Durga: encountering the demon of ignorance

Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia
Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia

In the above image we see Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon. The painting is by Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 (via Wikimedia, US public domain).

In becoming aware of the supreme Self, we are likely to behold the demons and shadows of the individual self. Carl Jung believed that an encounter with the demon or monster represented an archetypal stage in the process of individuation. He says, “the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time.” In mythic terms the shadow may present itself as a monster, a demon, a darkness or a drought. Here is the full quote from Jung’s Man and His Symbols:

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Durga: goddess as libido symbol

Durga Confronts the Buffalo Demon Mahisha: Scene from the Devi Mahatmya- ca. 1780 from the Metropolitan Musem.
Durga Confronts the Buffalo Demon Mahisha: Scene from the Devi Mahatmya- ca. 1780 from the Metropolitan Musem. US public domain via wikimedia
Carl Jung says that “the goddesses… are libido-symbols.” He adds: “The libido expresses itself in images of sun, light, fire, sex, fertility, and growth” (para 324).

The image above beautifully expresses the powerful feminine form of Durga as libido, or the creative force. Durga, दुर्गा means “the inaccessible”(wikipedia). She is a form of the Goddess Shakti. In this image she rides a lion to battle a buffalo possessed by a demon. Her four arms are armed with weapons. I see a conch, a bow and arrows, a sword, a lasso, and a lotus, each holding symbiotic significance. The Hindu Society of Berbice offers an interpretation of the symbols:

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Durga on a Lion: anima and the tiger

The goddess durga on her lion kills the demon mahishasura, 1880, kalighat school. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
The goddess durga on her lion kills the demon mahishasura, 1880, kalighat school. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

There is a relation between the feminine and big cats. Carl Jung notes the link when he says that the anima “can appear as a … tiger” (CW 9i, para. 358).  In dreams, imagination, and art we find powerful female figures appearing as or with big cats such as pumas, panthers, leopards, and jaguars. The big cats represent feminine power. To confirm this understanding, we turn to the above image of the Hindu Goddess Durga. She appears here with her lion.

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Gayatri: the mother plays an important part in the woman’s unconscious

 A representation of the Gayatri Mantra by Raja Ravi Varma. US public domain via wikimedia
A representation of the Gayatri Mantra
by Raja Ravi Varma. US public domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung speaks of the importance of the Goddess in the life of women, for instance:

“the Earth Mother plays an important part in the woman’s unconscious, for all her manifestations are described as ‘powerful.’ (CW 9i, para. 212)

Western spirituality is dominated by the image of the Father God. This may be a detriment to feminine psyche, as well the male. We need the mother goddess, she play an important role in the unconscious. As Jung says, we need her “power”.

Hinduism understands this. In the Hindu pantheon, there are many Goddesses. As the ancient Hindu texts seem to understand, the many goddesses are forms or ectypes of the great mother goddess, the Devī (the Sanskrit word meaning Goddess). In Tantra, the Goddess (as Devi or Shakti) is realized as the “power” of the cosmic Self (Shiva).

One form of mother Goddess is Gayatri. In the image above, we see Gayatri with five heads, seated on a lotus. It is said that her four heads represent the Vedas and the fifth head represents the supreme Self.

Gayatri is also one of the most important Vedic Mantras. Gayatri offers herself as a wonderful healing hymn for all beings on the path to enlightenment. Singh says,

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Kali: the loving and terrible mother

Kali standing upon Shiva. Iconographic Collections. Creative Commons via Welcome Images.
Kali standing upon Shiva. Iconographic Collections. Creative Commons via Welcome Images.

Carl Jung speaks of Kali:

“In India, ‘the loving and terrible mother’ is the paradoxical Kali. Samkhya philosophy has elaborated the mother archetype into the concept of prakrti (matter) and assigned to it the three gunas or fundamental attributes: sattva, rajas, tamas: goodness, passion, and darkness. These are three essential aspects of the mother: her cherishing and nourishing goodness, her orgiastic emotionality, and her Stygian depths .” [1]

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