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Festival Special : Ujjaini Mahankali Saga of the Goddess

Festival Special : Ujjaini Mahankali Saga of the Goddess
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Hurry away for a while from your daily chores; hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. For a little while give your time...

Hurry away for a while from your daily chores; hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. For a little while give your time to God, and rest in Him for a little. You should pray as though the deity were present. If your mind is not engaged in your worship, it would be as good as not worship at all. Greek philosopher and veteran Mathem- atician Pythagoras called upon the people: "First, in obedience to thy country's rites, worship the immortal gods"

mahankali1During the month of 'Aashadha,' year after year, people are invariably reminded of these sage words. Men, women and children, in their lakhs, really flee from their routine tasks to participate with piety and great �clat in the ritual of Ujjaini Mahankali in Secunderabad. Legend has it that a 'Doli bearer' (Boi) named Surthi Appaiah, along with a battalion of army men, was transferred to Ujjaini Tower in Madhya Pradesh in 1813 from Secunderabad.

But the time did not pass pleasantly for the people of Ujjain after they had gone there. Cholera broke out in an epidemic form, killing thousands of people. Surthi Appaiah and his associates from Secunderabad were nearly frightened out of their life on account of that virulent infectious and often fatal, disease. Their hearts instinctively turned to God. They visited the temple of Mother Kali at Ujjain and worshipped ardently. They took a solemn pledge to install an idol of Maha Kali in Secunderabad if they returned there safely and to worship Her constantly with reverence.

No doubt they came back safe, and Surthi Appaiah got an idol of Maha Kali carved out of wood in likeness of the idol at Ujjain and installed in July 1815 exactly at the same place where the temple is now situated in Secunderabad. When the ground was being cleared for construction of sanctum sanctorum, another idol was found there, lying unseen by anybody, to the right of the Maha Kali idol. At that very moment, a woman from among the onlookers was suddenly controlled by a spirit and acted as a medium. She said that she (the new idol) was Manikyalamma and had come to stay to the right of Goddess Maha Kali. Ever since, the idol was not disturbed from there and a holy shrine for both the idols came up soon. Till today, they stay side by side and are worshipped simultaneously.

Again in 1864, the wooden idol was replaced by a stone one and consecrated. For quite a long period, Surthi Appaiah, with the help of devotees and philanthropists, developed the temple and conducted regular worship and periodical rituals at the temple. The unique feature of the temple is that four roads surround it.

The Endowments department took over the management of the temple in 1953. There will be a massive gathering of over 10 lakh devotees every year from all over the State, particularly from the Telangana region. Thousands of women with minds serene, hearts purified and with a transcendental bliss visit the temple carrying holy water and freshly cooked food (Bonalu) on their heads to offer to the Goddess.

The next day, a 26-year-old woman will participate in the 'Rangam' as part of the two-day festival. (Rangam is a place at which an advice or prophecy is sought from the gods----oracle). She stands on a raw mud pot and foretells the major events of the year. An elephant procession with the replicas of the deity, followed by Ghatam, is taken out in the evening, marking the completion of the annual ritual.

Various departments like the police, municipal health and sanitation, endowments, RTC, waterworks, railways, electricity and many voluntary service organisations work in tandem making elaborate arrangements for the convenience of the devotees and for conducting the festival in a smooth and orderly manner. The cult of Supreme Mother Goddess is a universal phenomenon. She is adored as Tulja Bhavani in Maharashtra, as Ksheera Bhavani in Kashmir, as Jwalamukhi in Punjab, as Ambaji in Gujarat, as Vindhya Varshini in Uttar Pradesh, as Kali in West Bengal, as Kamakhya in Assam, as Chamundi in Karnataka, as Kamakshi in Kanchi and as Kanya Kumari in southern tip of India.

If we peep into the ancient world, Mother Goddess seems to be closely associated with mountains and lions. Parvathi or Haimavathi is known as the daughter of Himavantha, the mountain king. Her aspect of Mahishasura Mardini is associated with a lion as her mount. Similarly, the Sumerian and Babylonian goddess Ishtar (the Ashtarte of the Phoenicians and the Ashtoreth of the Semites) is supposed to reside in mountains surrounded by many lions.

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Archaeological excavators found that in the temple of Ishtar as many as 15 lions were keeping watch on the bed-chamber of the Virgin Mother; and many more lions were found guarding the entrance of the temple. This is to say that there is a striking similarity to the presence of lions in temples dedicated to Mother Goddess in India.

The Mother Goddess of ancient Egypt is Isis (Isa or Isani). She is said to be the consort of Osiris (may be Iswara). It would be interesting to note that in her temple at Karnak, Iswis is represented with a radiant face and well-formed features, carrying her son Honus in her arms. It is very much like Parvathi with Ganesha in her arms. In almost all aspects, the image of Isis resembles that of Parvathi.

Another Egyptian Goddess Sekunent is like Shakti in India. Hathor is said to be the Egyptian counterpart of Bhadrakali in India, reveling in ruthless destruction of evil forces. The Greek and Roman mythologies are replete with references to a variety of goddesses denoting the cult of Mother Goddess. Cybele is the Mother Goddess of the Phrygians. Allah is a generic name for gods in Arabia prior to the advent of Islam. This group of Arabian deities contains many goddesses, one of them being Allatu. And it is a surprising coincidence that Panini should mention a Sanskrit word "Alla" as signifying Mother Goddess, according to a bulletin issued by the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

In Hindu mythology, the name most commonly given to the fierce form of Devi is Durga. She is a very beautiful deity, with yellowish complexion, with 10 arms, riding a tiger. Yet, she has a menacing expression, for she is born to kill. Armed with Vishnu's discus, Shiva's trident, Varuna's conch shell, Agni's bow, Surya's quiver and arrow, Yama's iron rod, Indra's thunderbolt, Kubera's club, a garland of snakes from Shesha in all her 10 hands, and mounted on a Himalayan tiger as a charger, Devi kills Mahishasura and then the much-dreaded demon called Durga, thus acquiring her name Durga.

Even more terrifying than Durga is Kali, the black Earth-Mother. Her rites involved all kinds of sacrificial killings. She had four arms. In one hand, she holds a weapon, in another the head of a giant dripping blood. The other two arms are raised to bless her worshippers; and the hands end in claws.

Her blood thirst is attributed to her killing of the demon Raktavira (Raktabija). Brahma is said to have granted a boon to the demon by which every drop of blood that falls from his body is capable of producing thousands of ferocious demons like him. So, Kali could only kill him by holding him up, pierce him with a spear and drink all his blood as it gushed out before falling to the ground. That is the reason why she is often portrayed with her tongue hanging out and her mouth red with blood.

Nothing could stop her once she let loose her violent desire for destruction. She even subdued her own husband Shiva in her wild fury and got the name Kali, the conqueror of time. She also has a third eye like Shiva. Aspects of Kali are Chandi, the fierce; and Bhairavi, the terrible. It means she is the counterpart to Shiva's aspect of Bhairava when she indulges in destruction of evil forces. Another name of this form is Chamunda.

Meditation upon the Lotus Feet of this Divine Mother quells all evil to perfection. People on earth need to dedicate their thoughts, words and deeds to Mother Goddess who is neither Male, nor Female, nor Neuter. She is the Supreme Brahman sans quality. She deigns to manifest herself to the worshippers as a Mother in response to their prayers.

YV Ramakotaiah

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