‘Sadhana Karna Chahiye Manva Sadhana Karna Chahiye” – (Oh Mind!  focus on dedicated practise) – the first session from Keerthanacharya Shri Lakshmandas Velankarji started with this essential tenet . It  took our minds immediately to the past two Shibirs where ,  in the first Shibir, Durga Devi had introduced herself as the cause and effect of life , and subsequently, in the second Shibir, Durga Devi explained the Narada Bhakti Sutras. Here she was again,  through her regular messenger Velankarji , about to unveil some more secrets!  And immensely lucky were the audience who were about to gain wisdom on the nine forms of Goddess Durga !

In the serene natural surroundings of AuroVeda Ashram on Kanakapura Road, Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh inaugurated the shibir. After a scintillating invocation song, any doubts about the nine forms of Durga were put to rest by Dr Meera in her inaugural address. She said that across the country , there are innumerable forms and names of the Devi , be it Kamala, Narayani, Trishulini, Vindhyavasini and many more !  She narrowed all this down to a concept , the concept of Durga .

Our minds were trying to connect a few dots now – The shibir is about nine Durgas – Dr Meera elaborated nicely that  Durga is many, yet Durga is a concept ! The lovely resplendent  mother goddess installed as an idol in the left corner of the discourse hall , was looking at us from the corner of her eye and telling us – “ If I am the concept, you are the creation. Hang on! I have more to tell! “ . And indeed, her messenger Velankarji started unravelling the mystery from the word Go.

He introduced the nine forms – Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta,Kushmanda,Skandamata,Kathyayani,Kalaratri,Mahagauri,Siddhidatri

He said but all the nine forms are one and the same mother goddess, and further narrowed it down to the concept that Dr Meera mentioned – the all pervading consciousness that is responsible for all forms .

However, the way variety is the spice of life – be it food,clothing or shelter , so is variety an essential ingredient of spiritual teaching and existence, and all forms and their attributes are created as a need for this variety – be it God or humans . With this essential background, Velankarji started explaining the nine forms. This was spread over his four sessions .

For Shailaputri , the story of SatiDevi, the daughter of the mountains, and the consort of God Shiva , was beautifully elaborated.

For Brahmacharini, essential references to Nadopasana were made.

Chandraghanta came with reminders of the power of our Chakras.

Kushmanda brought the notion of Srishti or creation.

SkandaMata was a reminder of the valour of the warrior God Karthikeya.

Kathyayani stood for an apt family life.

Kalaratri stood for foresight.

Mahagauri embodied Sattva or purity.

Siddhidatri was the highest of all Siddhis or enlightenment.

Velankarji explained the above nine forms with apt examples and his usual touches of wit and humor. This kept the audience engaged. The mother goddess also moved with us to the open air early morning session on the second day , under the tree. She was smiling at us and she seemed to be saying “Is this better or the rooms with AC where you lock yourself regularly?”

The highlights of the shibir besides the obvious takeaway I detailed above, were the pre-session awesome musical renderings by some of the shibirites , the lovely journey of the Saktipeethas – courtesy Dr Ananth Pranesh and Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh, and a scintillating Harikatha performance by Dr Dattatreya Velankar.

If the soul’s hunger was satisfied by Velankarji’s wisdom , our physical hunger was satisfied by sumptuous food . At the end, were the valedictory and photo sessions, where memories were captured on camera

As I departed, I turned back for a glance at the Mother Goddess in the left corner of the discourse hall. I felt she said

“ I am with you! I am in you ! My messenger Velankarji and coordinator Dr Meera have been trying to make you realize this. The people here with whom you smiled  and laughed and shared happiness – I was in them –  till you understand the secrets of my presence in nature and in you, you shall not escape from me!”.

Waiting for more such Shibirs…….

– P Narayanan Iyer