You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : September 1996

Re: Goddess Durga

From: Krishna Kalale (kkalale_at_qualcomm.com)
Date: Mon Sep 23 1996 - 20:01:21 PDT

On this subject, I plan to put forth a different view, as obtained by my
gurus Dr. N.S. Anantha rangachar and Dr. SMS Chari.
I would like to address  the question " I am a little intrigued by Lord
Krishna's apparent suggestion to Arjuna to pray to Goddess Durga (Kali)
before the battle".  

I am equally intriqued by this, particularly, being married to a person from
Bengal, who has talked to me regarding this issue. Apparently, in many
translations of Mahabharata, this episode is not present. In one bengali
version this episode is not present, but I do remember another person (a
bengali) mentioning that she has read it on one of the versions.  However,
in Devibhagawatam and other works which are by the way not works of
"Rishis", these incidents are numerous.  The one episode which comes up in
Mahabharata is the prayer and offering of flowers to "Pasupati - Siva" by
ARjuna and his surprising realization that those flowers ended up on the
feet of Lord Krishna later. 

I am also surprised by the importance given by certain sects in India to
dieties other than Krishna when referring to Mahabharatha!.  This is like
beating up some one in their hometown!. Sage vyasa refers to Krishna - as
"Krishnasya hi krite bhutam idam vishvam characharam" - (This Very universe
of mobile and immobile creatures are made verily to please Lord Krishna)..
If they mention such things when referring to Devibhagavatam or other
puranas it is a different thing.


I would like to confirm whether this episode is there in original
Mahabharata myself. I have two versions of it - short one by Rajagopalachari
- and one by TTD - Pandit Krishna macharya.  Both of them dont mention about
this episode. If someone has the original please shed some light on this.

I want to make a long story short:

Yes, in different puranas (note not shrutis!), Devi or Durga or some other
female epithet of "shakti" or energy has been given a very important status
(equal to God or parabrahman).  For that matter, in Ganesha Atharva Sirsha
or similar upanishad, the highest (sort of ) status is given to Ganesha.
One interesting (wierd) upanishad "Sarabhopanisad" mentions Sharabha (Siva)
beat up Narasimha!.  I dont know where in hell (or heaven) these two Gods
fought and why?!Why would SHarabha beat up Narasimha!.  (by the way
according to Bhagawatham, they did meet under friendly terms during time of
Prahlada - right when Lord Narasimha appeared in front of prahlada).
Similar rare (non-principal) upanishads do talk about other Gods as well,
as being the highest.  This is confusing and this issue is probably very
important for prapannas and those who are considering this. Remembering the
name of this group, I thought I should mention this for the 300th time just
to make sure people dont get confused!

Please note that there is this traditional question " is the ultimate an
energy form?".
This is answered in the affirmative by "Shaktas" who are either durga
worshippers or Srividya Upasakas etc.  Vedas hardly ever give support to
this concept.  There are a few rigvedic hymns in support of this view - like
the Ambrani Sukta statement - "aham sivasya dhanuratanomi".  Then the
question comes up - do vedas eulogize every deity it finds or does it have
some set of norms regarding praising a non-ultimate deity to be the
ultimate?.  The answer is - "ask the right question - dont get confused by
the language of the upanisad--- and look for the answers in the right text
book".  The right question is " who is the cause of all causes?". Please
look for answers in only VEDIC texts for this!!. The answer to this question
is clearly - Narayana who is the wielder of energy and not energy or shakti
itself. according to all the three major acharyas - Shankara , Ramanuja, and
Madhva.  Look into their major bhasyas to prove it for yourselves. I know
that Samkara and Ramanuja agree on this one hundred percent. Regarding
Madhva - game is different since several new scriptures are accepted which
are not referred to by others.  The way visistadvatins reconcile this is as
follows:

In places where a "finite" is equated to "infinite" then it is due to
antaryami bhava ( or the infinite being the soul of finite or sarira sariri
bhava - ie. the infinite being the atman of the body-like finite.  examples:
tat tvam asi - (you are that) and several other statements like these.  

Is Goddess Durga the energy of Narayana?  This is partly true. All deities
derive their energy from the source Narayana. I am not being sectarian here.
These are based on Vedic statements - see vedartha samgraha of Ramanuja -
translated by SS Raghavachar. The derivations are based on vedic evidence. 

In fact if you remember - sudarshana astakam - as per Ahirbudhnya samhita,
the energy of Narayana is Sudarshana Himself according to Lord Shiva
(Ahirbudhnya).  The dieties themselves dont seem to be confused regarding
the ultimacy!. They are no doubt that they are great dieties with power and
knowledge.  How do you reconcile this " who is the energy? of Narayana -
Durga or Sudarshana?".  As per Shatapata brahmana - Sudarshana is termed as
the energy of Narayana.  In Srimad bhagawatam - Durga is said to be the
Yogamaya who announces the birth of Lord Krishna to Kamsa.  It is not wrong
to assume that Durga's energy is derived from Narayana. But Sudarshana is
regarded as the complete power of Narayana as per shrutis and our purvacharyas. 

Praying to Durga to attain dharma- artha-kama for non-prapannas is fine.
There is no problem with that except that it might sort of be a mildly
offensive to one of the statements of Bhagawadgita - "chatur vidha bhajante
maam janaha sukritinorjuna - artho jijnasuh artharthi jnani cha
bharatarshabha" - (8th chapter I think). (basically for even carnal pursuits
some pray to Krishna (Narayana) - who are termed to be also broadminded by
Lord Krishna".  

Only if one is interested in Moksha - praying to a non-ultimate diety leads
to failure of attempted goal as per the scriptures.  This is where one needs
caution. Praying to the antaryami of a finite entity is fine. BUt why do
that when you can directly address the antaryami?

Note, if upanishadic evidence is quoted, it has to have a reference to
principal upanisads (10 or 13 in number).  IT is quite interesting that Sage
Vyasa who is supposed to be the compiler of all the vedas exclaimed : " Na
daivam Keshavat Param" - there is no diety higher than Keshava!.  Some
upanishads are awful - which describe "Sharabha beat up Narasimha... went
after him and hammered him... something of to this effect - as though those
two Gods did not have anything better to do than engage in silly fights...
over what?". Not all upanisads are considered authentic from perspective of
all the three acharyas. 

NOTE: The puranic evidence quoted from Markandeya purana - copied below
(from Sadagopan's post) needs some explanation:

Note that the very same Markandeya in Mahabharatha (Bhagavatam) has the
vision of the "vatapatra shaayi - Lord Narayana" during the great deluge
(pralaya) when he wishes to know the ultimate entity when all other dieties
are devoured in the pralaya!.  How do you reconcile between this and the one
quoted below:. The same view is reflected in one of our alwars words :
Valatthanan tirupuram eritthavan... referring to siva who is in the right
part of Lord Narayana.

One must watch out which purana is being quoted : The puranic evidence has
to be from satvic puranas (as per classification in Mahabharata). Then only
the purana has reasonable validity.  Or else the default validity goes only
to the shrutis. 

The summary is : please read one of the chapters in SMS chari's book on
Narayana - the supreme entity or read Filloziat's thesis on "varada raja
panchasat" which tries to determine the supremacy of dieties.  

A long story ..... Just to make it clear to this group. 

At 07:54 AM 9/21/96 EDT, you wrote:
>Regarding Sri Vijay Srinivasan's Questions , 
>I would like to make the following observations .
>
>!. Shantha Durga form is indeed the form consecrated 
>in South Indian Temples . She is some times called
>Vaishnavi or NarayaNiin the context of her being the 
>Vishnu MayA . At the 51st of the 108 Sakthi peetams near Madras ,
>, Ambattur (iympatthu onru =51) , She is worshipped as Vaishnavi .
>I have  written extensively on the 108 sakthi Peetas of India and 
>Devi Worship in India in special articles for a  Tattva Loka 
>issue devoted to Navarathri . There  is a Vast literature in 
>Agamas as well on Durga and Devi . 
>
>2. One can also see Shantha Durga in the Northeastern 
>Prakaram of SarangapaNi temple at KumbakoNam . It 
>is a small shrine , ten feet above ground in a samll niche . 
>Durga and her association with temples of Kanchi and Thirukovilur 
>are refeerred to in the Sthala PuraNas . In North American Temples ,
>the trustees take into account worshippers of different traditions .
>Hence the range of deities consecrated is wide . 
>The Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple to be built at Pomona, NY , 
>is one temple that will be a replica of the traditions of 
>Srirangam temple .
>
>3. I will include here two views on Durga  , One from Devi Upanishad 
>and the other from Markandeya PuraNa. Devi Upanishad 
>passage says : " In all knowledge , She is the transcendant 
>consciousness; in all voids , She is the void. She, beyond whom 
>there is no beyond is sung as " Beyond -Reach "(DURGA) .
>
>4. Markendaya PuraNam passage describes the Mahishasura 
>Mardini form consecrated in a beautiful icon at the Thyagaraja/
>Kamalaambha temple at ThiruvArur in ChoLa Desam .It says:
>" A long war had been waged between the Gods , led by Indra
>and the antigods . The king of antigods, the genie Mahisha 
>(the powerful ) , won the war and established himself in the 
>kingdom of Devas . The Gods wandered homeless on the earth.
>They approached Siva an d Vishnu for help. Guided by Siva and Vishnu ,
>they concentrated their powers  which came from their mouth 
>in the form of  a jet fire. These flames united into a blazing sphere
>which took the shape of a Goddess. The power of Siva formed 
>the head, that of Yama the hair, that of Vishnu the arms, that of moon 
>the breasts , that of Indra the waist , that of Brahma the feet . 
>>From the power of Sun came the toenails , from Vasus the fingernails ,
>from Kubera the nose , from Prajapati the teeth , and from Agni the eyes,
>from the twilight (Sandhya) the brows , from Vayu the ears . Each God
>handed over their weapons to the Goddess . The conception of Her 
>creation reminds one of Purusha Sooktham somewhat .
>
>Riding  a lion , the Goddess , whose name is Durga (Beyond Reach ) ,
>defeated the enemies of the Gods and destroyed Mahisha , who
>took the form of a Buffalo and restoreed the kingdom of Gods to Indra .
>
>Durga Sapthsathi , Devi Bhagavatam and Maha Bharatham give 
>this description as well . She is prayed therefore for victory in
>battles and the reference of Parthasarathy directing Partha 
>to offer worship to Durga  at the beginning of the mighty war 
>probably refers to this tradition . 
>
>The rendering of Mahishasura Mardini slokams by Brahma Sri
>(late ) Sengalipuram Anantha Rama Dikshithar and the singing 
>by Bombay sisters in that tradition are  delightful to listen to .
>
>V.Sadagopan
>
>
>
Krishna Kalale
619-658-5612 (phone)
619-658-2115 (fax)