Tonight is the second night of Navratri
The Garba dance that is part of navratri celebrations comes from the word “Garbha deep”. Garbha meaning "womb" and “deep” meaning light. On the first day of Navratri is the ceremony of Ghat Sthapana, when a beautifully decorated earthen pot with holes in it is set up and worshipped.
That pot represents the Devi and her most beloved aspect – The Mother
Because she is the place where it all began.
And so the Lalitha Sahasranama is replete with names for the Devi in her most powerful but most benign aspect – the Divine Mother.
Vishvagarbha or She who has the universe in her womb.
Brahma-janani - the Mother of everything.
Sri Mahi - Mother Earth.
Pranada, the Giver of life
Pranesvari, the Queen of all forms of life.
Annada – the Giver of food and nourishment.
Karunarasa-Sagara, the ocean of compassion
Dayamurtih – compassion itself.
We fervently invoke her presence because She is Duhkhahantri, who ends all sorrow, but like a mother, doesn’t stop there and becomes Sukhaprada, enveloping us with peace and joy. There is room for all in her compassionate embrace, because She is Bhedanashini, destroying disparity and why not, because She is Nirbheda – without any differences.
Where She is, there is no fear because She is Raakshagni, the destroyer of the demons that rage not just outside but also inside us. But most of all, because She is Mrutymathani, the destroyer of that terrible fear that haunts all who are born - the fear of death.
In my hometown Mysore, we have a very special relationship with the Devi.
As the story goes, we were once terrorized by the terrible demon Mahishasura and that the Devi took it upon herself to liberate us, appearing as the Goddess Chamundeshwari, who, got her name because her habit of slaying demons, got her name when she made short work of 2 other fearsome demons, Chanda and Munda. After she destroyed Mahishasura, She decided to take up residence atop a charming little wooded hill. Or so we like to believe and so, in gratitude, we Mysoreans named the hill Chamundi in Her honour, built Her a fabulous temple with a 120 ft high gopuram that you can see from almost any point in Mysore. Actually, the temple was a gift to Mysore from the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana in1128 A.D. And in case the demon had any ideas of resurrecting himself (demons are known to do such things), in a cunning sleight of hand, we put up a massive likeness of him on top of the hill so that he’d scare himself away.
We also called ourselves Mahishasura Ooru, now corrupted to Mysore, because in a way, we’re indebted to the demon too.
After all, he did bring us the attention of the Devi!