The Mother Goddess
The lndus Valley people transmitted to their successors the cult of the Mother Goddess in the form of Shakti, Devi and Mata etc. According to Starbuck,
‘female deities have often enjoyed the highest place among the gods, depending upon the social organisation and the respect in which women are held’. The female principle was considered as the real source of divine
energy and activity (Shakti). Worshippers of Shakti have strong faith that but for Shakti the gods themselves can achieve very little.
The Worship of Mother is known as ‘Shakta’. ‘Shiva is a corpse without Shakti’ goes a Shakta dictum. ‘Shakti’ stands for the ‘Dynamic Energy’, the energy
that creates. But ‘she’ is one with Shiva. She is the consciousness-force of Shiva. As fire and heat are not separate, so too Shiva and Shakti are not separate.
Devi, as the female energy of Shiva has two distinct personalities, one mild and benevolent, the other fierce and malevolent.
She has a great variety of names, referable to her various forms, attributes and actions. In her mild and benevolent form, she is worshipped as Uma,
Parvati, Gauri, Haimvati, Jaganmata and Bhavani. In her terrible form she is Durga (the inaccessible), Kali (the black), Chandi (the fierce) and Bhairavi (the terrible).
Devi is the most complex and the most powerful of the goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. She is the great Mother Goddess of pre-Aryan times as well as the
‘Shakti’ of Shiva reflecting in her nature her husband’s variety of roles. She is both bringer of fertility and exacter of living sacrifice. The name most commonly given to the fierce form of Devi is Durga, who is
undoubtedly one of the most formidable and impressive goddesses of the Hindu pantheon and one of the most popular. Durga’ primary mythological function is to fight and defeat demons who become a threat to the
stability of the cosmos. In this role Durga is shown as a great battle queen with many arms, each wielding a weapon. She rides a fierce lion
and is invincible in battle. She is famous for defeating Mahisa, the buffalo demon, which brings her the epithet of Mahisa-Mardini, the slayer of Mahisa.
Her most common iconographic representation shows her vanquishing Mahisa symbolizing the last phase of a struggle between the spiritual urge of man and his lower passions. Other campaigns of Durga were her
annihilation of a demon called Durga from whom the goddess acquired her name, the defeat of two demon brothers, Shumbha and Nishumbha and the killing of other terrifying demons.
And yet Durga is not only a warrior-goddess whose sole function is to kill and annihilate. She is also the consort of god Shiva. In this role Durga
assumes domestic characteristics and is often identified with the goddess Parvati. At some point in her history, Durga has been closely associated with crops and fertility. ‘Durga Puja’, the most important festival
in her honour is held at harvest time. In her later history Durga assumed the role of Mother, which continues to this day. To-day goddess Durga is widely worshipped as a mother-divinity whose concern is not only to
maintain the cosmic rhythms, but also to come to the rescue of her devotees.