In the coming week, Bengali Hindus around the world will begin Durga Puja celebrations. Durga Puja is an auspicious period where we offer our devotion to Maa Durga, the Mother Goddess. Durga exemplifies strength and victory as the slayer of the demon Mahishasura. The days are filled with light and laughter, religious rituals and, of course, a million different types of sweets and food. We worship our Maa Durga because of her strength, resilience and love for all of her children (the people of the world). In this way, Durga is an embodiment of the greater female representation: the supreme being we refer to as Devi. This year, I’m thinking about the way Devi exemplifies all of the women in my life.
When I was younger, my mom told me that Devi lives in every single woman on this earth. I remember feeling awestruck at the fact that we all carry a bit of magic in us. I was filled with wonder at the thought that all of the women in my life, from my mom to my aunts to my grandmothers — and even myself — are an embodiment of the goddess we collectively place our love and trust in. At the time, my imagination sent me to a place where I could see all of the women I knew with mini goddesses sitting inside of them, ready to defeat evil and spread goodness instantly, almost like our own version of Tinker Bell.
Now, I’m starting to realize the true meaning of Devi inhabiting all of us. I see Devi in the way my mother, like the ten-handed goddess Durga herself, balances her busy life of taking care of her family, sending us off to school each morning and even now, reminding me that she is just one phone call and a 30 minute drive away if I need anything. I saw Devi in her when she braved the fear of COVID in the early months of the pandemic so my brother and I wouldn’t be exposed at the store while our father was stuck across the border in Canada. I see Devi in her when she sits down to sing, her melodic voice floating through the house and finding its way into our hearts, giving our whole family the security of knowing that we have a mother’s love following us forever. Most importantly, I’ve grown up seeing Devi in her, in the way she has overcome all obstacles of immigrating to a new country and successfully raising a family in this foreign land.
Every year, we offer endless prayers and resources to our gods and goddesses in ceremonies that last the whole day; the entire community rejoices in celebrations for the entire week. We wait all year for Durga Puja to come around so we can spend our days eating good food and enjoying new clothes, but the older I get, the more and more I’m realizing that the goddess we worship so fervently isn’t just some distant mythical figure; in showing our love to Maa Durga, we are also promising our own mothers and female figures in our lives that we commit to loving and respecting them throughout the course of our lives.