It has become a fashion these days, especially among scholars and leaders, to call Vedic scriptures a myth. One of the reasons for this is poor fund of knowledge about how and why the universe is created, maintained and annihilated, and how it is precisely scientific, following certain process at regular intervals. I wouldn’t really blame such people. To cut the long story short, the Pacific ocean is vast enough to remain a myth for a frog in the well. However, that does not make the ocean nor the varieties of inhabitants, including some mind-boggling creatures in it a myth. Similarly, an unknown number of authors, who claim to be scholars, have portrayed Mother Durga as a mere symbol of universal energy in other words, an imagination or myth. One must exercise broadmindedness in order to learn more, even if it appears at first to be a myth or a hypotheses. In fact, that is how scientific researches have been carried out and that is how complex mathematical equations are derived and resolved.
The word “Durgaa”, pronounced with a long “a” at the end, has its origin in the word “Durga”, pronounced without a long “a” at the end, means a fort, a castle, citadel, or a prison house. The one in charge of such a Durg or prison house, is known as mother Durga. She is the all-powerful supervisor of this material creation, which is actually a prison house created to rectify conditioned souls who rebel against the Supreme Lord, just like a jail is created by the government to rectify those who disobey state laws.
All people in this world are prisoners and that is why they are forced to suffer against their will. This suffering has three main divisions: adhi-atmik, adhi-bhautik, and adhi-daivik, which translates into suffering from miseries caused by other living entities, miseries caused by acts of nature, and miseries arising from the body and mind themselves respectively. Ma Durga’s trishul or trident represents these three categories. Let me emphasize that this trishul is not just symbolic, as many so-called scholars quickly conclude; it is a factual weapon that She holds and uses to punish the big time miscreants. As a matter of fact, She does not use it frequently as She can remotely execute Her missions using agents like epidemics, wars, earth quakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, floods and droughts.
I would not hesitate to state that it is only by the mercy of the Supreme Lord that human beings today are able to invent remote sensors and perform wonderful tasks from great distance; so that one can gradually understand how it is possible to operate natural resources to control this world remotely by various demigods (devatas) from much greater distance- the concept that is generally seen as a myth by less intelligent people.
Apart from the many sincere visitors who come to take darshan of Ma Durga, most unfortunately, all that we find nowadays at a Durga puja pandal is wild cinema music blasting over loud speakers, people smoking and dancing like drunks, hawkers selling eggs and other filthy non-veg stuff and drunkards loitering around the pandal. This is specifically true in villages and towns influenced by TV and cinema culture. Some unscrupulous artists have even started depicting Her as per their own perverted imaginations. Is this how we worship Ma Durga? Is this how we celebrate Her festival? It is an outright insult to Her most auspicious presence during the Durga Puja festival. The government must curb this fast spreading offense and save people from inviting greater suffering.
Srila Prabhupad says: Those conditioned souls who identify with this illusory material nature and are proud of it, and who do not care to know about the Supreme Lord, are subjugated by the Lord’s illusory potency, who is known variously as Maha Kali, Chandi, and Durga, and who pierces them with her trident of the threefold miseries. These demoniac jivas are forced into slavery by the illusory potency—Kali, or Mahamaya.” (RTW 4.5)
Brahma samhita, the prayer offered by Lord Brahma, the secondary creator of the universe, also called as Devi-dham, to Lord Krishna:
sristi-sthiti pralaya-sadhana-shaktir eka chhayeva yasya bhuvanani bibharti durga
icchanurupam api yasya cha chestate sa govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami
Read the translation and its highly informative purport carefully:
Translation: “The eternal potency Maya who is of the nature of the shadow of the chit potency, is worshiped by all people as Durga, the creating, preserving and destroying agency of this mundane world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda in accordance with whose will Durga conducts Herself.”
In the purport, Srila Bhakti-siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, the guru of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, mentions:
“The world, in which Brahmā takes his stand and hymns the Lord of Goloka, is Devī-dhāma consisting of the fourteen worlds and Durgā is its presiding deity. She is ten-armed, representing the tenfold fruitive activities. She rides on the lion, representing her heroic prowess. She tramples down Mahīṣāsura, representing the subduer of vices. She is the mother of two sons, Kārttikeya and Gaṇeśa, representing beauty and success. She is placed between Lakṣmī and Sarasvatī, representing mundane opulence and mundane knowledge. She is armed with the twenty weapons, representing the various pious activities enjoined by the Vedas for suppression of vices. She holds the snake, representing the beauty of destructive time. Such is Durgā possessing all these manifold forms.'”Durgā is possessed of durga, which means a prison house. When jīvas begotten of the marginal potency (taṭasthā śakti) forget the service of Kṛṣṇa they are confined in the mundane prison house, the citadel of Durgā. The wheel of karma is the instrument of punishment at this place. The work of purifying these penalized jīvas is the duty devolved upon Durgā. She is incessantly engaged in discharging the same by the will of Govinda. When, luckily. the forgetfulness of Govinda on the part of imprisoned jīvas is remarked by them by coming in contact with self-realized souls and their natural aptitude for the loving service of Kṛṣṇa is aroused, Durgā herself then becomes the agency of their deliverance by the will of Govinda.’
“So it behooves everybody to obtain the guileless grace of Durgā, the mistress of this prison house, by propitiating her with the selfless service of Kṛṣṇa. The boons received from Durgā in the shape of wealth, property, recovery from illness, of wife and sons, should be realized as the deluding kindness of Durgā. The mundane psychical jubilations of daśa-mahā-vidyā, the ten goddesses or forms of Durgā, are elaborated for the delusion of the fettered souls of this world. Jīva is a spiritual atomic part of Kṛṣṇa. When he forgets his service of Kṛṣṇa he is at once deflected by the attracting power of Māyā in this world, who throws him into the whirlpool of mundane fruitive activity (karma) by confining him in a gross body constituted by the five material elements, their five attributes and eleven senses, resembling the garb of a prisoner. In this whirlpool jīva has experience of happiness and miseries, heaven and hell. Besides this, there is a subtle body. consisting of the mind, intelligence and ego, inside the gross body. By means of the subtle body. the jīva forsakes one gross body and takes recourse to another. The jīva cannot get rid of the subtle body. full of nescience and evil desires, unless and until he is liberated. On getting rid of the subtle body he bathes in the Virajā and goes up to Hari-dhāma. Such are the duties performed by Durgā in accordance with the will of Govinda.”
Thus we can understand that Ma Durga and Her multifarious activities are not a myth. She is a person much beyond our mundane intelligence but is approachable by sincere prayers and service. One can understand how prayers work by the example of voice commands on a cell phone. If we can call a friend just by calling his or her name on a cell phone, what is the difficulty in understanding that we can approach supernatural beings by chanting prayers? It is a matter of opening up to the possibilities and realities around us and realizing the truth. Now when even the western world is moving towards Vedic philosophy, largely due to the preaching carried out by the followers of Srila Prabhupada, at least those who have taken birth in Bharat varsh (India) and have the privilege to practice Vedic life by culture, or by minimum efforts, should take advantage of this timeless knowledge and not get misled by the popular propaganda by western scholars calling it mythology.
In fact, calling the Vedic scriptures a mythology is the biggest myth of the world. It is high time we understand and establish the truth for the benefit of all societies, all nations, and all living entities.