# Day 140 (The nine auspicious nights II)

Many years back it was at a Bharatnatyam recital, that i experienced firsthand the powerful “Devi Mahatmyam” (i.e. The Glory of the Divine Mother) The first part of the performance by a renowned exponent of the dance was a perfect execution of this classical Indian dance form. In the second half, the dancer shared with the audience the story of her struggle to overcome cancer and how she had used the dance to cope with the illness and even overcome the after effects of chemotherapy. Her mother had gifted her the “Durga Shaptashati” and exhorted her to recite this ancient scripture for spiritual sustenance to cope with the difficult times. Just as an aside, the Durga Shaptashati is an ancient Sanskrit text of 700 mantras (the sanskrit word for 700 being ’shaptashati’) divided into 13 chapters. It forms part of the Markandeya Puran (a Vedic scripture attributed to one of the original seven-sages, Sage Markandeya) and is dated approximately around circa 400-500 BC. It glorifies Goddess Durga or the feminine divine principle~ “shakti” ~ and describes her victory over the Demon Mahishasura. The widespread belief is that each chapter, when recited can help the individual get rid of a wide range of life’s problems including illness and disease. All three aspects of the Divine Mother are described therein. The first Chap is dedicated to Mahakali; Chap 2 to 4 to Mahalakshmi and Chap 5 to 13 to Maha Saraswati. To return to the dancer’s story, she spoke of how as she began a daily recitation of the scripture, she could feel an inner force growing inside her…a divine ’shakti’ ready to struggle with her personal Mahishasura, the demonic illness that threatened to debilitate her and keep her away from following her passion of dancing. Slowly as the cancer was conquered and her physical strength returned she began to translate the scripture into the art form she knew…her dance. And then as she performed to that powerful chant of “ Mahishasura Mardini Stotram” the entire audience watched transfixed as she transformed into a Durga-incarnate and destroyed the demon. Her dance that evening was a subliminal experience as the lines between metaphor and reality got blurred and the battle between the forces of light and darkness became symbolic of our own inner struggles with the demons that plague each one of us.
Till today when there is talk of the symbolism of festivals like Navratri that at some level celebrate the triumph of good over evil, i remember that dance. Devas and Asuras are nothing but forces of human consciousness that have existed since the very inception of creation. We are the medium through which these forces act out their clash. Perhaps in their heightened state of awareness, our wise sages of yore visualised that the struggle between these two opposing forces is what underlies the world drama both in society and within each individual. The more you read and research, the greater the realisation that the art, literature, mythology, the epics, festivals and temples of India are all themed to portray this complex and perpetual struggle between the “Devas and Asuras”
One legend says that Goddess Durga meditated on the tip of a needle for nine days and nights (hence the Navratri) and after this penance on the tenth day of Dashmi, she destroyed Mahisha, the asura. The demon born of Rajo Guna (the quality of aggression and restlessness of the ego in search of gratification) and Tamas Guna (the baser quality of inertia, lethargy and selfishness) was a powerful Asura who wreaked havoc in the three worlds. Symbolically he represents the Jivatma or the individual soul with impurities. His death at the hands of the Divine Mother Durga represents the destruction of the ego, thereby paving the way for the soul to merge with the divine Parmatma.


About sunsur81

A gatherer of thoughts...exploring myths,metaphors and expressions of life...
This entry was posted in 365 Days Blog-roll, Indian Accents, Matters of Faith and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to # Day 140 (The nine auspicious nights II)

  1. NupurNS says:

    Wasn’t there also some link between dashera and navratras?


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