In iconography, Mother Durga is represented as a golden colored woman with a gentle and beautiful countenance. She has ten arms ; in one hand she hold a spear, with which she is piercing the giant Mahisha ; with one of her left hands she holds the tail of serpent, with another the hair of the giant whose breast the snake is biting ; her other hands are filled with various weapons. Her lion leans against her right leg, and the giant against her left. The images of Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kartikeya, and Ganesa are frequently made and worshipped with that of Durga. The frontispiece is a representation of Durga and the other goddnesses and gods, as they are made in Bengal at the time of the great autumnal festival.
In Bengal the worship of this Mother Goddess forms the most popular of all Hindu festivals. Jadaddhatri is very similar to Singhavahini; the difference is only the weapons she wields. Mother Jagaddhatri worship is also traced to West Bengal, where Her cult is traced to Tantra. Shaktam extends her names to Karidrasuraranisuduni, Slayer of the elephant demon; Mahesvari, the Great Goddess and Shaktacharpriya, the Goddess who loves to be worshiped according to Shaktism and Tantra. In Kolkata, Jagaddhatri Puja is a major event. This follows after Durga and Kali Puja.
The Puranic and Tantric description of Jagaddhatri shows Her dressed in red garments and seated on a lion. Her body is shown as the color of the morning sun. Mother is three eyed and four armed. Jagaddhatri is hardly fierce. She is attributed to sattva while Durga and Kali symbolize rajas and tamas respectively. When she is four armed, then she carries the chakrs, conch, bow and arrow. In the Singhavahini form, she carries a sword and spear and with two hands encouraging her bhaktas. In all forms, Jagaddahtri is represented as a mild, fair, beautiful, gentle looking lady. She symbolically stands on Karindrasura, the elephant demon to be in control of the frantic elephant called ‘mind.’
Sri Bhagavan Ramakrishna Paramahamsa pays tribute: “Jagaddhatri is the Holder of the World, the Jagat. If She wouldn’t, the World might fall down. I hail Thee, o all-pervasive Jagaddhatri Durga, Thou art victorious and symbol of the joys of the world; it is only Thou in the world, who can be worshipped properly. Victory to Thee”.
MYTHOLOGY: Reality and power of Jagaddhatri is highly metaphysical blending the Upanishads and Puranic lore of Hindu scriptures. The Devas become egoistic thinking it was their weapons that was used to slay the demons. It took some time for Truth to dawn on them that their powers are in reality not their own but derived from the Supreme Power who as protecting Mother holds the entire creation called Jagaddhatri. The tale and Upanishadic explanation from the Kena Upanisha is best said in the words of Swami Sivananda.
“Once Brahman won victory for the devas. But unknowing the devas were proud of victory. Thought they, "Ours alone is victory and to us only belongs all the glory." Brahman knowing their vanity appeared in front of them as an Yaksha (ethereal spirit). But they did not know who that great Yaksha was. So they said to Agni, "Jataveda, know well what this Yaksha is." And as requested Agni agreed. He rushed to the Yaksha and the Yaksha (Brahman) asked, "What power do you have and of what nature?" And Agni replied," I am Agni (fire), the omniscient. I can burn all that is on earth." Then Brahman placed a blade of grass in front of Agni saying, "Burn it." Agni rushed to it with all his strength, but could not burn it. He returned to the gods saying," What the Yaksha was I could not find." So they said to Vayu (the wind) " O great Vayu, go and find out what this great Yaksha is and from where ." And as requested Vayu agreed.
He (Vayu) rushed to the Yaksha and Brahman asked him who he was. Replied Vayu," I am Vayu. I am really the master of all skies." And Brahman enquired," What is the nature of your power in you." And replied Vayu, "All this, whatever that is here , I can blow away." Brahman placed before him a blade of grass saying, "Blow it away." Vayu approached it with his full might, but could not move it even a little. He too returned to the gods saying, "I could not find that which this Spirit is." Then the gods requested Indra, "Chief of gods, find out for us this great Spirit and from where." But as he approached, the Spirit disappeared. And at the very same spot in the sky appeared extremely charming Uma Haimavati (daughter of Himavat). He (Indra) asked her who the great Yaksha was.
"Indeed It was Brahman," she replied. "Through Him alone you all achieved victory." Then only Indra could discern who the incredible Brahman was. Therefore Agni, Vayu and Indra are verily above all other gods, for they alone went nearest to Him and were the first to know Him as Brahman. And therefore Indra of the three above all others for he alone went nearest to Brahman and was the first to know Him as Brahman (from goddess Uma). Now this is the instruction regarding Brahman, (envision Him) as he appeared before the gods, shining like a lightning and disappearing within the winking of an eye. Now this is another instruction regarding Brahman, (envision Him) think of Him mentally as the microcosm (Atman) within the body as Atman.
Now Tadvanam is the name upon which He is to be meditated or worshipped mentally. He who knows Him in this way is extremely loved by all living beings. The disciple asks, "Sir teach me Upanishad." And the master replies," The Brahman of Upanishad is explained to you. That knowledge of Upanishad we have imparted to you." "Austerity, control and sincere effort are the foundations on which it (knowledge of Brahma) rests. The Vedas are its limbs and Truth is its abode. Verily he who knows it thus cleanses all his sins and becomes established in the vast heavenly and the highest state of Bliss. Yes he is certainly established.” It is said that anyone worshipping Mother Jagaddhatri is free of ego and becomes a true seva of the world.
(draft Gods, Goddesses and Deities)
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi