The First Night of #NavRatri is dedicated to Ma as Shailaputri – the Daughter of the Mountain.
In English, ‘Daughter of the Mountain’ would be quite a frequent hailing for Devi – ‘Girija’ [i.e. Giri – Mountain, plus Ja – ‘born from’], and even ‘Parvati’ may be translated in such a manner [‘Parvata’ – Mountain; ‘Parvati’ – ‘of the Mountain’].
This continues quite an extensive and demonstrably archaic Indo-European understanding for the Goddess as being … well … ‘of the Mountains’. We have written extensively upon this elsewhere with regard to, for instance, Artemis – particularly Artemis Orthia (where the ‘Orthia’ may be doing ‘double duty’ with relation to not only Writing, but also Mountainous terrain), the Phrygian Cybele (‘Cybele’ – or ‘Kubileya’ – likely meaning just that, ‘Mountain’), the preferred demesne of Skaði, and other exemplars of what we might term the ‘Meter Oreia’ [‘Mother [of the] Mountains’] deific complex.
To these we might feasibly suggest the addition of various Celtic ‘Brigid’ sounding figures – Brigantia, after all, deriving from the same Proto-Indo-European *bʰerǵʰ- which produces the Germanic ‘Berg’ (as in ‘Mountain’ – and not coincidentally, a phonetic coterminity for terms for ‘settlement’, ‘fort’, as we have discussed elsewhere … consider the obvious thematic resonancy viz. “Durga” but also the “Goddess of the City” notions), and which is also, funnily enough, the likely root for Sanskrit ‘Brahman’.
However, it would be simplistic to presume that ‘Mountain’ is all that is – mytho-literally – meant by these epithetic labellings.
To the archaic Indo-European world-view, the Mountain was far more than a mere jutting rock reaching skyward.
The Greatest of Mountains was the Axis Mundi, the Seat of the Gods, the axle about which the Worlds would turn.
To advance Upwards, to ascend the Mountain, meant to move closer to Divinity – to the Absolute; and also to leave one’s humanity behind. Possibly by dying in the course.
Shailaputri embarks, Herself, upon just such a journey in the next phase of the NavRatri cycle as Brahmacharini – the Seeker of the Absolute (Brahman) … but more upon that tomorrow night.
What we can say is that Shailaputri is not simply a ‘Mountain Dweller’ – but rather, She is the Daughter of the King of the Himalayas : King Himavat (a Mountain King). In other words, She is a Princess, Noble, a ‘High One’ (another potential meaning for Brigantia, as it happens). Which I mention as it is something of a difference from the ‘Kirata’ forms (well, ‘Kirati’ strictly speaking) that we also see Her adopt elsewhen within the mythic corpus.
What we might also state is that Shailaputri is a ‘young’ emanation of the Mountain – by which I am referring to the Goddess as Mountain, indeed the Mountain upon which all else rests and about which all else shall radiate. Not simply ‘Mother Earth’, but Mother of the Worlds Entire and at Their Center as we all perform a blessed Parikrama about Her simply via existing.
She incarnates following the tragedy of the Death of Sati at the ill-fated Horse-Sacrifice of Daksha; and She does so in order to commence a ‘journey back to Her Center’, interestingly accomplished also via reunification with Her Husband, Lord Shiva (another figure of Mountainous habitat).
But more upon that in nights to come.
Or, in our earlier Shailaputri commentary (written for the more prominent NavRatri which occurs in the latter half of the year – ‘Sharada Navratri’, it is often called) –
For now, I think, it is enough to gaze in wonderment at the revelation of the Mountain, and begin to plan the glorious ascent up in following of Her.
ॐ देवी शैलपुत्र्यै नमः॥
जय माता दी !
[art by a gentleman by the name of Chaitanya Kumar]