Dassara, Dussehra: Celebrating Devi’s Grace

Devi Kamakshi at the Ramnathi Devasthan by Arun Shanbhag

Wishing you all a Wonderful Dassara.
All year around,
We are blessed by
Devi’s Grace!

M&M & A

Pic: Murthy of Kamakshi, a form of Durga Devi at the Ramnathi Devasthan, Ponda, Goa. See the murthy of Kamakshi after alankar (costumed) in this post.

Other Durga Devi / Dassara Posts:

Notes excerpted from my book, Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms;
© Arun Shanbhag 2007

Durga Devi
Devi, Goddess, is the oldest Hindu deity. Clay figurines from the 6th and 5th millennium BCE, attests to her antiquity. Today, Devi is worshipped in all corners of India in various forms, such as Bhu Devi – the earth Goddess; the demure Parvati – beloved consort of Shiva; devoted Sita – Rama’s dearest; and Kali – the ruthless avenger. Durga is the ferocious manifestation of Devi and is revered for slaying the tyrannical buffalo demon Mahisasura, liberating heaven from his clutches and restoring order and discipline in the Universe.

In a popular legend from the Devi Mahatmyam – Glory of Devi, the demon Mahisasura defeated Indra, King of Gods, in battle and conquered heaven. The dejected Indra and his retinue of demi-gods wandered earth as mere mortals, and begged Vishnu and Shiva to end Mahisasura’s tyranny. From the intense anger and focus of the united Gods emerged brilliant rays of light, which combined to bring forth the goddess Durga. Each God contributed their choicest weapons to her. Shiva presented her with a trident, Vishnu his discus. Agni the Fire God, presented his spear and Surya the Sun God illumined the pores of her skin, casting a luminous aura around Durga.

Endowed with an assortment of weapons, and the arms and the strength to wield them, Devi challenges the asura army. With blood curdling roars and a defiant laugh, she demoralizes the demon army and systematically decimates them. When Mahisasura attacks her, she destroys his weapons and captures him with her noose. Devi then traps him under her feet and skewers his neck with her spear; when the human form of Mahisasura emerges, she grasps his hair and decapitates him.

The slaying of Mahisasura is commonly depicted in Durga artwork. Devi posing calmly on the battlefield, with the demon trapped beneath her feet. The red clothing denotes the spilt blood and alludes to her fertility. Durga thus represents the all-compassionate and fertile woman, yet relentless in battle against evil, energetically defending righteousness against injustice. She is simultaneously approachable and displays motherly love and concern for her devotees. Her close association with the earth and its regenerative ability endears her to even the common laborers and farm workers, making the annual Durga puja and festival, widely popular in India’s rural communities.

Priest reciting the Devi Mahatmyam (Devi’s Magnificence) at the Ramnathi Devasthan.
pics of Priest reciting the Devi Mahatmyam at the Ramnathi Devasthan by Arun Shanbhag

31 thoughts on “Dassara, Dussehra: Celebrating Devi’s Grace

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  1. Shalu – the book was released on Ganesh Chaturthi. See http://www.arunsprarthana.com
    Its also on Amazon.com
    Unfortunuately, it is not yet for sale in India. Still working on the local printing and else.
    If you are interested, i can mail you a copy from India :-))

    Dassara was fun as we had family from india visiting! and followed by a huge family reunion and wedding in the family! Yaay!
    Congratulations on “karva-chauth” *bows* Yes, the Var lakshmi Puja was/is popular in our homes! 🙂

  2. when does your book come out? it should make for good reading. i’m always on the lookout for means to educate little sid abt the hindu culture, our traditions and practices. i grew up in a catholic convent away from home and have imbibed this confusing mix of culture that i call my own.

    how was dasshera? i also kept the ‘karva- chauth’ fast on 29th october. something akin to the var- lakshmi puja in these parts.

  3. Hi Shilpa: We didn’t do anything either. We had uncles and family visiting from india and that took up the entire weekend! It was a fabulous way to spend Dasara, but exhausting too!

    Can’t wait for your Diwali spread! :-))
    Sorry to hear that you had to put off your india trip. Hope all is well! Heh, do your parents visit here? Our travels plans have finalized and i will send you an email with more details.

  4. Hey Arun, hope you enjoyed Dasara. We didn’t do anything this year as we had painting classes whole day :(. I think I will have to start cooking now itself if I want to do something special for Diwali :(.

    Ohh those pictures of murthys make me nostalgic. After we had to cancel our India trip, I am getting hit by homesickness every day now :(.

  5. Thank you Rachna! The Devi Mahatmyam – recounting the story of Durga Devi is one of my favorite of the puranas. You should read a translation if you get a chance.
    Simply lovely!

  6. Vee – you are absolutely right. Normally the devi is covered in a gold-plated kavach, dressed in saree and decorated with flowers. I particularly wanted to see this image of Devi during the abhishek. During the abhishek, they place small flowers, which get washed away with the abishek water. Notice how the base is very wet.
    Shanteri and kamakshi are both forms of “Durga Devi”! :-))

    (I will post the full shringar pics some time!)

  7. Dassera Greetings to you and your family, Arun.

    Lovely murthy of Devi Kamakshi. Bewildered as to the lack of flowers and such on it. Did you take the photo before the daily ‘shringar’ ritual? It’s been such a long time I have been to Ramnathi or Goa for that matter.

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