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Friday January 28, 2005: The Hindu Goddess Durga's Destruction

        Thinking of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet’s myth of destruction, I am reminded of India’s goddess Durga and her great battle, for the two stories share many similarities. I wonder again how these myths came to be.

        Durga’s story began during a time when Mahisa and his army of demons had grown strong -- powerful enough to threaten the gods themselves. The deities watched Mahisa grow confident he could defeat the gods, confident the whole order of the world could be overtaken by Chaos. In desperation the male gods prayed to the Daughter of the Himalayas. Why? Mahisa's magic was such that he could only be defeated by a female. Together the male gods called up Durga, the warrior queen, whose very name meant 'Beyond Reach.'

        Durga expelled a mighty breath and from this breath sprang her own army of females. It was this army that fought to protect the worlds of creation -- fought until fields were red with the blood of demons. Still demons came. Durga was busy with Mahisa. Such a clever demon, Mahisa; he took on different forms, trying to trick Durga and catch her off guard. She did not lessen her attack. When Mahisa took on the form of the buffalo demon, Durga at last managed to decapitate him. Yet, Mahisa's demons still came at her.

        In that moment, it was Kali that sprang from Durga's forehead -- Kali, born of the Goddess's intuition, able to reach from the High Levels into the Worlds of Time -- Kali, quick and able to cut through the darkness -- Kali, black as ink herself, terrible to look upon. Her crazed laughter filled the air, echoed across time and space, and Kali fell to devouring whole armies of demons. She cared not how many were to be killed. Some she ripped open with her dagger-like teeth. Some she crushed beneath her feet. Her eyes burned with passion. Kali defeated all that came before her until only the demon Sumbha remained.

        Ah, but Sumbha was no fool. Better, he thought, to challenge Durga. Durga, he thought, might be weakened by Mahisa. At least Durga did not fight within the folds of time like Kali. Sumbha began to taunt the goddess.

        "Is Durga so righteous that others must do her fighting?" he scolded. "Is Mahisa the only one you consider worthy of your efforts? Perhaps it is beneath you to dirty your hands now. Or is this the way of the Gods -- the way you defend honor?"

        It had been Durga's task to return order to the world. She took back Kali and all other forms within herself, that she might fight Sumbha alone. Again she battled within the heavens -- a great and mighty battle -- until at last defeating Sumbha. Only then did peace return to the earth. Only then did she rest.

        Oh, how the other gods sang to her glory. She had saved the creation of the gods. "You will be remembered forever," they sang. Great tributes of praise they sang. Durga turned from their singing. She cared not for power.

        "I will return if the world is ever in need again," she said. "On that day I will return to conquer its enemies. Until then, know that I am here to protect and nourish the faithful." That was her pledge. That was all she would say before returning to her mountain.

        India still remembers this battle, still celebrates the victory. It is not a recording of human deaths, only a goddess's fight against demons. Animal blood becomes the symbol of victory over evil -- a bloody victory of Heaven, without mercy, and every year the streets are filled with flower petals and pools of blood from animals sacrificed in her honor. The story itself carries no fear of Durga or Kali attacking mankind. After thousands of years, Hindus still rejoice in the destruction.

        History had not been so kind with Sekhmet. Her story was recorded as a goddess out of control, a goddess bent on destruction. Was this the pain I’d seen in her eyes --to know that you would be remembered so differently?

Posted on Friday, January 28, 2005 at 04:53AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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