What is the mythological basis of Durga Puja? Several mythological legends have commingled to form the basis of Durga Puja. These are mentioned below:
- Before fighting Ravana, Sri Ramachandra was advised by Narada to propitiate Devi Durga. According to Hindu mythology, during the six months of the sun’s southward journey the gods remain asleep. (They remain awake during the six months when the sun moves northward.) So Rama had to awaken the Goddess first. This is why the first ritual in Durga Puja is the awakening (bodhan) of Durga. This legend is found in the Ramayana in Bengali written by Krittivas. In some other Puranas it is mentioned that, when Rama wanted to propitiate Devi, it was Brahma who did the awakening. The present-day Durga Puja is, thus, a commemoration of the first Durga Puja performed by Sri Rama.
- The second legend is about the coming of Devi Uma from Her abode in Kailash to the home of her parents – Himavat and Menaka. She comes riding a lion. In the Vedas, Uma is first mentioned in the Kena Upanishad where She is described as Uma Haimavati. It is a popular belief in Bengal that Uma comes and stays with the people for three days. A whole set of songs, known as Agamani, describing the homecoming of Uma has come into existence. These songs are sung during the days preceding Durga Puja. These songs serve to spiritualize Hindu mother’s love and concern for their married daughters.
- The third legend is about Sati Devi. Although neither Sati nor Uma is mentioned in the Chandi, in the mool-mantra used in Durga Puja, Sri Durga is addressed as Daksha-yajna-vinashini, ”The Destroyer of Daksha’s sacrifice.” Daksha was one of the Prajapatis or Creators of the Universe. He had eight daughters, of whom the eldest was Sati. Against her father’s wish, Sati married the great God Shiva who was an ascetic wearing matted hair and leading an unconventional life on Mount Kailash. After some years, the roving Rishi Narada reached Kailash and gave the news that Daksha was going to conduct a big sacrifice to which all gods and goddesses were invited, except Sati and Shiva. Although uninvited, Sati went to see her father. But Daksha spoke insultingly of Shiva and, unable to bear the insult, Sati fell down dead. Shiva was naturally enraged; and his anger burnt to ashes Daksha and his sacrifice, and then Shiva began a dance of destruction. But the gods intervened, and Shiva finally returned to His meditation in Mount Kailash. Sati was reborn as Parvati who, after years of intense tapas, got Shiva as Her husband once again. The mool-mantra, Daksha-yajna-vinashinyai, refers to the destruction of Daksha’s sacrifice mentioned above. It is, however, quite obvious that this great Mantra has some deeper mystic, esoteric meaning far beyond the mythological significance.
- The most important legend which is central to Durga Puja is about Durga, and forms the theme of Chandi. The word Durga literally means one who ”protects like a fort” or one who ”destroys the evil consequences” of our actions (durgati-nashini). In the Chandi, Durga is mostly referred to simply as Devi, the Goddess, and occasionally as Ambika. She is an independent, supreme Goddess, not the consort of any male God. As already mentioned, the Chandi is one of the oldest scriptures on Mother Worship. It was obviously composed before the sectarian divisions of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism entered Hinduism. Hence Devi is referred to in this book as the Power of Vishnu and also addressed as Narayani repeatedly.