Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God
(Go Back to Part 1)
Hanuman took a huge breath and slowly began to grow bigger and bigger. The heavy ropes that bound him snapped and fell away. And his burning tail grew into an awesome torch, with which he set the Island Kingdom on fire. The structures hissed and cracked as they burnt and fell, and the townsfolk screamed in fear. Satisfied, Hanuman took his leave and returned to the mainland, where Rama and Laxmana had been waiting for him. He gave them valuable information on Ravana’s forces, and then the army crossed a bridge to Lanka that was made by the monkey leader and master architect called Nala.
During the great Battle of Lanka, Hanuman defeated the Demon Lankini, who was the principal guard of the city of Lanka. But his greatest feat during the battle was to bring back the herb that cured Lakshman from a fatal wound. He flew all the way to the Himalayas to find it, and was harassed by many demons. He could not find the herb and finally brought the entire mountain to Lanka. The herb was found and Lakshman was saved.
After the battle, Rama, Sita, Lakshman, and Hanuman returned to their hometown of Ayodhya and Rama and Sita were crowned King and Queen. When Rama offered Hanuman any boon he wanted, Hanuman asked to live for as long as men spoke of the deeds of Rama.
- Written by Neelam Wadhwani
Rama and Hanuman, great friends
Hanuman was believed to have been an incarnate of Lord Shiva, one of the three highest gods in Hindu Mythology. As legend has it, Lord Shiva descended on earth as Sri Hanuman to help Prince Rama destroy King Ravana and rid the world of his evil.
In the Ramayana, Sita (Rama’s wife) was abducted by Ravana (the King of Lanka). While Rama and Laxmana were looking for her, they met Hanuman. After ensuring that the princes were who they said they were, Hanuman offered them his help. After consulting with Sugreeva (the King of Monkeys), Hanuman used his supernatural powers and flew above the land in search of Sita.
Hanuman found Sita sitting under the shade of an Ashoka Tree, within the walls of Ravana’s palace. At an opportune moment, Hanuman approached the princess and introduced himself as Rama’s messenger. To prove it, he provided her with her husband’s wedding ring. Convinced, Sita greeted him warmly. Hanuman reassured her and told her that Rama was coming to rescue her soon.
Pleased for having completed his mission, Hanuman turned to leave. But he was spotted by Ravana’s relatives and had to fight the demon Meghnaath, son of Ravana, in the gardens of the palace. He won over Meghnaath but was captured. After being tied up in thick rope, Hanuman was marched to the palace. Ravana was incensed that he couldn’t kill Hanuman without defying the norms of society. So, instead, he wrapped Hanuman’s tail in cloth and set it on fire. By this time, Hanuman had had enough. Out of respect for Rama, he had tried to play by the rules. But no more.
(Go to Part 2)
Maa Siddidatri, the ultimate manifestation of Durga
On the nineth day of Navratri we worship the Goddess Siddhidatri. Siddhi means perfection and Dhatri means “one who gives.” Thus the Goddess Siddhidatri is the one who gives her devotees perfection in all ways. She bestows on them spiritual power and worldly achievement. She is considered the most powerful form of Durga, which is why she is worshipped on the last day. Once you have worshipped all other forms of the Devine Mother, you are ready to worship the ultimate, most magnificent form of the Goddess among the Navadurga (the nine avatars of Durga).
If the devotee worships Goddess Siddhidarti with full devotion and pleases her, all wishes are fulfilled and all fear and pain is eliminated. Through Her the devotee can satisfy and control all his or her desires. The Goddess ends greed and superfluous temptations. After obtaining “Siddhi,” the devotee will achieve an enhancement of their personality, and want for nothing. And only through the Goddess Siddhidarti can one clear all the doubts in their mind and have the true realization that everything is from the same supreme source, thus achieving true freedom and peace.
Seventh day of Navratri: Goddess Kalratri
The Seventh Day of Navratri begins with the blessings of Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Kalaratri is believed to be the seventh shakti (power) of Goddess Durga in some parts of India. In other parts they worship the Goddess Chamunda (also known as Chandi or Chandika) on the seventh day of Navratri. These two Goddesses have very similar characteristics so I’ll describe them both.
Goddess Chamunda is kind and compassionate to her devotees, but she symbolizes disaster, destruction, death and distress of Mother Nature. Because of her power, she was the Goddess worshiped by many of the royal families of India. There are disputes about Goddess Chamunda’s physical form, so there aren’t many paintings or sculptures depicting her.
Goddess Kalaratri is the One who is dark as night. Kala means black and ratri means night. She is know as “the Death of Kaal (Time).” She removes darkness and destroys ignorance. She reminds us that life has a dark side.
Goddess Kalaratri is the most violent and fiercest avatar of Goddess Durga. Her appearance alone is enough to invoke fear. She has a very dark complexion and her bountiful hair waves in fits around her. Her upper left hand holds a gleaming sword, and the lower left hand holds a weapon for destroying negativity. Her other two hands are in protection postures. She has three fearsome eyes and flames spill out from her breath. Her neck is adorned with a necklace of flashing lightning. She rides a donkey, who is the symbol of loyalty.
Though the appearance of Goddess Kalaratri is horrible, she is extremely generous to those who worship her with devotion. She is known by her devotees as “the One who does good,” because she is the unprecedented granter of boons. She grants freedom from fear, pain and suffering. Through her, her devotees attain power, position, and fame and prominence. She also protects her devotees from negativity within and without themselves, and evil people.
On the sixth day of Navratri we worship the Goddess Katyayani in some parts of India, and the Goddess Bhairavi and Maha Kali in others. The sixth day of Navratri also marks the last day of the worship of the aspects of the Goddess Lakshmi.
Goddess Katyayani is both benevolent and malevolent. She can bless and destroy. She is the essence of love but becomes furious when the brutality of evil increases. It is believed that Goddess Katyayani persistently battles against those evil and deceitful entities to protect the universe. She rides a lion or tiger, has three eyes, and her skin is gold and her face is radiant with divinity. She has four arms. Her upper left hand carries a lotus flower, the bottom left carries a sword. Her other two hands are in defending and blessing positions.
If you worship the Goddess Katyayani with faith and devotion, you will attain four virtues: Artha (wealth), Dharma (duty), Kama (love), and Moksha (salvation). You are given the wisdom to see your negative characteristics and the power to then destroy them. When the Goddess is happy with you, she eliminates all your pain and suffering in the world. Disease, sorrow, and fear disappear.
five of Navratri: Skandmata
On the fifth day of Navratri we worship the Goddess Skandmata. She is the deity of the solar system and is known to give joy to all. Anyone who worships her with full devotion and faith on the fifth day of Navratri is showered with immense happiness and prosperity. The goddess in this form is very beautiful with a golden complexion. She has four arms and sits upon a lion. She is very protective of her children, so if they are in danger she fights the demons from atop her loyal, powerful mount. She carries a lotus in two of her hands and her divine children on her lap. She showers all her motherly love on her devotees and fulfills all their desires, blessing them with supreme joy and bliss.
Goddess Annapurna giving alms to Lord Shiva
On Day 4 of Navratri we worship the Goddess Annapurna. In Sanskrit Anna means “food” or “grains,” and Purna means “full, complete, and perfect.” Therefore the Goddess Annapurna is known as the giver of food and nourishment.
She is truly beautiful to behold. She is depicted as holding a golden ladle adorned with jewels in her right hand, and a bowl full of nourishing porridge in her other hand. She sits upon a throne and sometimes is accompanied by Lord Shiva standing to the right side of her begging for alms.
The story goes that Lord Shiva told his wife, the Goddess Parvati, that the material world is an illusion and that all parts of it, including food, are also an illusion. Parvati, who is workshipped as the manifestation of all material things, which includes food, became angry. In her anger, and to prove the importance of material things, she disappeared from the world. This disappearance caused the world to become barren and there was no food to be found anywhere. All the beings on the earth suffered from hunger.
But being the mother of the universe, Goddess Parvati, couldn’t stand to see her children suffer for long. She soon reappeared and set up a kitchen. Intensely grateful for her return, Lord Shiva himself ran to his wife and presented his bowl begging for alms. He said to her “Now I realize that the material world, like the spirit, cannot be dismissed as an illusion.” Mother Parvati was so pleased she fed he Devine Husband with her own hands. And so Mother Parvati became worshipped as Annapurna. It is said that she will not eat even a morsel of food until all her devotees have been fed in her temple.
Goddess Jagadamba (Amba), the Mother of the Universe
On day three of Navratri, we worship the Goddes Jagadamba (or Amba). In the Puranas (a series of 18 collections in Sanskrit of Hindu legends and religious instructions) Amba means mother and Jagath means Universe. Therefore, Jagadamba is the mother of the Universe.
It is believed before the start of all creation, the Goddess Jagadamba appeared in front of God Vishnu to commence the cycle of creation. Thus, it was through her that the universe was given birth. And she is the mother who has boundless love and forgiveness for her child. The name Jagdamba is used when Goddess Durga ( or Shakti) takes a peaceful form.
Because she is the peaceful mother avatar of Durga, devotees pray to her for well-being, prosperity, good health, family well-being, etc.
Goddess Bhadrakali, Auspicious Kali, The Protector from Evil
On day two of Navratri, we bow to the Goddess Bhadrakali. Bhadrakali is the form of Durga we are most familiar with in the West. Most of us have seen the heartstopping image of a goddess with many arms, a necklace of sculls, tongue hanging out deep red dripping with the blood of her enemies. In her many arms some of the things she carries are an axe, a trident, a severed human head, and a bowl of blood. Rage seems to swirl around her and she herself is the color of a thundercloud.
Westerners look at this Goddess and wonder how Hindus could worship such a hideous being. But to a Hindu she represents protection from the evils of the physical and spiritual worlds, and from our own ego. She was born out of the wrath of Mother Goddess Durga, when her beloved husband Shiva was insulted. And Bhadrakali is who the gods turn toward to fight the battles they must win against evil in order for the universe to survive. Only Bhadrakali’s ferocity can defeat the most evil demons, and can battle the human ego. She is our eternal protector, and is thus revered by many Hindus as the most important Goddess of all. Without her the Universe would perish. And without her compassion, all humans would be ruled by their egos.
In the study of spirituality it is believed that people who are attached to their egos see Kali in this hideous form. But to those who have removed the illusion of the ego, Kali appears as sweet, affectionate, and overflowing with perplexing love for them.
Universal Mother, Goddess Durga
We begin the nine day celebration of Navratri with the worship of the Mother Goddess Durga. She is the wife of Lord Shiva and is considered the mother of the universe and is thus believed to be the power behind the work of creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. The goddess Durga was manifested when the forces of evil threatened to take over the universe. In order to destroy the demons, the gods each offered some of their own powerful attributes for her creation.
In Sanskrit the word “Durga” means “invincible.” She is the destroyer of evil and thus represents the power of good over evil. She is worshiped in order to remove suffering and misery from the lives of her devotees. Mother Durga is also very wise. Like her husband Shiva, Mother Durga has a third eye. Her left eye represents desire, her right eye represents action, and her central eye knowledge.
Durga’s faithful vehicle is the lion, which represents power, will, and determination. Mother Durga riding a lion represents her mastery over all these qualities and suggests to anyone who sees her that one must possess these qualities in order to defeat the demon of their ego.
When you witness Durga standing on a lion it signifies the assurance of freedom from fear. It’s as if the Universal Mother is saying “Surrender all actions and duties onto me and I shall release thee from all fears”.