Mystery shrouding Jagaddhatri’s origin
Durga, Kali, Jagaddhatri (the protector of the universe), all three are manifestations of the universal Mother Goddess. Durga is the warrior who annihilates Mahishasur, Kali, the dark goddess (from Kaalor Time) -- symbol of death, doom, dissolution and destruction. Jagaddhatri, on the other hand, is the preserver of the world. Her cult is directly derived from Tantra where she is a symbol of sattvawhich means purity and she is known to absorb all dark and evil forces from the face of the earth, be it disease or impurity in a man’s life, she cleanses the body and soul of her devotees. Durga and Kali symbolize Rajas and Tamas, the other two aspects of the Mother Goddess.
These three aspects of the universal Mother Goddess find their way in the writing of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, where he envisages his concept of Swadesh. An ancient stone sculpture of a female goddess found in Barishal (now in Bangladesh) is believed to be Jagaddhatri’s idol. Experts say the sculpture is from the 14th century and in that case the cult of Durga is more primitive and antiquated. Jagadhhatri was worshipped in ancient times and we find her mentioned in Kaalvivek, a book written by Smarta Pundit Shoolpani in the 15th or 16th century. Prior to Shoolpani’s book, the ritual of worshipping Uma in the month of Kartik (October-November) is mentioned in Smritisagar. Sanskrit scholar Mahamahopadhyay PanchananTarkaratna believes the names of Uma-Haimavati mentioned in Kenopanishadare referring to Jagaddhatri.
There is controversy over the correct period when Krishnananda Agambagishlived. Some believe he is from 18th century but there are many who conclude he was a tantra-sadhak born in 16th- 17th century. The dhyaan-mantra composed by him specify the Goddess’ features: She has four arms, holding conch, bow, arrow and chakra (a circle-shaped instrument) in each hand. Conch symbolizes God in the form of sound, ‘Om’, bow and arrow stands for sheer energy and her control over the world and chakra is used to destroy evil. She is dressed in red sari and jewellery and is decorated with kumkum and kajal (kohl). Jagaddhatri’s vehicle, like Goddess Durga is lion and it is the symbol of power, strength, will and determination.
Even today, Jagaddhatri’s idol is made following description provided by Krishnananda Agambagish. Variations are done in the form of placing the idols of Joya and Bijoya, sometimes Narad Muni and Vashishtha Muni next to the Goddess’ idol. Many artisans depict Jagaddhatri’s idol flanked by two fairies on either side, holding fans. They are Pari and Apsara.
According to folklore, Goddess Jagaddharti’s worship is also closely related to Goddess Durga. Legend has it that once Maharaja Krishnachan¬d¬ra of Krishnanagar, Nadia failed to deposit his kingdom’s tax revenue to the Nawab of Murshidabad’s coffers and was arrested and put behind bars during Durga Puja. The king was a devotee of Goddess Durga and felt dejected as he could not organize the puja. Devi Durga appeared before the king in his dreams and assured him not to worry and instead asked him to organize Jagaddhatri Puja on Navami tithiin the month of Kartik. It is believed that is how Jagaddhatri Puja started in Bengal and became a popular deity among the zamindars and the rich people.
According to archaeologists, there are marked differences between the idols of Durga as Mahish-mardiniand as Mahishasur-Mardini. In Mahish-mardini, the goddess kills a buffalo and this ancient idol is found in the post Maurya dynasty sculptures of the goddess. Gradually, the buffalo transformed into the demon Mahishasur and the goddess came to be known as Mahishasurmardini, the slayer of the demon Mahishasur. This form came in later and is comparatively new. The goddess’ vahana (Divine animal mount) has also undergone change. The ferocious lion transformed into a horse-faced lion which is still found in terracotta relief as well as in the Durga idols worshipped in traditional houses of the aristocrat (bonedi) families.
The four-armed sculptures of Mother Goddess belonging to the post Gupta dynasty has been found and she is named Singha-vahini (one who rides atop a lion). A large number of these idols were excavated from Bangladesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. An idol named Rudrani is worshipped in Karui village in Katwa. This idol sits atop a lion and archaeologists believe the idol was sculpted in the 10th century which means it is as ancient as the sculpted figures of Mahish Mardini. According to deputy superintendent archaeologist of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Shubho Mazumdar, “Jagaddhatri is not akin to Mahish Mardini or Mahishasur Mardini. She has ample similarities with Singha-Vahini Devi. It was a later ploy to attach her origin with MahishasurmardiniDurga and hence the lore of Karindrasur was imported. Needless to sayKarindrasur has no Pouraniksanctity or orgin like Mahishasur.”