Upon ChandraGhanta’s Night, I have often posted this image – of Athena, at the [modern-day] Academe in Athens, halo’d by the full Moon.
Visually, this is rather apt. ‘Chandraghanta’ referring quite directly to the Goddess having such a ‘Moon Halo’ – hence the ‘Moon Bell’ theonymic, in part; the other part being the manner in which Her assumption of that Aspect acts similar to the peal of a Ghanta, a sacral bell.
But that is not (quite) why I am posting it. Which has much more to do (also) with Athena !
Now we should perhaps note at the outset that this is not me seeking to suggest that Athena is a direct cognate understanding for Chandraghanta – even though, come to think of it, Her act in the Iliad (and no doubt, elsewhere), enabling Diomedes to ‘truly see’ the battlefield in front of him and penetrate through various illusory facades … well, yes, that’s something Chandraghanta is hailed for in Her Own myth, after a sort.
(In that latter case, what had occurred was Shiva and Devi were returning to the Palace of King Himavat, Parvati’s Father, in order to initiate marriage proceedings. Shiva had come accompanied by, as one would do, His Retinues (hence the ‘Bhole Ki Baraat’ of MahaShivRatri) – in a manner akin to the ‘Baraat’ ([armed] wedding procession) still a feature of Hindu marriages today … and perhaps understandably, His soon-to-be-In-Laws looked out and saw what looked like an oncoming army of barbarians, ghosts, demons, and drug addicts and were pretty perturbed, presuming Their Palace was about to be attacked by same (and the terror of the sight leading, per some tellings, Maina, Himavat’s Wife and this incarnation of Devi’s Mother, to faint).
Parvati therefore assumed the Chandraghanta Navadurga Form, and via the revealing Light of the Moon, showed things as they actually were – to the grand relief, no doubt, of all of those involved. So, instead of an invading army – a marriage procession; instead of a terrifying mad-looking outlaw warlord … a Son-in-Law that would indisputably be amongst the most desirable of bachelors in amidst all the Three Worlds. You get the idea.)
Instead, … well, I shall let 2019 Me take over the narration at this point:
“Now, as much as I’m often … less than totally enthusiastic about utilizing the Greek (and later Greco-Roman) mythological and pantheonic setup when it comes to illustrating the rest of the Indo-European world (because while it forms most peoples’ ‘baseline’ perspective … it’s also not quite the same thing) – here, I shall make an exception.
And not just because it’s a beautiful picture, which also illustrates part of the underlying meaning of the theonym ChandraGhanta – ‘Moon-Bell’ here referring to the way in which the ‘Moon-Crown’ resembles the shape of a (Temple) Bell.
But rather because, when we speak about the heavily interleavened concepts of “Wisdom” and “Weaponry” – “Wisdom” and “Warfare” … in the Western mind, particularly as applies Eastern conceptry, there’s often a bit of a subconscious ‘dissonance’ there. We tend to think of “Wisdom” as encompassing the monk-ascetic like pursuit of ‘inner peace’ [and implicitly neglecting how outer conflict does not negate this – like the eye of the storm amidst the hurricane’s howl chakra-vata], entailing “ahimsa” understood in its ‘maximalist’ interpretation [‘non-violence’ rather than … as I somewhat figuratively translate it, “giving them the chance to surrender, first”], you get the idea.
And while it is unquestionably true that the capacious qualities of ‘discernment’ which underpin much ‘wisdom’ are solidly useful in finding non- or less-violent pathtways towards conflict resolution … that has never meant that the beauty of wisdom, and the wisdom of bella’cosity are intrinsically contradictory.
Athena is therefore an eminently relevant portrayal to reference tonight – as right there amidst the quasi-archaeological foundations of the Western self-perception, is to be found a goddess embodying each of these concepts. Especially, all at once.
There are also an array of further significant associations between Athena, in particular, and the Durga deific complex, as I explored to some degree in the BHARAT MATA AND THE INDO-EUROPEAN DEIFIC OF NATIONAL IDENTITY article we published for last year’s Indian Independence Day.
So with all of this in mind, as the Moon-Light of ChandraGhanta is both ‘illumination’ and the bestower of wisdom … and the Ultra-Violent Light which destroys that and those which are false, malefic … well … you can see why I felt this was a pretty excellent image for tonight 😃
Jai Mata Di !
ॐ देवी चन्द्रघण्टायै नमः॥
As I believe I may have noted elsewhere – it is rather remarkable, all things considered, that the figure so closely associated as to become ’emblematic’ for Culture, Civilization, and Wisdom, here in the West … is also canonically understood to be wearing the flayed skin of a defeated foe as a cloak.
Which is, after all, Wisdom of a rather practical sort – said skin was near-invulnerable, and so therefore forms quite the protective shielding (an ‘Aegis’ in the more colloquial sense, indeed) for Her.
This, too, is ‘Showing Things As They Actually Are’.
And long may it continue .
Jai Mata Di !
Via Light of the Moon, Light of the Sun, Light of Faith (Alone); via Light of Her Shining Eyes (that See even when all others are blinded), or via Light of the Flashing Thunderbolt that She possesses (indeed, embodies) the Great Wisdom to both conjure and thence to wield …
We Hail Thee !