India: A Sacred Geography by Eck Diana L

India: A Sacred Geography by Eck Diana L

Author:Eck, Diana L. [Eck, Diana L.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: History
ISBN: 9780385531917
Goodreads: 13530765
Publisher: Harmony
Published: 2012-03-27T00:00:00+00:00

Devotees, come for the darshan of Minākshī in Madurai

In the yearly round of spring festivals, the marriage of Shiva and Mīnākshī is celebrated every year during the month of Chaitra, which falls in April or early May. The goddess comes forth from her temple in an enormous chariot, a mobile replica of her temple, with tall pillars of brightly colored cloth, and is pulled by hundreds of devotees who strain together at the thick ropes. They pull the great temple-chariot around the rectangular processional streets of Madurai. Circling the temple, Mīnākshī does battle with the eight directions and symbolically conquers the whole earth. Finally, she encounters Shiva, and in the end, she herself is conquered. Then, their marriage is celebrated. Yet one cannot help but wonder who conquered whom here. For Mīnākshī is still very much the ruler of Madurai, having successfully incorporated Shiva himself into her entourage.

Finally, at the southern tip of India, there sits a goddess who seems to protect not only her own village, but the whole of India. She is Kanyākumārī, the “Virgin Goddess.” According to legend, one of the great demons, named Bāna, gained a boon as a reward for his disciplined ascetic practice. He chose to be invulnerable to death, just the sort of boon the asuras, or demons, perpetually choose. But, as is well known, no one can really be guaranteed invulnerability to death, so every boon of this sort that is granted must have a loophole, even a preposterous one. In Bāna’s case, he chose to be invulnerable to death, except at the hand of a virgin, who would be, so he thought, too rare and weak to worry about. So the gods pleaded with Shakti to become manifest as the Virgin Goddess in order to slay Bāna. She agreed and posted herself as a virgin goddess at the tip of southernmost India, right on the seashore, in order to guard the whole land, which comes to a point right there. Eventually, however, she was betrothed to marry Shiva, who lived nearby as the lord of Suchindram. Understandably, the gods conspired to prevent the marriage, fearful of losing their great protector. So, as Lord Shiva was on his way from Suchindram to the marriage, which had been set for the auspicious dawn hour, the sage Nārada took the form of a cock and crowed to announce the dawn prematurely. Dismayed at having missed the appointed hour for the wedding, Shiva turned around and went home. So it is that Kanyākumārī remained a virgin. Then, in full strength as the Virgin Goddess, she slew Bāna. Ever since, so they say, Shakti has been present here as a virgin, keeping watch at the shore of the southern sea.44

Kanyākumārī stands at the place where three oceans meet, the Bay of Bengal on the east, the Indian Ocean on the south, and the Arabian Sea on the west. The waves roll in from three directions and collide with one another on the beach in front of her temple.


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