Monday, October 7, 2013

Nine Days with Divine Mother: Celebrating Navaratra

                         Parvati--Chicago Art Institute                           Puja for Gauri Devi Sunnyvale Temple                                     
From October 5th through October 13th, we enter a nine-day period of worship and celebration, termed Navaratra, for the Hindu Goddess, Durga, in adoration of her manifold ways of being in the world. Durga is a complex and dynamic figure who, as a warrior goddess, kills demons that the gods could not overcome and who, as a nurturing and devoted protectoress, Gauri-Parvati, sustains beauty and love in the world. To the devotees of Shakti--the primordial and active feminine power that undergirds the universe--Durga, in her many manifestations, is their personally chosen deity. She supports a kind of monotheism of worship and meditation while sustaining the pluralism of the world.

I had the great pleasure of visiting and attending one evening of puja (worshipful offering) for Gauri-Parvati at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple in Sunnyvale, CA. What a transforming experience! Flooded in variegated colors, circling around scores of diverse god and goddess images, smelling the sweet aromas of incense and fruit and milk, hearing bells resounding as multitudes of devotees capture moments of intentional meditative awareness, I was in awe! How different is the pluralist market of Hindu devotional religion from the Protestant simplicity of form. Yet underneath this surface polytheism and perceptual richness lies a singleness of purpose and devotion that is often lacking among the liberal religious. As a devotee, I choose the corner of the temple where the image of my god or goddess resides. In Hinduism, no dogma dictates to whom I express my praise. A unity in a kaleidoscope of multiplicity--all under the same temple roof.

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