Creator and Preserver:
Creator and Preserver
As Virgin and Mother, the Goddess is considered to be the very
spring from which every kind of love flows into the world. From
the vast ocean of her being the morphogenetic field that produces
all forms the Goddess gives birth to all living things. The
pouring forth of this love-energy from her timeless, formless
source into the field of time constitutes a sacred mystery.
Representations of the Goddess as a crouching woman giving
birth to the manifold forms of her creation can be found in
Indian art. As the Sky-Goddess Aditi, she pervades all space and
is mother to the Gods so revered by the Indo-Aryans.
Maya the Sanskrit word for "magic" and
"illusion" describes her role as the originator of all
material things, all that is perceptible to the senses.
Displaying the protective and maternal side of her nature, she
revels in her multitudinous manifestations and joyfully embraces
the bounty of her gifts. Sculptures adorning Hindu temples
frequently depict the Virgin Goddess as a young, beautiful and
voluptuous woman. Sometimes she stands on her own, at others she
is paired with her God-consort.
As Earth Mother, she is also a deity closely associated with
Nature and fertility. Images of her priestesses, the Yoginis and
Saktas, often incorporate organic forms such as branches or
vines, symbolising Nature in its most instinctive form,
proliferous and fruitful. Plants, leaves and flowers are commonly
used in Indian medicine and, when they appear in portrayals of
the Earth Mother they are considered to reflect the magical
powers with which she is endowed.
Adorned with jewels and ornaments, she represents all that is
precious. She alone is the eternal jewel whose brilliance
encompasses and illuminates the universe.
One of the most ancient cults of the Goddess is that of
Sarasvati, who is both worshipped as a sacred river of the same
name and as the instigator and protectress of the spoken word, as
well as all intellectual and artistic pursuits.
One of the most recent forms of her manifestation is that of
Bharat Mata, Mother India, a militant aspect of the Goddess that
is much concerned with the cause of Hindu nationalism.
Another manifestation is that of the beneficent Lakshmi,
bringer of prosperity and abundance. During the autumn festival
of Diwali, people all over the country light lamps in her honour
to guide her into their homes.
The Goddess is also revered as Sati the pre-Vedic Virgin Bride
who epitomises the loyal and virtuous wife who is faithful to her
husband even unto death. This idea of wifely perfection is dear
to the Indian way of thinking. Although in a metaphysical sense
it means Sati is totally at one with her own true being, it is
also an ethical concept.
Sadly, the idea of the "perfect wife" who is
faithful unto death developed into the practice of suttee, in
which a dutiful spouse was expected to accompany her husband to
the world beyond through self-immolation voluntarily or otherwise
in the flames of his funeral pyre.
In her aspect of the Great Mother, Devi's devotees believe
the presence of the Goddess exists within all her creations. She
is their Mother. She gives them life. She nurtures them through
her physical manifestations and she is present in their times of
need. Through her worship, too, her devotees can transcend the
world of illusion and reach out to her true being.
As Devimahatmia, Mahadevi or Durga (one of her most ancient
titles), the eternally existent mother who nurtures and protects
her offspring, the Goddess's influence swept across North
India and was particularly popular in the regions of Bengal and
Famous for her sakthi in battle, Durga the Unassailable used
the strength of her will, her knowledge and force of action, to
defeat the purveyors of evil and to vanquish the demonic forces
upsetting the balance of the universe.
Riding on a lion or tiger, her multiple arms wielding
auspicious weapons, she was Cosmic Energy personified. When her
mission was fulfilled she returned to her mountain home,
promising to nourish the earth and protect her worshippers, only
returning should her divine force be needed again.
At the height of this great cosmic battle, Durga was aided by
the awesome Kali, who burst from her forehead to devour or crush
the army of demons. As Kali drank the seed-blood of her enemies,
she rendered impotent the destructive phallic power of her
Kali represents the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. With
her dishevelled hair and lolling blood-drenched tongue, she
presents a fearsome figure.
As the active power of Time, her three eyes look to past,
present and future. Her thin waist is encircled by a girdle of
human hands, symbolising the accumulated deeds of karma. Around
her neck hangs a rosary of fifty skulls, each one inscribed with
a magic letter of the Sanskrit alphabet representing the sacred
word, or mantra, which vibrates within the primordial creative
energy of the universe.
The Goddess's four hands are also symbolic of her
function: one wields a sword to cleave the threads of bondage,
another grasps a severed head, representing the annihilation of
the ego. Her two remaining hands are poised in gestures to dispel
fear and inspire her devotees with spiritual strength.
Paintings and sculptures sometimes depict the fearsome Goddess
standing on the inert body of her consort, Siva, awakening him
into action with her sheer primordial power and energy.
As Smashanakali she resides in cremation grounds and her
priestesses, the Dakinis or Skywalkers, undertake the role of
Angels of Death.
Terrible though her aspect as Destroyer undoubtedly is, the
mystical experience of the Goddess in this form can liberate the
devotee from ego-consciousness and spiritually unite him with the
Goddess in her oceanic formless state.
Abstract forms can also depict the Goddess in her various
As Creator she is symbolised by a downward pointing triangle,
the yoni, representative of female sexuality.
As Preserver, she takes the form of a straight line, and as
Destroyer she is recognised in the form of the circle.
In her unmanifested state as the Source of all life, the
Goddess is depicted simply as a dot, the bindu, or seed-state of