The first of the great Hindu festivals of autumn is Navratri. These are the nine nights during which the goddess is worshiped in different forms. In particular, we remember the cataclysmic fight where Durga delivered the world from the grip of evil by killing the demon Mahishasura.
Navratri is a time of intense devotion for the faithful who crowd in front of the effigy of the goddess: the Devi. In those days, the Sanskrit chant of Durgasaptashati sounds everywhere with its heady chorus “Ya Devi”, a variant of which says: “Glory to the goddess who is present in all beings in the form of shakti. “
Shakti means strength, energy. It is a key term of the tantric currents which, from the VIe century, transfigured both Hinduism and Buddhism. For Tantra, of which an etymology is the “frame”, feminine energy crosses through the universe, hence the crucial importance assumed by the figure of the goddess.
Alongside the ancient Orthodox rituals performed only by Brahmin men, strange secret cults have appeared where menstrual blood mixes with sperm and in which women have gained a decisive role. As for the divine iconography, it was enriched by the hallucinating vision of the goddess Kali wearing a necklace of skulls and dancing on the inanimate body of Shiva.
However, everything in Tantrism that is terrifying, shocking and transgressive has only one goal: to wake us up from spiritual torpor. Many in India and the West have erred on Tantrism by hastily judging it as a religious aberration, obscuring the original purity of Vedic Hinduism. On the contrary, the one who is patiently initiated, as it is necessary in these new esoteric traditions, will be able to understand their subtlety and their remarkable depth which makes it possible to unveil the web of reality of which the feminine is an essential figure.
In India, as in many other cultures, women were viewed in an ambivalent manner. According to a whole current, it represents a dangerous being making man lose the vigor burning like a fire between his kidneys. For this reason, many ascetics have left to live alone in continence far from any feminine presence.
On the other hand, when the man accepts to recognize in the woman the origin from which he was born, the latter becomes the beneficent foster mother. It is not surprising then that India has devoted an unbounded fascination for the mother, making Hinduism a religion which, in my eyes, is essentially feminine because any crossing of shakti, the fruitful energy. Then comes to mind the indescribable smile of so many Matajis, true spiritual mothers who allow so many beings to be born to a new depth of interior experience.
I still think of the density of prayer in the small temple of Hirapur, in Orissa, which is dedicated to Yoginis, the 64 mother goddesses. I finally see the crowds of Hindu pilgrims from the Christian sanctuary of Velankanni in the Tamil country prostrating themselves before the statue of the Virgin Mary in whom they contemplate the unique face of the mother of tenderness and mercy.