[Author’s Note: I wrote this some four years ago yesterday. So, as ever, our understandings have grown and evolved in certain areas … including the rather intriguing potential that the Excalibur myth of Britain, wherein a certain female figure associated with The Waters bestows an empowered sword to a leader in order to unify things and drive out the invaders … well, perhaps these events have been emanated before. The nature of Myth is, after all, that it is a patterned typology for reality’s subsequent expression.]
It is Friday; and therefore, as has rapidly become my custom, I present a brief explication on an Aspect of Mother Durga. In this case, Bhavani – Who is especially prominent among (although by no means exclusive to) the Marathas of central-western India.
Probably the best-known tale of Ma Bhavani concerns Her gifting of a sword [known as the ‘Bhavani Talwar’] to the future Maratha ruler and Hindu freedom-fighter, ShivaJi.* The attached image illustrates this instance, and is symbolic of the blessing of the foremost of the War Deities of the Hindu Pantheon to ShivaJi in his mission to restore Hindu sovereignty and culture after the protracted onslaught of the Muslims. An endeavour in which ShivaJi was seriously successful, beginning with his taking of a fort belonging to one of the local Sultanates at the age of just fifteen; and progressively escalating to wars against almost every substantial colonial occupying power in India at the time, from the British to the Mughals themselves, transforming his demesne from that of a small Mughal protectorate to a mighty power poised to take most of India – which the Marathas eventually, in fact, did.
This is, naturally, taken as evidence of the Divinely Ordained nature of ShivaJi’s quest to rebuild Hindu India; and also accords most strongly with the subsequent ‘political’ understandings of Mother Durga – the details of which you can find in my previous post on ‘Bharat Mata’ Aspect. [the salient parts of which being reading of one of the core stories of DurgaJi – that of the Slaying of the Demon Mahishasur – as having symbolic resonance with Hindu fight-back against invading Muslims; and later, strong connection of Mother Durga with ‘Swaraj’ [‘Self-Rule’] struggle against British Empire on similar basis.]
As a further point of interest, it is intriguing to note that the main priests of the foremost Bhavani temple in Maharashtra today [the TuljaBhavani Mandir, also a site of one of the sacred Shakti Peethas] are not Brahmins, but instead appear to be derived from the warrior families of the Marathas.
But it is not only in Maharashtra that Ma Bhavani has worshipers and Temples. There is also a fairly active tradition of both among the Kashmiri Pandits of Kashmir; who believe that HanumanJi brought a Murti of the Devi to Kashmir as a part of the events connected to the Ramayana; and who also venerate the Goddess at a particular sacred spring in the area.
In any case, name ‘Bhavani’ has ties to the same etymologic root which gives rise to our modern [English] word “be”, or “being”. The translations of ‘Bhavani’ tend to be somewaht figurative rather than literal; and focus upon role of Adi Shakti as ’empowerment’ of universe and beings within it. This somewaht accords with the name of another Aspect of Mata Di – ‘Jagadamba’ [which can be figuratively translated as ‘Mother of the Universe’]; with the duality of sorts between the caring, nurturing nature of the Devi for Her devotees on the one hand … and the martial, ‘actively-protective’ nature of the Devi as applies external threats , particularly to same.
Jai Mata Di!
*[there’s actually … a bit of controversy surrounding the ‘Sword of ShivaJi’ in recent times, but I’ll address that in a subsequent post, lest that narrative/explication take over this one 😛 ]