Visualizing life and birth in the work of Alice Haibara, an artist and anthropologist.

She made you in her womb for nine months. Now just imagine, inside her ballooning tummy she nurtured you with her blood. Goosebumps yet? If not then please close your eyes and imagine that magical nine months journey. And as your heart melts in gratitude and love, wonder how much more would the Divine Mother be loving you silently and unconditionally, in whose magnanimous eternal cosmic womb we exist. The Vishwa Vigraha, ( the cosmic body of this entire existence being housed inside the Jagat Janani!) who constantly nurtures us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, the prana that flows in our bodies, the love that touches our soul from our parents, partner, children, friends and Guru all coming from the source tied to the silver cord of the Divine Creatrix!!!

This truth of her gross and subtle presence in everything that exists, is something that our culture and ancestors recognized very well. The Indian festival celebrating the Presence of Divine Mother’s most beautiful nine blessed days of the Sharad Ritu, (autumn season) has been the most eagerly awaited period of the year for me since childhood. Having grown up in the eastern part of the country where festivities gear up with endless number of Devi Pandals during Durga Puja heralding Her arrival with heart thumping dhaks( a kind of drum that’s beaten marking Devi’s advent to Earth), with nature breaking into bloom of Kash Phul( Saccharum spontaneum) – a tall grass with white tuft dancing in tune, waving with the winds perfumed with fragrance of Harsingaar flowers (Nyctanthes arbortristis) welcoming the Divine Mother, the ullu dhwani(auspicious sound made by ladies of the Bengali household), dhunuchi naach(a kind of traditional dance holding an earthen pot filled with fragrant benzoin burning in coconut husk), the hustle bustle of shopping for the Puja and new clothes, nightlong pandal hopping across the city, savouring on delicious Indian cuisine specially made for the bhog, sowing of Jau seeds which is considered Aadi Anna(the first grain on earth), the Ghatasthapna (invoking the Divine Mother in a Kalash – pot), the nine days long pujas with divine chants eulogizing the Mother Divine and singing her glories in Mata ki Chowki and much more has been part of what I grew up witnessing and enjoying all through the bliss of my childhood. Our culture being so richly infused with offerings to the Mother and the many many million ways in which it makes one connect with Her whether it be solitary Sadhnas, pujas, chants, Chandi Paath, hawans, decorations or collective community puja pandals, bhajans, kirtans and dances like Garba, Dandiya or Dhunuchi Naach, setting up of Golu steps or Mata ka Jagrata. This is something I feel absolutely blessed with, having being born in this holy land of India where Sanatan Dharma has flourished in a beautiful way as part of our culture and traditions, intimately woven into our lifestyle in such a way that even if one knows nothing, it is still possible to immerse in the grandeur of Her Presence forgetting our puny personalities and touch base with that which is our very source and nurtures our roots.

This somewhere sowed the seeds of connecting to Her, slowly graduating from the fun filled Puja days of childhood festivities to a more intimate connection with Her, longing for Her from desperation to even more desperation of yearning to feel Her, See Her, crying for Her, learning to do Her pujas in the traditional way with chants and rituals; why? Because this heart loves Her – the Mother whose reflection is my mother who held me inside her and gifted me this precious life. What can you offer in love to your mother? I would go pillar to post searching in books, googling the internet, hunting her in chants, stotras and bhajans, digging into the brains of the pandits and pujaris who would come home, listening to any saint talking about Her glories on YouTube; trying to find out and ask – “Maa kaise milegi, kahan milegi?”, with tears bubbling out of my eyes(they do even now as I write), not being satisfied with the intellectual answer that she is within because till then I had not experienced her throbbing presence within despite the restlessness and longing.

Slowly began a love affair with my beloved Mother, my Karunya who sits on the altar of my heart today. This love that grew on the bed of longing, nurtured by the nectar of an upbringing in an Indian household that saw Mother being the very fabric of the existential reality that weaves the lifestyle rooted in the sanskaaras of faith, devotion and surrender, surpassed the choppy waters of turmoils in life. Though damaged severely, Grace and Her love brought healing and life back into my parched being which had been rendered virtually lifeless, drenched in depression, battling out of sulking vagaries of life, which today I see as life lessons that shaped my very existence. During these tumultuous transformation, you may feel that everything is falling apart, but in reality everything is coming together for your highest good. You are being pushed by the universe to evolve, much like the bone breaking labor pains during birthing of a child, to get out of your comfort zone so that you can live and experience your highest potential.

Bhaav flowers in the heart, blooms in love as the sweetest part of human emotions and flows out as Ganges from the eyes by the mere mention of the word “Maa”, washing the heart clean of anything and everything we gather as loads of unwanted filthy baggage in our minds. This is only by Her sheer grace which turns the heart into a soft, kind, furry ball of Her motherhood. This is my truth as of today.

Devi Aparadha Kshamapana Stotram composed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya is one of my favourite stotras, which has inspired me and fueled my Bhaav for Her.

I know no mantras, no yantras, no rituals oh Maa; nor can I sing your eulogies. I don’t know how to chant your glories nor do I even know how to invoke you. I can’t even cry to you, all I can do is call out to you like your child. Maa, Maa, Maa….knowing that even a mere remembrance of you and uttering your name is enough to make a Mother as restless as the baby calling out his mother…..

Oh Maa, direct my life towards you in only and only the remembrance of Your Holy Names with every breath of mine…
Mridani Rudrani Shiva Shiva Bhavani…
Maa, bless the rest of my life to be spent in your Naam Smaran, may this mortal body breathe it’s last with nothing but your name on my lips, your remembrance in my heart and your vision in my eyes before they close forever….

मेरी प्रिय माँ ! मै चाहती हूं अपनी चेतना का उस सीमा तक आनंत्य विस्तार, जहां मै कर सकूं तुम्हारा मृदुल स्पर्श … इन हांथों से नहीं… वरण मेरे समूचे अस्तित्व से… !

O my beloved Mother, I want such expansion of my inner consciousness, that I can feel your sweet, gentle touch, not just with these hands but with my entire being….!

Such is the love of Maa, that seeing this one  groping in dark for Her, She Herself came in the form of Gurumoorti one day and what flows out of my heart is only this:

Shakoli Tomar Ichha
Iccha Moyi Tara Tumi
Tomar Kormo Tumi Koro Maa
Loke Bole Kori Ami

Ami Jantra Tumi Jantri
Ami Ghar Tumi Gharani

Ami Ratha Tumi Rathi
Jeman Chalao Temni Chali

Shakoli Tomar Ichha
Iccha Moyi Tara Tumi
Tomar Kormo Tumi Koro Maa
Loke Bole Kori Ami

These are verses of a song from Kathamrit, which is very dear to me and I have shed truck loads of tears every time I hear it. In literal transliteration, it means:
O Mother, everything happens by your will
Thou workest Thine own work; men only call it theirs.
Thou art the Moving Force, and I the mere machine;
The house am I and Thou the Spirit dwelling there;
I am the chariot, and Thou the charioteer.
I move only as Thou, O Mother, movest me.

Sharad Navratri is starting from this Saturday and I am equally excited as ever, awaiting Her arrival as I would in my childhood despite missing the collective festivities and maintaining social distancing. She wishes this time to be exclusively only with Her in solitude and it brings a wide smile on my face as I write this with utmost gratitude for everything that is and will be.

Maa I am Yours and You are mine…. This is my only Truth.

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Mansi Dwivedi

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