teaching of this marvellous scripture.

I have no hesitation to point out that recently our devotee-brother Kissoon Behari sent me one such rendition that I was greatly elated at his attempt to put the prose in as simple terms as ever and understandable by even a child. I believe that the readers of this blog would surely find this not only interesting but also enlightening.

I shall proceed to post in continuation, Section-wise with the spiritual import behind each Section. The latter is added in order to encourage readers thinking in philosophical terms. What is given here is obviously the interpretation of the author and I am, as also you too are, aware that many more interpretations are available and many may come in the future. The 2nd instalment is scheduled to appear in this blog on the 31st October and the final, the 3rd instalment on 7th November 2012. 

Jai Sri Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati Sri Durga maayi ki jai !


by Kissoon Behari



Rsi Markandeya tells his disciple how, by the grace of Mahamaya, Savarni, the son of Surya, became the eighth manu. He recounts the story of the king Suratha and a merchant named Samadhi.

King Suratha was a good king who treated his subjects well and protected his kingdom. When he was defeated by his enemies and betrayed by his own wicked ministers who had made themselves powerful in his absence, he left his kingdom and went into the forest. Here, he met a merchant Samadhi whose wicked wife and greedy sons had taken all his wealth and cast him away.

They both went to the beautiful hermitage of the Rsi Medhas. Although they were in the company of a great sage, the two men had no peace of mind.

The king presented their problem to the Sage: Without the control of his intellect, he was afflicted with sorrow. How was it that though he had lost his kingdom, he still had an attachment to all his royal trappings? And how was it that though the merchant had been cast out by his family and servants, he still felt unreasonable affection towards them?

The sage explained that not only ordinary men but even the wise are hurled into the whirlpool of attachment by Mahamaya. However, when She is propitiated, She becomes gracious and then She bestows material prosperity and success as well as devotion and spiritual knowledge, enlightenment and liberation. She is the Yoganidra of Lord Visnu.

When the two men became eager to know about the Devi or Mahamaya, the Sage unfolded to them the Glory of the Divine Mother by first narrating the story of Madhu and Kaitabha. (And then the stories of Mahishasura, followed by that of Shumbha and Nishumbha, in the second and third sections respectively.)

The slaying of MADHU and KAITABHA

Before creation, Lord Vishnu lay in mystic sleep. Lord Brahma, the Creator, sprang forth from the navel of the Lord. At the same time, two terrible demons, Madhu and Kaitabha, emerged from the wax of the Lord’s ears. They at once set out to kill Lord Brahma. Seeing that there was no help from the sleeping Lord, he sang a hymn to Mahamaya, now in the form of Yoganidra or sleep, covering the Lord. This hymn is called the ‘Tantrika Ratri Sukta’, or simply ‘Brahma Stutih’.

The Divine Mother was pleased, and withdrew Herself from the Lord who fought the demons for five thousand years with his bare hands. Then Mahamaya deluded the demons. They stopped fighting and in their arrogance they offered a boon to the Lord. He asked that they be slain by him at once. Trying to get out of their own trap, they asked to be slain where there is no water. The Lord placed them on his loins and severed their heads with his discus.



The myths are allegorical, for the external conflicts represent our own internal conflicts. The demons are our own impulses in search of earthly and heavenly power and pleasures.


1 Lord Brahma as well as Madhu and Kaitabha are born from the Lord. Good and evil, creation and destruction – all have their source in the one God. God Himself, of course, is beyond these pairs of opposites.

2 Life is a complex of creative processes which involve a struggle with forces that attempt to hamper and halt their progress. The creative process is symbolised by Lord Brahma. On the other hand, the opposing and destructive forces are symbolised by the two demons.

Lord Brahma’s appeal to the Mother comes in the face of utter desperation. So, too, should be the pleas and prayers of the devotees. The devotee who surrenders to the Mother and appeals earnestly receives help.

3 To face the difficulties of the world, one needs a spiritual guide. Faith and devotion arise in the devotee. One becomes aware of a Higher Power. Suratha and Samadhi find Rsi Medhas who becomes their Spiritual Guide and shows them the way to final liberation.


Image immersion

Happy Shubha Vijaya!

This year is the fourth year that I was blessed to witness Navaratri celebration here in our Centres of South Africa. Two years back, Mother made me visit all our branches in Northern Natal about which you might have read in this blog here. I have no hesitation to say that of all the functions observed here at our Ashrams, doubtless Navaratri (Durga Puja in Ramakrishna tradition parlance) holds a special charm. At no other time one can witness such a display of devotional faith and fervour as at this time.

Besides Headquarters, the Sub-centres at Chatsworth and Pietermaritzburg in Southern Natal, had clay images of Mother Durga. Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville had also such a murti. All these four murtis are designed to be of ashtabhuja (eight-armed) and simha-vahini (riding the lion). There is no ubiquitous demon King Mahishaasur! Recently I heard from brother Swami Saradaprabhanandaji that his Guru and the Second president of the Ramakrishna Centre of SA, Swami Shivapadanandaji wanted to popularise the benign form of Mother Durga among the devotees.

Each day these murtis were lovingly decorated and dressed, and freshly garlanded. Since every cluster of three nights of the nine-night festival are dedicated to Mothers Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati each, representing the three gunas of prakriti viz., tamas, rajas and sattwa, Mother was appropriately adorned with garments in blue-black, blood-red and milk-white colours. And there She was, in all her divine glory and splendour, silently accepting the adoration of Her devotees, through their soulful songs, the hearty recital of hymns, divinely discourses and purifying pujas.

People ask me often, ‘Swamiji! from where do you get such beautiful murtis? Are they imported from india?’ Well, the murtis are ‘proudly South African!’ diligently made by a lady-devotee, who is a dedicated worshipper of the Holy Trio, very much a citizen of SA.

She considers the preparation of the Durga murti as an act of her special sadhanaa. After making prayers to Master, Mother and Swamiji, she first casts the Foot of the Mother. She confided in me that bowing to the Foot represents the crushing of her ego – the ego that thinks she is the creator of the Image. She would pray with humility, that Mother might bestow Her grace upon the artist. The lady acknowledged that the artist in her was merely an instrument of Mother, performing the act of Mother’s Will.

On Mahashtami day, after Master’s puja at the Temple, we gathered at the Nischalananda Hall where Sri Durga Havan was performed to the chanting of entire Devi Mahatmyam and oblation offered at the end of each mantra followed by recitation of the mantra with vilva leaf oblation– ‘Aum Aim Hreem Kleem Chaamundaayai Vicce’. This was too joined by all the assembled devotees. Long before the 700th ‘svaahaa!’ was chanted in chorus, the minds of the devotees had already begun to soar to great spiritual heights.

The most emotional day for the devotees is the vijaya dashami – when the images that were worshipped with pomp and éclat were immersed in the sea. The day unlike last year found the sun shining, not windy, the sky azure. Like Mathur babu the devotees could not bear to see Her go away. Was the image immersed in the sea of water? yes, and what about She who was worshipped in the image? She was immersed in the sea of thoughts! For the moment, there was only the philosophical consolation that the supreme Devi had returned once again to Her immanent residence in the hearts of the devotees. Did not Master say in the Gospel: “…But you should remember that the heart of the devotee is the abode of God…His drawing room (lounge).”

Every year during Durga Puja, Mathur would invite the Master to his Calcutta residence at Janbazar. The Master passed those days joyfully with Mathur and his family. As a Guru, the Master bestowed his grace on Mathur. On the last day of Durga Puja that year, Mathur said to the Master: “Father, whatever others may say, I won’t allow the Mother to be immersed in the Ganges. I have ordered the worship to be continued daily. How can I survive in this world without the Mother?”

The Master stroked Mathur’s chest and said: Oh, is this what makes you afraid? Who has told you that you will have to live without the Mother? And where will She go even if you immerse Her image in the Ganges? Can the Mother stay away from Her son? For the last three days She has accepted your worship in the worship hall, but from today She will accept your worship constantly, sitting in your heart”. And Mathur was mollified.

The tradition of Navaratri here among the Hindus is a mixture of North-South combination. The days were spent in a blissful mood for which I am grateful to our Sri Thakur, Ma and Swamiji although my tour for 14 days from 1st to 14th october was extensive and hectic. And this feeling of joy is nonetheless due to the gracious blessings of all senior monks and loving vibrations from younger brothers. And finally is the devotional feeling with which devotees like you who are house-holders, always wish for the welfare of the monks!

Durga! Durga!