Sonia Sumitra Thakar
Shakti, in all her glory, is celebrated during the nine days of Navaratri. On the fourth day of this important Hindu festival, Ma Durga is worshipped in the form of Devi Kushmanda, also known as ‘the smiling goddess.’
‘Ku’ means little, ‘ushma’ means warmth or life energy and ‘anda’ means egg. So, put together, Devi Kushmanda’s name literally means the little cosmic egg. She is believed to be the creator of the entire universe. This effulgent, golden-complexioned goddess is shown as riding a tiger. She is also called Ashtabhuja as she is depicted as having eight arms holding a kamandalu (water pot), a lotus, a bow, an arrow, chakra (discus), mace, jar of amrit (nectar) and japamala (rosary). She is said to bless devotees with the ashtasiddhis (eight super-natural powers) and navaniddhis (nine forms of wealth).
The story of Devi Kushmanda
Hindu mythology has it that in the beginning there was nothing but dense darkness. There was no light, there was no life. Devi Kushmanda, a manifestation of the primordial Shakti, smiled; and out of her soft beautiful smile, emerged the cosmic egg, which is the Universe. She created the sun, the stars, the planets, and the galaxies. With her smile, she replaced the darkness with light and seated herself at the centre of the solar system, in the core of the sun – as its source of heat and energy. She then created the first forms of life—three divine goddesses. From her left eye she created a terrifying goddess—Mahakali, from her middle eye (in the forehead) emerged another fierce-looking goddess—Mahalakshmi, and from her right eye she produced a smiling and benevolent form—Mahasaraswati.
With one powerful glance from Devi Kushmanda, Mahakali gave birth to Shiva and Saraswati, from Mahalakshmi came Brahma and Lakshmi and to Mahasaraswati were born Vishnu and Shakti. She offered Saraswati to Brahma, Lakshmi to Vishnu and Shakti to Shiva as their consorts. Then, absorbing the three supreme goddesses back inside her, Devi Kushmanda became one with Shakti as an orb of eternal and absolute divine energy. These gods are said to have created the other life forms on earth.
Significance behind the worship of Devi Kushmanda
As the creator of the Universe, Devi Kushmanda is also known as Jagat Janani. She is the powerhouse of light and energy that sustains life on earth and is believed to bless her devotees with divine illumination, clarity and profound peace. She is the bestower of good health, wealth and happiness and devotees can overcome obstacles and hurdles by taking her name with reverence and adoration. Interestingly, in Sanskrit, Kushmanda also means pumpkin which being round in shapes is a symbol of the subtle life force. On the fourth day of Navaratri pumpkin is often offered as bhog to Devi Kushmanda as are sweets made with jaggery.
Worshipping this effulgent form of Devi is done in the hope of illumining our lives with the light of wisdom.The Navadurga Stotra contains mantras dedicated to the nine manifestations of Maa Durga. This is part of our Shree Durga Nitya Aaradhana which is a collation of powerful incantations to the Mother. You can check it out here.