Introducing Hinduism Through a Mother Goddess

- Surya Maraj

Once upon a time, before the universe was created, a beautiful goddess was walking through the Void. Spontaneously, she created three universal qualities: tranquility, passion, and ignorance. And these three qualities took the form of three babies. She created a cradle and put the babies to sleep with a beautiful lullaby. Seeing that her children were sleeping, the goddess disappeared. After a long time, the babies woke up and started crying. As time passed, they grew into young children and started wandering the Void with the power of their three qualities in search of their mother. After a long while, they began to sit in meditation, performing intense austerities. As the power of their concentration intensified, they generated intense heat, which began to tear the universe. Pleased with their devotion, the goddess appeared and manifested in her divine form.

She was a beautiful goddess of twenty-four years. She wore a red sari and garlands of fragrant flowers. Her face was bright and beautiful like the full moon. She had three eyes and her forehead carried a round mark of red powder. She had eight arms holding a lotus, mace, conch, and other celestial weapons. She wore every piece of jewelry imaginable, including bright golden ankle bells, toe rings, bangles, earrings, and beautiful necklaces adorned with rare, lustrous gems. She came running for the children with perspiration falling down her face like pearls. As the children saw their mother coming, they ran to her and the goddess kissed and caressed her children again and again. She consoled them and said "O divine children, I made you undergo this great agony of separation. I should have come to you long before. I just wanted you to gain powers of creation, preservation, and dissolution so that the souls who are born into this cosmic play should see the ideal of austerity shown by you three. I was always with you, yet I am transcendental and formless. Being pleased with your efforts, I took this form so that the souls hereafter shall be able to envision and worship me as the Divine Mother. I shall be pleased with their worship and confer on them all prosperity and devotion." The Goddess then disappeared.

The name of the goddess is Gayatri, and the three children make the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The lullaby she sang is the mantra Om and the age of twenty-four symbolizes the twenty-four vyahtris or syllables in the Gayatri mantra, the most sacred of all Hindu mantras. In ancient times, such mythological stories with vivid imagery were told by the rishis or seers, the founders of Hinduism, to the common person to explain deeper philosophical concepts and values. Storytelling is a powerful method used in all cultures to give one a deeper understanding of life and its struggles. In Hinduism, there are many creation stories and this particular story places emphasis on the feminine aspect of the divine. Other creation stories have different gods as the creator in order to promote faith for that particular deity. This story promotes faith in the goddess as she is placed in the central role as the creator and ultimate god. Usually a member of the trinity would be glorified in their own scriptures as the creator, or central god figure.

I thought it would be fitting to tell a creation story to kick off the first article of the Hinduism division of The Religious Observer, especially a creation story focusing on the goddess Gayatri because her mantra or prayer is the first one taught to Brahmins at the commencement of their formal studies. The Gayatri mantra is also a meditational prayer that is chanted daily by all Hindus. If a Hindu knows or has heard of just one prayer, it would be the Gayatri mantra.

The Religious Observer's Hinduism division will feature articles written by writers from many backgrounds from all over the world. The articles will touch on issues relating to Hinduism for a general audience. We hope you will join us in the coming months.

Om Shanti. May there be peace.