Nava-Durgā as Ideal Model for the Development of Women to Attain their Natural Full Potential

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh

Science has taken a dominant position in the world for at least for the past 500 years or so, making every aspect of life being examined through the lens of science, or at least scientifically. Thus are the fields such as social science, political science, in addition to hard sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Corona pandemics has brought a few previously ignored items of discussion regarding men and women. Women are less vulnerable to Corona infection and Covid disease by about half compared to men. In addition, their immune reaction is so strong that anaphylaxis reaction from Covid vaccination is entirely occurring in women. There are several other biological differences between men and women (Singh, https://myind.net/Home/viewArticle/the-irony-of-empowering-the-powerful-women), mostly favoring women physically and biologically, which gives them on average 5-7 years higher longevity. How does it translate into the social behavior, structure, and treatment of women in the world generally? India traditionally being a matriarchal society (yes, it is contrary to general belief, but I am talking about matriarchy meaning mother and patriarchy meaning father, as opposed to ladiarchy and maniarchy! Singh, https://www.umassd.edu/indic/faculty-and-staff/director/india-new-england-jun-2007/) also needs to be looked at rationally and objectively.

Culturally, women in India under ideal conditions have high place in the society – Durgā, Saraswatī, and Laxmi. With all those superior physical and mental power as indicated above, there is perhaps no doubt left why women are referred to as the Shakti or power! Even 30-40 years ago, at least in eastern UP, girl names had Devi (divine) added as a suffix. It reflected what society perceived and professed for women’s high place. Kanyā pūjā is still common throughout the country during the Navarātrī celebrations. To rationally examine the practice of Kanyā pūjā during the Navarātra, one needs to examine first the nine forms of Durgā described for the purpose.

What do these forms truly represent, how they are symbolized with body forms, what items they carry in their hands, what they ride, and what people expect to get when they worship them. While considering such traditions, one needs to be cognizant of their symbolic nature. For example, it will be utterly ridiculous to consider a lady with 10 hands riding a tigress no matter how courageous she may be! It will be equivalent to a cardboard model of river bridge of an engineer makes to design a real bridge but someone tries to take a car over the cardboard bridge.

When considered in a scientific way, the NavaDurgā represents phases of a woman’s life, which undergo a lot more physiological and psychological changes naturally. Thus, the nine forms of Durgā in fact represent the life stages of a woman, starting as a daughter (Shailputrī) and ending with a wise woman (Siddhīdatrī) who can provide advise and blessing with her experiences.

प्रथमं शैलपुत्री च द्वितीयं ब्रह्मचारिणी।

तृतीयं चन्द्रघंटेति कूष्माण्डेति चतुर्थकम् ।।

पंचमं स्क्न्दमातेति षष्ठं कात्यायनीति च।

सप्तमं कालरात्रीति महागौरीति चाष्टमम् ।।

नवमं सिद्धिदात्री च नवदुर्गाः प्रकीर्तिताः ।।

which translates as the first is Shailputrī, second Brahmavādinī, third, Chandraghanṭā, fourth Kushmaṇdā, fifth Skandamātā, sixth Kātyāyanī, Seventh Kālrātrī, eighth Māhāgaurī, and ninth Siddhīdatrī. The characteristics, features, actions, etc. are listed in Table 1, which also carries phase of life a woman’s life in the comment section.

Interestingly, and coincidentally, these features of development match with the hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s life (Figure 1).

Table 1. Names and characteristics of Nava-Durgā with message for female development

NameQualityArms Rides onActionFeatureComment – a message for girls/women
ShailputriReborn after Sati, power of nature, and embodiment of Tri-devasTwoNandi OxNoneEarly ageStage of a kanya or a young girl or daughter
BrahmavadiniAscetism and penanceTwoOn footNoneTeenagerTime of learning
ChandraghantaBell-shaped half moon on forehead, courageTenTigressCan be malevolent but is sereneYoung lady Young and courageous with a lot of capability
KushamandaRadiant with energyEight LionessCapable of killing demonsLearning over, doing begins Confident
SkandamataMother of Skanda, sits on and carries two  lotus flowersFour Ferocious lionCaring and teachingMotherly, devotedAbove the messy world
KatyayaniAngry, Vengeance against demonsFour Magnificent lion Killed MahishasurProtectiveNatural instinct of a mother to protect
KalratriDestroyer, dark complexionFourDonkeyKilled Shubmha and Nishumbha Fiercest and ferociousRepresents time as darkness that engulfs all eventually
MahgauriBright, shiny, intelligent, wiseFourBullNoneForgivingFull of wisdom
SiddhadatriLeft half of Ardhanarishwar, Treats sura and asura the sameFourLion or TigerNoneGives boons of siddhisUltimate mother of all, giving blessings

Also, perhaps as a result of changes in their physiology periodically they are more aware of their nature, and thus women in general reflect the sāttvic thoughts and action. And, indeed, the society prospers when that sanctity is maintained.

Many a time the pedagogical meanings of many ancient shlokas and practices are either not understood or taken superficially. For example, Manusmriti states that ‘yatranariyasya pujyante ramante tatra devta’. This is wrongly translated as – where women are worshipped that becomes god’s abode. Another way to translate the same shloka would be that where women rise to the level of being worshipped, gods make that place as their abode. This would mean that all those living in her house will behave like devās!! The onus, therefore, is on the innate strength of women to raise their level with their knowledge, practice, management, and caring of the society. But that sounds too inordinate and cumbersome, especially in modern system of society where my troubles are someone else’s fault for both men and women!

Figure 1. Life stages and hormonal changes in women (From https://www.otsuka.co.jp/en/nutraceutical/about/nutrition/womens-health-and-nutrition/).

India’s great tradition of considering girls as representatives of goddess like Durgā, and celebration of this tradition at least twice during the Navarātras begs the question whether boys also get to learn about their place and position in the society. Curiously, Nava-Durgā forms of devīs originate in the Ardhanārishwar! It is quite likely that the Kanyā pūjā during the Navarātra is to remind the young girls of their potential to realize to be in a privileged position of the society. In this way, young boys are treated step-motherly by the society, leaving them to fend for themselves. It is high time that boys also get to be reminded of their potential and possibilities with role models similar to Nava-Durgā. It couldn’t be more fitting than to consider the 11 Rudras as the role model for boys and men to shape their ideas to pursue. Therefore, the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA, in collaboration with Kuruom Jankalyan Sansthan in village Kuruom near Ayodhya decided to make a debut program of Ramkathā as the platform to discuss, during April 22 – May 2, 2021, the features and traits of eleven Rudras for guiding boys in the world to grow and realize their full potential.

– Prof. Bal Ram SinghSchool of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

Republic Day, Gaṇarājya, and Ganesha!!

-Prof. Bal Ram Singh

Symbolic representation of nature and deities has been a practice throughout the world, but it is extensively used in India. Understanding meanings of such representations requires deep understanding the culture, and also scientific approach of objectivity and unbiasedness.

The culture, traditions, symbolism, language, communications, etc. are living elements of life for people, that includes living under or creating a political system for governance. A majority of the countries in the world today practices of some form of democracy, even in the mode of monarchy, such as Britain. Of course oldest (United States of America) and largest (India) are representative republic democracies. According to Wikipedia (accessed on January 24, 2020), a republic (Latin: res publica, meaning “public affair”) is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are attained, through democracy, oligarchy, autocracy, or a mix thereof, rather than being unalterably occupied. 

India became Republic of India (bharatiya ganarajya; भारतीय गणराज्य) on January 26, 1950, when it adopted the constitution of India, the largest constitution document in the entire world. Interestingly, the gaṇa (used in gaṇarājya to mean kingdom or state of gaṇas) in Sanskrit means flock, troop, multitude, number, tribe, series, or class. While gaṇas are variously described in the history and culture of India, referring to them as members of governing assembly, warriors, farmers, etc. Vrātam Vrātam gaṇam gaṇam (व्रातं व्रातं गणम् गणम् ) Rigveda 3-26-6, these all are ultimately derived from or are linked to Shiva gaṇas, Gaṇapati, and Ganesha.

The gaṇas are in fact Shiva gaṇas, and Ganesha being his son was chosen as their leader by Shiva, hence Ganesha’s title gaṇa-īśa or gaṇa-pati, “lord of the gaṇas” (Wikipedia –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva, accessed January 24, 2020).

According to legends, Shiva gaṇas are attendants of Shiva and live in Kailāśa. They are often referred to as the bhutagaṇas, or ghostly hosts, on account of their nature. Generally benign, except when their lord is transgressed against, they are often invoked to intercede with the lord on behalf of the devotee. The Shiva gaṇas also include nāgās, yakśas, pramathis, pisācās, rākśa gaṇas, vināyakas, guhyākas, manuṣya and deva gandharvas, vidhyādharas, and siddhas. Sadhguru describes gaṇas are described as distorted, demented beings. It is said that they had limbs without bones coming out of odd parts of their bodies, so they are described as distorted and demented beings. (Shiva’s Gaṇas – Demented or Celestial? https://isha.sadhguru.org/in/en/wisdom/article/shivas-gaṇas-demented-or-celestial). According to Sadhguru, Shiva meaning the Yakkśaswarūpa (a celestial being), and the gaṇas, Shiva’s friends, were not like human beings, and it is clearly said that they never spoke any of the human languages. They spoke in utter cacophony when Shiva and his friends communicated. They spoke a language that nobody understood, so human beings described it as total, chaotic cacophony. But the gaṇas were the ones that Shiva was really close with.

The bottom line of the description of gaṇas is that it basically addresses a wide group of people from ghosts and globulins to warrior, rulers, and celestial beings, thus essentially expressing the group as everything seen or perceived in the universe. In other words, they represent Shiva himself, who is the lord of expressed physical world, with Brahmā as the lord of the subtle and creative world, and Viṣṇu as the lord of the causal world, to complete the trilogy concept of Hindu tradition. Ganesha being Shiva’s son despite the legend suggesting he was created by Pārvatī alone, and he being appointed as the lord of the gaṇas, it is important to understand the symbolic features represented by Ganesha. Ganesha is the ideal of gaṇas, meaning that gaṇas are supposed to attain the traits possessed by Ganesha. What are the major traits of Ganesha? Let us consider the following features amongst others shown in the symbolic diagram of Ganesha – large stomach, elephant head, large ears, the hidden mouth, long trunk, and mouse as his vehicle. Interestingly he was not referred to as a Gajesha despite having the head of a gaja or elephant), one can proceed to understand the traits/features of Ganesha in the form of symbolism.

The large head represents the use of wisdom in approaching any problem or hurdles, the large ears mean that one must listen to issues of the day as much as possible, the small hidden mouth symbolizes less need to speak, and the large stomach means big churning or digestion of the information received before making any decisions. The trunk represents flexibility and adaptability of one’s personality for efficient operations. Elephant trunk is the only known organ that can perceive an ant on the ground with its subtle nerve receptors, and it possesses such a gross strength that it can uproot a tree. Such a dynamic range of sense and strength can overcome any obstacle in any person or organism.  Finally, the mouse at the feet of Ganesha represents the complete control over one’s mind and desires for success.

Thus, gaṇatantra or gaṇarājya that is celebrated every year on January 26 must remind people of at least India that they need to aspire to the qualities of gaṇas, with the goal of acquiring and achieving the qualities of Ganesha. This will more than anything help people with their trials and tribulations of life and place their nation above all in the comity of nations of the world today!!

Symbols have been the earliest for way of communications throughout the world, and even today’s writings are basically symbols we put together and call them words, and attach meanings to those words in the context of human experience and observations. This is pretty similar to how we put together atoms to depict molecules, like H2O as water. There is solid understanding behind H2O being written as water in Chemistry, and unless one understands that meaning, it makes no sense to an uninitiated reader. Many of the early scripts, such as Indus script, have not been deciphered even today. Interesting, the Devanāgari script reading activates different and more comprehensive parts of the brain that for example reading Roman script, as demonstrated by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies.

To understand the symbols of Ganesha, for any other deity for that matter, is critical to understand the meaning, and more importantly imbibe the values. Thus, Ganesha is not a religious symbol to divide people, rather a universal symbol to unite people from all walks of life.  A nation or the entire world empowered with such self-knowledge can only be prosperous and peaceful!

Jai Ganesha!

Jay Bharat Gaṇarājya!!

Happy Republic Day!!! 

-Prof. Bal Ram Singh, President, Institute of Advances Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA and Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study, JNU, Delhi, India

Indian Festivals based on the Concept of Yajña (Part -I)

Sh. Anand Gaikwad

Introduction

While I was studying Varāh Mihir’s “Brihat Samhitā” and participating in the exercise of validation of his Rain conception and Rain Delivery (RCRD) theory for Monsoon -2016; the basis of Yajña concept being incorporated in some of the Indian Festivals came to my mind as a realisation. I have been thinking about it ever since the publication of the report about this validation exercise in Asian Agri-History Journal 2018 Vol.22 (2), the International Quarterly Journal of Asian Agri- History Foundation. My association with late Ashwamedhayaji Shri Nanaji Kale for  validation of Suvrushti  Project and RCRD Theory for Monsoon 2016, was a wonderful experience for me; particularly for understanding the greatness of our Ṛśis in theorizing their observations  of nature, environment, atmospheric order and the  Cosmological  System consisting of Sun, Moon, Planets and Nakṣatras. One marvels at the wisdom and expertise in interweaving these theories in social and cultural life for the common benefit of mankind.

All of us are familiar with the Indian Monsoon. The word Monsoon has its origin in Arabic word, ‘Mausam’ which means ‘season’. The word which was originally referred to wind reversals in the Arabian sea, has come to mean the whole range of the phenomena associated with the annual weather cycles in tropical and sub-tropical Asia, Australia and Africa. Therefore, the study of Monsoon weather patterns is of great importance for every Indian farmer, every student of Environmental Science and for that matter every Indian citizen, because Monsoon is the life-line of India. According to world climate patterns and regional geography of Asia and India, Monsoon climate patterns are characterized by large scale seasonal reversals of winds, giving very distinct seasons, ’Summer’ and ‘Winter’. In summer moist air is carried northwards from the Indian Ocean over the Indian sub-continent bringing rains. In winter, cool dry weather is carried southwards. Thus, the year gets divided into wet and dry seasons. In addition a short North-East Monsoon affects the south-east coastal states of India due to winds bringing moisture from Bay of Bengal. The Summer Monsoon arrives in southern India in late May or early June and gradually advances northwards and westwards reaching Jammu-Kashmir, Pakistan by early July. It begins to retreat from north western regions and Pakistan by September and withdraws from south India by November. This pattern of advancement and withdrawal gives Indian sub-continent its characteristic seasonal rainfall pattern which is called Indian Monsoon.

Our great Ṛśis and seers during Vedic Period and Post Vedic Period had studied these weather patterns and encapsulated their findings in scriptures like , “ Brihat Samhitā“ of  Varāh Mihir, “Arthaśastra“ of Kautilya  and “Kṛśi Parashar“ of  Parashar. In addition to these examples of the Science of Rainfall Prediction and Rain Conception Signals, there are many ancient texts of Astrometerology of Vedic traditions like –Parashar Samhitā, Garg Samhitā, Kashyap Samhitā, Maghmala Samhitā, Narad Samhitā etc. which have been mentioned in the reports/ books published by Shri Yogiraj Ved Vidnyan Aśram, Barshi, Dist. Solapur Maharashtra, (Vedaśram) founded by late Ashwamedhayaji Shri Nanaji Kale mentioned above. Vedaśram carried out various experiments of, Suvrushti Projects and Validation of Varāh Mihir’s RCRD Theory by performing Somyāgas, Parjanya Yāgas for establishing scientifically the relationship between Yajñas, Agriculture, Environment and Rainfall.

Varāh Mihir’s Theory of Rain Conception and Rain Delivery ( RCRD):

Varāh Mihir in his, “Brihat Samhitā” gives his theory of Vṛśṭi Garbhadhārana (Rain conception) and Vṛśṭi Prasav (Rain delivery). Chapters 21 to 28 of this book are devoted to this subject-matter. Before laying down his theory, Varāh Mihir explains the importance of the knowledge of Rainfall Prediction, Rain Conception Signals and Rain Delivery at the beginning of chapter 21 entitled “Garbh Lakṣaṇam” (Pregnancy of clouds) in the first verse as follows:

अन्नम् जगत: प्राणा: प्रावृट्कालस्य चान्नमायत्तम् |

यस्मादत: परीक्ष्य: प्रावृट्काल: प्रयत्नेन् ||१||

Annam Jagataḥ Prāṇāḥ Prāvṛṭkālasya Chānnamāyattam  I

Yasmādataḥ Parīkṣyaḥ Prāvṛṭkālaḥ Prayatnen  II1II

It means that as the food is life-giving and life-sustaining force to all living beings and the food is dependent on rainfall (Monsoon) it should be observed, investigated and studied carefully. In India only 35% of the cultivated land is an irrigated land, which means that almost 65% is rain-fed area, which is entirely dependent upon Monsoon. Hence farmer’s knowledge about Rain Conception Signals and Rainfall Prediction is of great significance.

केजिद्वदन्ती कार्तिक शुक्लान्तमतीत्य गर्भदिवसा: स्यु: |

न च तन्मतं बहुनां गर्गादीनां मतं वक्ष्ये II II

Kejidvadantī Kārtika Śuklāntamatītya Garbhadivasāḥ Syuḥ  I

Na Cha Tanmataṁ Bahunāṁ Gargādināṁ  Mataṁ Vakṣye II5II

Thus, some sages say that the days of pregnancy of clouds begins after the full moon of Kārtika month but the opinion is not shared by the majority. Therefore he further says:

मार्गशिर: सितपक्षप्रतिपत्प्रभृति क्षपाकरेआषाढाम् |

पूर्वा वा समुपगते गर्भाणां लक्षणं ज्ञेयम् ||||

Mārgśiraḥ Sitpakṣapratipatbhṛti Kṣapākareāṣāḍhām I

Pūrvā Vā Samupagate Garbhāṇāṁ Lakṣaṇaṁ Jñeyam II 6 II

The symptoms of pregnancy of clouds are to be detected / observed when Moon transits Purvāśāḍha asterism commencing from the first day of Mārgaśirsya. Varāh Mihir’s prime RCRD Theory is stated in verse 7 :

यन्नक्षत्रमुपगते गर्भश्चंद्रे भावेत्स चन्द्रवशात् |

पन्चनवते दिनशते तत्रैव प्रसवमायाति || ||  

Yannakṣatramupagate Garbhaśchandre Bhāvetsa Chandravaśāt I

Panchanavate Dinśate Tatraiva Prasavmāyāti  II7II

The rain-foetus formed during the Moon stay in a particular asterism (Nakṣatra) will be born 195 days (192 calendar days  + or – one day ) later at the time when the Moon will be again in the same asterism according to the laws of her revolution (Moon Cycle). Thus, the RCRD Theory of Varāh Mihir in simple words is that rain conception takes place during dry period (Mārgaśir to Chaitra).The rain conception signals can be observed from the first day of Mārgaśir till Chaitra Māsa. The rain-foetus conceived during this period will give rain delivery after the gestation period of 195 days (approx. six and half months later) at the time of same asterism when the foetus was conceived. The various rain conception signals to be observed are given in other verses and depending on the rain conception signals observed the rain delivery after the gestation period of 195 days  can be predicted . One can prepare a local calendar of rainfall prediction and validate the same with actual rainfall on those days. A farmer can plan his agricultural operations based on this local Agro-climatic calendar.

The relationship of Yajña with Agriculture and Environment :

When one reads the RCRD Theory of Varāh Mihir along with the gospel truth given in Bhagavadagītā Chapter 3 Śloka 14:

अन्नाद् भवन्ति भूतानि पर्ज्यन्यात् अन्नसंभव: |

यज्ञात् भवन्ति भूतानि पर्ज्यन्या: यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: ||३.१४|| 

Annād bhavanti bhutāni parjanyāt Annasambhavaḥ I

Yajñāt Bhavanti Bhutāni Parjyanyāḥ Yajñaḥ Karmasamudbhavaḥ  II3.14 II

One leads to logical conclusion that Yajñas be performed during the dry period to facilitate rain conception and rain-foetus nourishment during the gestation period. This very concept has been incorporated in our festivals which are based on Yajña/ Havans starting from Durgā Navrātri in Aświn to Rāma Navmī in Chaitra and Akaya-Ttīyā in Vaiśākha. The deities worshipped are Ādi Śakti, Puruśa, Śiva, Agnī and Surya and the offerings are preparations of cereals and pulses of newly harvested crops. Our Ṛśis have interwoven these festivals which are based on ’Suryōpasana’ and ‘Agniupasana’ in our cultural system for celebration / participation by masses.

(to be continued…..)

Sh. Anand GaikwadKrishi Bhushan Sendriya  Sheti  M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary