The Fourth Night of #NavRatri is dedicated to Ma as Kushmanda – the Power of the Sun. Now, this is my own somewhat figurative rendering of the name; with a more direct translation working out something like “Warmth of the Cosmic Egg”. And while it might be tempting, I suppose, to think of the Sun as perhaps being the warmth-associated round yellow object (like the yolk of an egg maybe) of the cosmos, there’s quite a bit more going on here than simply that interpretation.
For in addition to the Sun (which is commanded and ’empowered’ by Her – thus recalling, in somewhat residual format, the quite likely identity of the Proto-Indo-European solar deity as *female* rather than male, something preserved to a certain extent also with the Nordic figure of Sol), She is also associated with the HiranyaGarbha – the ‘Golden Egg’ mentioned in an ancient Hymn of the RigVeda (Hymn 121 of the 10th Mandala) which forms one of the earlier Hindu creation myths.
Now, this is very interesting – for in addition to its obvious generative function, the Egg in question is also identified in post-RigVedic literature as Brahman, that is to say “the Absolute”. And according to the subsequent elaborations upon the Vedic hymnal in question, shortly after the inception of the universe via its coming into being, it undergoes a process I suppose you might refer to as ‘mitosis’, whereby the Egg splits into two (which may, in fact, be what is metaphorically referred to via the notion of Kushmanda *smiling* to create the universe – for a mouth shape entails a line wherein the face comes apart; while a smile ensures this is regarded positively rather than a ‘mere’ fracture; if the grin exposes teeth it shows the ‘bones’ of its bearer, also). These two, as with many ‘fundamental pairings’ to be found in an array of cultures the world over (I am reminded instantly of the New Zealand Maori figures of Rangi and Papatuanuku, the Ouranos and Gaia (or, for that matter, Chronos & Rhea) of the Greeks, and no doubt many more examples besides) are the Heavens and the Earth.
However, the original Vedic scripture is rather more terse when it comes to such details – only insisting that this figure (not at all coincidentally translated by Ralph Griffith as “Mother of the World”), who is to be regarded and worshipped as supreme, is responsible for the creation, filling, ordering, and I suppose one might say “en-lightening” of the Cosmos.
In either case, I believe the implication is quite clear: This ‘Cosmokrator’, this Mother of the World with golden, shining radiance as Her hall-mark (in multiple senses of the term) … is Adi Shakti. The First Power, Who precedes the Universe, and Who is responsible for its investiture with All and Everything at its Beginning. Which, of course, gels with another translation often proffered for HiranyaGarbha – Golden Womb.
Kushmanda, then, as a Theonym, does not simply refer to She Who in the present provides the Sun with its radiance and lustre – its “warmth” (or, ‘energy’ I suppose one might additionally render it as), as well as its direction. But rather, to She Who at the very outset of there even having been a Sun did so. Has always done so. Indeed, created and set the Sun into Its Portion of the ‘Cosmic Vault’ in the very literal ‘first place’. The primordial ‘energy’ and ’empowerment’ [for such ‘Shakti’ directly is] at the inception of our reality.
So, having explained and expanded somewhat upon the name “Kushmanda” and who She ‘really’ is … the obvious question upon our minds is – just what is She doing here, at this part and portion of the NavaDurga Cycle? Surely, She should be positioned at the very Beginning? Or, in considerable ‘light’ of what I have earlier said about Ma as Siddhidhatri, She should be positioned at the *end* of the NavaRatri Cycle as the re-unification of wandering Parvati’s path through the phases with Her Greatest and Highest Self?
Ah, now you are catching on! Take another look at that last clause. “Re-Unification”, rendering Her as Her Highest Self.
For what happened immediately prior to This Night in the NavRatri Cycle? That’s right – the Marriage of Parvati to Shiva. What is this? Why, a Re-Unification. But not just *any* re-unification. Nor even one of most beauteous lovers separated by bounds of death and beguilement and circumstance.
Parvati is the Earth Mother – this can be seen even most directly in Her Theonym : (Female) Stone or Mountain. Shiva is the Sky Father.
The bringing back together of these two, then, as happened when Ma as Chandraghanta was able to ensure Their Divinely Ordained Marriage could once again take place (which itself was only able to take place following the metaphysical-theological Debate of Ma as Brahmacharini with Lord Shiva, wherein She sets out to Him and vice versa the ways in which the two ‘parts’ of the Universe may perhaps be re-joined), thus ‘makes whole the Universe’. Putting *back together* the Sky and the Earth which are regarded as having *divided* from the Hiranyagarbha. And, of course, re-creating the fundamental unity of essence inherent in the Ardhanarishvara shared/combined Aspect of Lord Shiva and Lady Parvati.
Or, to phrase it perhaps more simply – At the Beginning of Time, They were One. Even despite having emanated (back – for all of this has happened before, in a previous cycle of Creation) into Two, They remained so close as to be inseparable. Up until tragedy and calamity, engineered perhaps unwittingly by the Spawn of Brahma, lead to Their fundamental severance, with the Slaying of Sati, and a consequent unfurling of Darkness in a most ‘benighting’ and horrendous sense throughout the very fabric of space-time with the Grief of Shiva and His wanderings throughout the Universe bearing Her slain body (For even in Death, on one level at least, They could not be Parted).
Which could only be *un-done* … via Her reincarnation, first as Shailaputri, then as Brahmacharini, and then as Chandraghanta (in all cases, Ma as Parvati), and re-marriage to Her Mahadev. (Har Mahadev!)
Thus, She (and, for that matter, He) (are)is once more rendered, “whole”, “complete”, Brahman made manifest, The Absolute.
And as a further point of interest, it is also possible to trace ‘backwards’ the emanation of the Sun’s Rays through the above enumeration of the preceding NavaDurga Forms. For The Light after sunset and at night (remembering the aforementioned metaphysical condition of darkness about the three worlds as a result of the occlusion of the smoking-pyre of Sati’s self-immolatory ‘sacrifice’;) last of all falls upon the terrestrial (the ‘Shaila’, of which She is also Putri), having descended (the opposite of the ‘ascent’ implied in Brahmacharini – and recall also the rendering of this Theonym as the ‘Seeker of the Absolute!’ Finally She has Won!), from the Radiance of the Moon (ChandraGhanta), which is itself a reflection of the Radiance of the Sun – which, as noted above in the cursory writeup of the ‘contemporary’ role and function of Ma as Kushmanda, is generously provided via Shakti Brahman to the Sun in the first place.
You see how it all ‘hangs together’ just so?
This also represents the ‘pathway back to the Light’ for not just the Devotee, but also for Lord Shiva and even Lady Parvati, after a sense. Particularly after we consider the effect of Lady ChandraGhanta to ‘clear away the darkness’ and occlusion – behind and both prior and subsequent to which … the Sun is radiantly apparent! ‘Divinity’ in a most direct sense! (this hinges around the etymology of the word back to its PIE roots) Although it may take another kind of ‘eyes’ entirely to look ‘behind’ ‘above’ and indeed ‘through’ the otherwise potentially literally ‘blinding’ light of the Sun ‘further’ to the actual Source Herself !
In any case, to bring things back to the more ‘contemporary’ and perhaps ‘day to day’ (I hesitate to use the term ‘mundane’! ‘Mundus’, perhaps, notwithstanding) sense of Kushmanda, just as Ma as ChandraGhanta represented the Devi as the Princess endeavouring to be wed, and regal yet with a certain sense of contingent regency upon another (an additional appropriateness for the Lunar symbolism!), Kushmanda therefore represents Ma as Queen. As MahaRani, indeed, of the Cosmos. Where Her Power (both as half of the Absolute Sovereign, as well as, in an overlapping sense, that Sovereign Herself) is not that drawn from another and exercised ‘contingently’. But rather, ‘self-empowering’, the ‘grund-norm’ (a term drawn from an interesting legal theory as to what makes Law Law, which is, now that I think about it both incredibly apt for Adi Shakti, and also for Shakti-As-Brahman-As-Dharma As Rta!), upon which all else, via the Power of the Sun (for truly, pretty much almost all life here on Earth is, in a very real sense, either directly or indirectly “solar powered” if one thinks upon it) Depends.
While Devi as Queen, in the more ‘matronly’ sense via which She also literally (in a sense perhaps surely somewhat different to previous) ‘once again’ becomes a Mother, is the *next* phase of the NavaDurgas – with the Birth of Lord Skanda (admittedly, to other mothers – yet more upon that tomorrow night!); this is also arguably the first instance wherein Devi is presented as a Mother, as well as the first instance within the cycle wherein She is held as (resumptive) Absolute. I believe this adds yet another layer of meaning to both the traditional Hindu theological/ethical maxim that positive conduct toward one’s Parents is the Highest Act Of Piety, as well as the myth of Lords Ganesha and Skanda circumambulating the world (or, in the case of Ganesha, Their Parents – the aforementioned Divine Pairing of Shiva & Shakti-Parvati) which is customarily utilized to illustrate same. After all, by performing parikrama about the HiranyaGarbha, Lord Ganesha has therefore Traced with His Glorious Footsteps a Path around the Universe Entire.
We thus pray to and honour Ma as Kushmanda both as the act of honouring one’s ultimate parent(s), the author(s) of not just our particular existence – but of the Universe and the Cosmos Entire. It is right, and it is most eminently righteous, to do so.
We also ask Kushmanda and Her Radiant Smile to bless us by bestowing the Solar-connoted virtues which are inherent in the Sun’s en-livening rays throughout creation. What is meant by this, is Charisma – the shining and glowing force of one’s personality, to be directed toward positive and productive purpose; is Health and Wealth – the former being intrinsically contingent upon the empowerment of the Sun (and not least via vitamin D and melatonin-regulation and suchlike), the latter also ultimately deriving from it and perhaps also being metaphorically resonant with the ‘sunny’ lustre of gold as its iconographic representation; for the removal of darkness and negativity – as the Sun’s rays quite directly do, and to reference the political maxim about sunlight being “the best disinfectant”; for encouragement – just as the Sun’s rising stirs our hearts and strengthens our spirits even as it removes the gloom; for the fertility of imagination (and elsewhere) that is directly correlate with Her role in our mythohistory, and the illumination of concepts and (re-)connection ‘back with the source’ via solar inspiration which She can bestow; and for Empowerment – in the ‘microcosm’ of our lives and personhoods and physical forms and communities .. just as, in an initial and ongoing sense, the Universe, the Cosmos at large.
Iconographically, Kushmanda continues the broad themes of the previous Incarnation of Parvati as Chandraghanta – Being a multi-armed clearly radiant Devi form accompanied by Dawon; although with significant additions to both the Weaponry and other Instruments of Piety carried by the previous Aspect. These are the Chakra (often associated with Lord Vishnu, and somewhat luridly translated by myself from time to time as the “destructo-disc”; its 108 razor-sharp edges are symbolic of Dharma, its shape may also suggest the Solar Disc in our sky (especially with the radiating blades/points therefrom), and its range indicates that the scope and ambit of the Bearer’s Power is unlimited – encompassing the Universe Entire. Most aptly appropriate for Her!); as well as another liquid-carrying vessel that is said to carry the Amrit – the ‘elixir of life’.
And, of course, for reasons that ought be patently obvious, instead of the Moon, She is Crowned with the Sun. (In many illustrated portrayals, anyway)
Homage To You Who Is Mother Of The Universe Entire
ॐ देवी कूष्माण्डायै नम
Jai Mata DI !