I love Durga Puja! My earliest memories of this festival are of being invited to several homes for puja. Ah! the joy of rushing from one house to another with friends, being treated like royalty, promptly eating all the sweets that we were served and feeling delighted about all the money that we got! As a college student in Kolkata, ‘Pujo’ meant beautiful idols, creative pandals and lots and lots of good food.
Today I was talking to my kids about this festival and was showing them a little video on Mahisasur’s story. As expected, the kids had tons of questions. I could handle most of them, but one question that stumped me came from my 4-year-old – “What are these things in her hands?” She was referring to the weapons in Goddess Durga’s hands. I told her I will explain these in details and promptly googled for an answer. Several articles popped up, each interpreting the idol’s stance and its significance in their own way. In fact, there are many stories behind how Ma Durga acquired each of those weapons and I cannot wait to tell the kids all the stories.
But right now, I had the task of explaining the idol that symbolizes the ‘Divine Power’ to a 4-year-old. So, I picked the interpretation which seemed most simple, and add a bit of “mommy gyan” to our talk. This is broadly how I explained the eight hands of Goddess Durga and teachings they represent:
- She has a Chakra in her first upper right hand. This was a gift from Vishnu and symbolizes dharma – duty. It reminds us that we should perform our duties and responsibilities to the best of our capabilities. Do you best every single time.
- Sword in her second right hand symbolizes wisdom – the ability to discern right from wrong. This reminds us to get rid of our negative qualities. I asked the kids to name some of our negative qualities and they came up with anger, not sharing with friends and ‘being mean’. Quite impressive, isn’t it? What can be better than them appreciating the significance of controlling their anger and sharing with others!
- Club in her third right hand symbolizes loyalty. This reminds us that we must be true and faithful to our family and not do anything that may harm them. This prompted a little chat about keeping secrets from family and how its always helpful when we share our thoughts and true feelings with each other.
- Her fourth hand is shown blessing everyone. This symbolizes forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes and we must learn to forgive others and most importantly forgive ourselves also for our mistakes.
- Conch in her upper left hand symbolizes sound of creation and happiness. Happiness is a choice. This reminds us that we must choose to perform our duties happily and we must remember to be grateful for things that give us happiness.
- Bow and arrow in her second left hand symbolizes character. It reminds us of Lord Rama. Everyone faces difficulties and problems – what we need to remember is that we should not forget our values. Our values are what make us. I asked the kids what was a value they thought everyone should follow and they promptly said “to do our best”. I am not sure if this qualifies as a ‘value’ but it sure was a thought I would love them to imbibe.
- Lotus flower in her third hand was gift from Brahma and symbolizes wisdom and liberation through knowledge. A lotus flower blooms in muddy water but stays beautiful above muck. We must also learn to find happiness in things other than material things. This confused them a lot but then examples of painting, playing music or dancing sort of helped them in understanding that they can play and be happy even without their toys.
- Fourth left hand holds Trident which symbolizes courage. Goddess Durga uses this weapon to slay the demons. We also have to use our courage to get over our fears and challenges. This one was easy to explain but hard to implement
It is amazing how much we learn while teaching our children! I have to confess I never knew one image of Goddess Durga held so many life lessons. I have one more reason to love this festival so much! At the end of this talk the kids asked me which was my favorite hand? Mine was the hand that blesses everyone and reminds us to forgive others and ourselves. Turns out this was their favorite too!
How are you spending this Navratri/Durga Puja? Share your photos of your favorite dandiya dance, your favorite fasting thali, your pujo pandal or your family in festive mood. We would love to hear from you.
See you again soon.