Shakta Tantra, the worship of the divine in feminine idiom, is deeply embedded in India. The Mother Goddess is worshipped in various manifestations, some of them saumya ( soft or benevolent) like Saraswati ( goddess of learning and speech; esoterically anahata nada or inner vibration of consciousness) and Lakshmi ( goddess of harmony, health and prosperity; esoterically- spiritual bliss); and other ugra ( wrathful) like Durga ( the inaccessible; primordial infinite unmanifest), Kali ( the black one, symbolic of all-devouring time and death; esoterically- the sublimation of ego necessary for absorption into infinite bliss of pure being ) and Chandi (goddess of war; symbol of destruction of evil- esoterically, the sublimation of gross/ material consciousness).
The Goddess has always dominated my consciousness. Who knows which soul would she make her throne? Ineffable are Her ways, infinite Her manifestations. I am the first of the two children of my parents and was born two and a half years after their marriage. My parents had gone to Vaishno Devi, a shrine of the Mother Goddess where the benevolent and the wrathful synchronize, to take a mannat ( asking for a boon with the promise of doing a devotional act after it is fulfilled) for the birth of a son. They had promised to bring the son granted by the Goddess back to Her shrine soon after birth. Shortly before my birth, my mother dreamt that she was in a shrine of the Goddess. The Goddess materialized from the idol and bestowed a child into Her arms. I was born on shastama ashwin navratri, the sixth of the nine nights in autumn dedicated to the worship of the Mother Goddess. I spent the first fourteen days of my life in Solan, a town that derives its name from Shoolini (the spear- holder), another name for Durga. The Goddess pervades the mountains of my childhood. Shimla is named after Shyamala, another name for Kali, Solan after Shoolini, Kalka after Kali and Chandigarh after Chandi. Chandimandir and Mansa devi are important shrines dedicated to the Goddess close to Solan. Besides Himachal is dotted with Jwalaji (Goddess of flames), Chintpurni ( soother of worries), Chamunda Devi and Naina Devi ( the eyes of the Goddess), all famous shrines where She is revered. Kurukshetra, which is close, has a Shaktipeeth, the seat of the Power, where the esoteric foot of Parvati is worshipped. And crowning them all is Vaishno Devi, the shrine of my birth. Ironically, I have visited Vaishno devi only once, and that too twenty two years after my birth.
During the preliminary sessions ( they never went beyond preliminaries) with Darshan Shah, the psychodynamic psychotherapist in Ahmedabad that I introduced in another post, I soon delved on the unique relation I have had with the feminine element in my psyche.