The festive season is almost here, and all of us are soon going to be trapped in the celebration of Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra, Diwali etc. We will be forced to leave non-vegetarian food and alcohol, yet again. People around us will start fasting, and junk food will be taken over by ‘fast’ food (Pun Intended). In fact, even Domino’s is going all vegetarian this Navratri. Everybody will spend the last few days before Navratri eating whatever they wouldn’t be able to for 9 straight days.
All of us go on with the worshipping and fasting, but not many of us know the mythological history behind celebrating Navratri in the first place. Navaratri (‘Nava’ means nine; ‘Ratri’ meaning Night) is spread over a span of 9 nights where we worship Goddess Durga. There is a story behind how she came into being, and how good won over the evil. It’s a beautiful story, which will make every woman feel empowered.
The Story of Mahishasura
I am sure you know about Devas and Asuras (Gods and Demons respectively) – balancing the good and the bad of the world. Mahishasura was a fierce demon, who was born to an Asura called Rambha and a she-buffalo. He was one of the most feared demons, who was taught by Shukracharya (The Guru of Demons). As per the order of the Guru, Mahishasura does his penance towards Lord Brahma Dev (the creator).
Lord BrahmaDev appeared in front of Mahishasura to fulfil the demons desired boon. The asura asked for immortality at first, which Lord Brahma denied. He said that it is an inviolate principle, that all that has been created must have an end. He was ready to accept any other desires.
Mahishasura found a loophole. He requested Lord Brahma saying, “May I not die at the hands of men. May I not die at the hands of the Devas, my foes. May I not die at the hands of any of your creations. If death has to ever approach me, may it approach me only through a woman. Woman is weak, and powerless. She would not be able to kill me anyway. So this boon would be as good as being immortal.” And the creator granted him his boon.
Unafraid of death, Mahishasura began gathering demons to form an army. With his army, he took over the Earth. Then, he decided to take over his foes – the Devas and the Heaven. He prepared his army and sent ahead an emissary to declare war on the Devas. Lord Indra ( leader of Devas and lord of Heaven), called his private council and his Guru – Brihaspati for help.
Brihaspati advised Indra to go to the Trimurti (Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva) and ask them for a favour. With the Trinity’s help, they will be able to face the Asura Army. And so, Lord Indra beseeched their favour, and the Lords joined them in the war.
The two armies – Asuras and Devas, met on the battlefield. Although Mahishasura remained to be undefeated, he saw the downfall of his favourite soldiers. In Anger, Mahishasura created thousands of clones of himself using his demonic power and attacked the gods. The Trimurti tried to kill Mahishasura themselves, but Lord Brahma’s boon saved him. Struck with fear, the Trinity left the battlefield. And without help, the Devas were disheartened and fled from heaven. They spent years wandering in forests and mountains, staying incognito.
The Devas approached Lord Brahma again, and prayed for him to help them regain their kingdom. Again the Trinity was called together for a council, and after much discussion, they decided that a woman needs to be created with the best parts of their powers. And this lady shall be the end of Mahishasura.
The Birth of Mahalakshmi
The Trinity, and Devas together contributed their powers, and a beautiful woman was born. And as she was born of the best parts of all the gods, she is also known as ‘Mahalakshmi’ – the protector of Gods. Everyone gave their special weapons and prepared this lady for the battle. Vishnu gave her a discus (the Chakra). Lord Shiva gave her a trident. Varuna gave her a conch to blow. Agni gave her Sathagni, which is capable of killing thousands of Asuras at once. Vayu gave her a quiver and a bow. Yama gave her a staff. Indra gave her his Vajra (lighting thunderbolt). Brahma gave her a water vessel filled with water from Ganga. Vishwakarma put forth his axe. Kubera gave her a cup of wine (much needed, I am sure). Tvashta gave her an armor which can withstand any missile. And Surya gave her his blinding rays.
They all prayed to her, asking for her help in defeating Mahishasura. The Devi mounted the lion and marched towards the Heaven to kill the Asura. When Mahishasura heard about this beautiful woman, standing outside the gates of heaven, with deadly weapons and no fear, he desired her and wanted her to be his queen. He sent one of his soldiers to go propose his love to her, without hurting her.
Hearing the proposal, she laughed. She challenged Mahisha for war and killed the greatest generals of Mahishasura. He then went to see her personally and asked for her hand. He never wanted to battle such a beautiful woman, but Devi kept to her words. After much discussion, she agreed to marry him if he wins the battle against her. And so began the most vicious battle till date.
At the end of this battle, she launched her discus and beheaded Mahishasura. Still infuriated, she did the Tandav Dance on his body, thereby getting the name ‘Mahishasura Mardhini’, which means the Slayer of Mahishasura. It’s believed that this battle went on for 9 days, and on the 10th day she killed him. The 9 days are celebrated as Navratri and the 10th as VijayaDasami.
And Hence, Navratri.
Mahishasura met his end at the hands of a woman, whom he considered to be weak. And Navratri is the celebration of how a woman took over the unbeatable Mahishasura and saved all the gods, heaven as well as the Earth. Despite it being a myth, it depicts the power of a woman.
So for all the ladies out there – Whether you believe in it, or don’t, this Navratri celebrate your womanhood. You Go Girl!