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The Goddess in India

Two traditions evolved in India, one is the vedic, and the second is tantric.
Both linked the goddess to samsara, the manifest cycle of birth and rebirth.
She was the flow of energy, the substance that embodies the soul and gives
form and identity to all. As Shakti, the goddess was supreme untamable
universal energy. As Shree, she was the supreme domesticated goddess of
fortune. She was Maya, the supreme unfathomable delusion of existence.
She was Prakriti, mother nature, responsible for earthly existence. From
her came material pleasures and worldly powers, karma and artha.

The male gods were more closely associated with unmanifest reality, pure
consciousness, the still soul or atma. The ascetic Shiva sought moksha,
liberation from material things, while the more worldly Vishnu
propounded the doctrine of dharma, detached fulfillment of social
obligations, thus the goddess and gods stood at two ends of the
metaphysical spectrum. She represented material reality, he represented
spiritual reality. Together, they gave life fullness and completeness.

Death of Shumbha and Nishumbha

Two demons, Shumbha and Nishumbha saw the beautiful goddess


standing atop Mount Meru. Overwhelmed by desire, they both sought her
hand in marriage.

I shall marry only one of you, the one who is stronger, said the goddess.

I am stronger, declared Shumbha. No, it is I who am stronger, said


Nishumbha.

To prove that the other was wrong, Shumbha and Nishumbha began
fighting. Rocks were hurled, blows exchanged until the two demons of
equal strength ripped each others hearts out and lay dead at Durgas feet.

Death of Chanda and Munda

News of Vindhyavasini, the beautiful goddess who resides atop mountain


reached Mahisha. Chanda and Munda rushed to Mount Meru and placed
Mahishas offer of marriage before Durga. When Durga did not reply, the
demons threatened her with violence. The goddess responded by swinging
her sword. In one sweep, she cut off both their heads. The gods named
this amazing warrior woman as Chandi, the fierce one.

Armies of Mahisha

The violent rejection of his marriage proposal enraged Mahisha. Bring


that proud woman before me in chains. I shall teach her who is the
master.

A hundered thousand asuras armed with bows, arrows, spears, and swords
surrounded Mount Meru, determined to capture Durga, but as they
marched up the hill, the goddess hurled her missiles, before long, a
hundred thousand demon heads were seen rolling down Mount Meru,
smearing its slopes red.

The goddess drank the blood of the demons. Then, seizing a lute and
drum, she made music to celebrate her victory.