The Third Night of #NavRatri is dedicated to Ma as Chandraghanta – which we might directly translate as ‘Moon Bell’, although this does not *quite* capture the true sense of the latter term’s meaning.
Now a Ghanta, for us, is a bell. Particularly of the sort rung during religious purposes. The sense is not merely an inanimate object of heavy metal – but rather, it is the sonorous quality that radiates out therefrom. And what it brings with it.
These are feelings of piety, these are feelings of reassurance – and to those who would endeavour to stand *against* the Gods … these are feelings of terror.
Ghanta, in Sanskrit, does not only refer to a Bell – its meaning-field also incorporates a quality of being ‘Shining’, ‘Radiant’, ‘Splendour’.
As we have often explored, there is a most intriguing coterminity between ‘Sound’ and ‘Light’ in various Indo-European languages – this further expresses that. (And we are further reminded of Her command over speech, too)
Both Sound and Shining Splendour, after all, radiate out from their source to reach us. And both Sound and Light can ‘illuminate’ concepts – impart them to us, clarify and clear our minds of doubt and darkened obscurity.
In this sense, ‘Chandra-Ghanta’ is a most eloquent phrasing indeed. For within the course of the Mythic Cycle of the NavaDurgas, Her appearance coincides with just such an occurrence.
At the conclusion of the previous Night’s NavaDurga Aspect’s saliency within the story – that of Brahmacharini – Devi had managed to not only meet Her Destiny, Mahadev, but also convince Him that She was, indeed, His Wife (or, at least, would soon be – as She was His ‘Other Half’, and had been before). As Shiva is ‘Chandra’, we might suggest Her to be His ‘Ghanta’ – certainly, Shiva’s epithet as ‘GhantaPriya’, the One to Whom the Bell is Dear, springs to mind.
They then, Together, proceed back down the Mountains, in order to make for Her Father’s palace. There to conduct things formally and have the marriage done – in a word – ‘Rite’.
Except there is a bit of a problem … Lord Shiva comes with His Retinues. The fearsomely formidable Ganas. Who present, much as They are. Ghosts, Rakshasas, Drug-Addicts, Criminals, Figures that look a bit ‘Insane’, Barbarians, you get the idea. It is a rather terrifying sight. And, within that context, Lord Shiva looks much like these assembled coteries.
Which is one thing in ordinary times and to ordinary men – but an even *further* disconcerting prospect when the male in question looks to wish to marry your beloved daughter.
Upon beholding the site of the (Bhole Ki) Baraat [‘armed wedding processional’] of Shiva, Queen Menavati – the mother of Parvati this time around and wife of King Himavat (Her Father) – faints in terror. One can only imagine what the Lord of Himalaya thought upon this – surely it should have appeared as if a marauding war-host had come to lay waste to his palace and domain.
Except at this point, Devi takes action – and assumes the ChandraGhanta Aspect. The One that we are dedicated to upon this night.
Via the Light of the Moon, the scene is shown to be as it actually is – and not as it had at first *appeared* to be to the unfamiliar eyes of Her family.
The terrific host of demonic and dancing crazed figures of baleful disposition or barbarous visage are, in fact, revealed to be the trusted retainers of Rudra, here as a traditional and expected customary part of the Marriage Ritual.
The trepidation of impending harm gives way to the joy of impending reunification. The illusions, the preconceptions, the barriers to what’s fact – are dispelled via the glinting light of the Moon.
This is the Light which shines most brightly in the Dark – it’s the radiant splendour of ‘Chandra’, indeed. And it fights back against the anti-divine [‘A’Suric’ we would say – Opposed to the Gods, Anti-Sura] in a slightly different fashion to the ‘Ultra-Violent Light’ that we see in some of the ‘Daylight’ Warrior Aspects of Devi. Whereas They burn away what is impure and oppositional, the ChandraGhanta saliency is rather to simply show what is actually there. Darkness is ‘transcended’ via illumination – illusion is dispelled not necessarily via destruction, but rather through clarity. The necessary provision of light – at Night, when things are darkest and scariest and we do, in fact, need it the most. Directly into the mind, even, it would seem.
Now having said that, it is quite readily apparent looking at this beautiful Murti of Her [from Mangalore, where this style of depiction is a regular feature] is engaged in some rather more active (and actively violent) demon-slaying. This is as it should be.
Devi Durga’s most celebrated mythic combat is that against Mahishasur. Mahishasur, as it should happen, is known to be something of a master illusionist – in part why he changes form during the course of the combat, as well. And why he is unable to escape from Her through so doing. Because She is not fooled by his guises, and is quite capable of grasping hold of the slippery spirit at his core and (meta)physically beating him into submission and obliteration no matter what form he might choose to cover himself with.
This, then, is the dual-truth of ChandraGhanta’s action.
To reveal what is actually there – and so to make some dangers, some obstacles simply melt away for they were figures of the mind rather than fact.
Yet also to reveal what is actually there – and so to show the real dangers, so they may be more effectively combatted through quite direct means; rendered to dissolve away in another sense – precisely because they were not simply misperceptions.
The one often avails the other, and as we have seen viz. Mahishasur – demons often have a noted potency with illusions and false fronts, the better to ensnare the unwary and disguise their true motions with. They can even make a great friend or a husband seem to be something entirely other than what they (or even They) truly are. If we let them.
We have written at far grander length and expository detail upon Chandraghanta in our previous years’ tribute-piece to Her, which can be found here –
But I hope that this shall (un)cover us clear enough for now. And help to praise the Moonlight such that the illusory barriers of a mythically salient nature are, themselves, dissolved – revealing the pathway via moonlight back to the pious, wolflike truth.
ॐ देवी चन्द्रघण्टायै नमः॥
जय माता दी