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Fact File

Durga

The literal translation from Shanskrit of 'Durga' is 'fort' or 'inaccessible place'. The goddess is depicted as having eight or ten arms, meaning her protection extends in every direction, and three eyes; the left of which symbolises desire (the moon), the right, action (the sun), and the middle, knowledge (fire). Her ride, the lion, represents power, will and determination, all three of which is required to overcome the demon of ego. She is one of the supreme deities in Hindu religion and has several forms, each of which plays a different role in the religion.

Of her bearings, the conch shell describes her hold on God in the form of sound; the bow and arrows energy; the thunderbolt firmness; the half-bloomed lotus the certainty of success but not finality; the Chakra her hold on the world; the sword knowledge; and the trident activity, inactivity and non-activity, as well as the three kinds of miseries she removes, physical, mental and spiritual.

The legend of Durga reads like a story. Once there was an asura (demon), who paraded the world in the form of a mahish (bull), wreaking havoc even in heaven. He was thus called Mahishasura. After one hundred years of battle, he defeated the Devas (gods), and dethroned Indra, their king. The terrified gods fled from heaven to Brahma, the god of Creation, in the hope that the one who had granted Mohishasura the power to conquer universes would be able to stop him. But Brahma could not take back a boon, however ill-judged, once granted. He led the gods to Vishnu (god of the universe) and Shiva (god of Destruction and Change), to whom they related the evil doings of Mohishasura.

Angered by the events transpiring beyond their control, Vishnu, Shiva and the others released beams of light from their bodies. The light gradually took shape into a Devi (goddess). She had one thousand arms that spread in every direction, her crown touched the sky, her weight pushed down the Earth, and her bow resonated through the world. The overjoyed gods hurried to find her weapons, garments and jewelry. A lion from the Himalayas was presented to her as a ride.

Mohishasura and his generals took up arms, along with billions of asuras, and rained attacks upon the goddess, which did nothing to harm her. With one breath she summoned thousands of ghosts to fight the asuras. Her lion tore apart as many demons with its teeth and claws as she did with the thousand weapons in her thousand hands. Finally, with all his soldiers vanquished, Mohishasura destroyed the ghosts himself, then charged the goddess. She tied him up with her weapon, but he turned into a lion and tore through the bonds. She cut the lion, and a man emerged, tearing towards her with a mace. When she cut the man, an elephant appeared, trapping her lion with its trunk. She sliced off the trunk, and the elephant turned into a bull. The goddess leapt onto the back of the bull and pierced it, forcing Mohishasura to emerge. He resumed fighting when only half-transformed, but before long she cut off his head with her sword. Thus he was slain in half-human, half-bull form, which is depicted in the sculptures used in Pujas.

The gods now dared come forth, singing praises of Durga's accomplishment, pleasing her enough to grant them one boon. They were happy to ask only that she return whenever they needed her. She assented and disappeared into the sky. Of course, the gods were in trouble yet again soon after, but word limit takes precedence here, so that is a tale for another day.

Sources: Wikipedia, Upendrakishore Rochonaboli, and various other books.

By Professor Spork


Book Review

The Eight

Long before Dan Brown made a poo-load of money writing the Da Vinci Code, there was a woman who did the whole art history and global conspiracy thing. Some even say she did it better, although that particular sentiment is debatable. Her name is Katherine Melville, and this week, we look at her debut novel, The Eight, which started its readers off on a breathless adventure that spanned centuries.

The novel is split into two different timelines. The first takes place right at the onset of the French Revolution, where two beautiful young novices, Mireille and Valentine at the Montglane Abbey find their sheltered existence thrown in shambles when the abbess reveals to them that an ancient chess service, believed to have belonged to the Emperor Charlemagne, is buried in the grounds of the abbey. This set, known as the Montglane Service, holds the key to some dark power that could mean world dominion for whoever unlocked its secrets, is being hunted by people who would use them for evil, and thus the abbess wants to scatter the pieces so that no one could exploit its power. She distributes the pieces amongst her nuns and novices, and sends them out far and wide to go and hide them, while she herself takes off to Russia with the board. When Valentine is brutally murdered in the search for the service, Mireille sets out on a dangerous mission that will change her life, and perhaps the course of history forever.

The second narrative is set in 1972, when Catherine 'Cat' Velis, a computer systems expert, is sent to Algeria on a mission to set up a working system for the company the world now recognises as OPEC. Prior to her departure from New York, a fortune teller warns her that her life is in danger, which she dismisses until two people turn up dead in a bizarre sequence of events, and she gets further warnings from Russian chess grandmaster, the mysterious Aleksander Solarin. It appears that she must now search for and unite the missing pieces of the ancient Montglane Service, while trying to stay a step ahead of forces who will try to thwart her.

Fast-paced and suspenseful, the story is enriched by many a nugget of historical facts, and the occasional chess or physics/math related trivia. This is as much a book for the thrill-seeker as it is for the geek, and there's even a few juicy morsels for the romantics. Historical celebrities making appearances here include Robespierre, Napoleon Bonaparte, Tsarina Catherine the Great, Talleyrand, and more. Peeves about the books? The two main ones being that while the characters themselves are painstakingly sketched out, their relationships with one another feel contrived. Also, there are too many instances of so-and-so character turning 'ashen' or 'grey-faced' at the mere mention of the Montglane Service. One finds oneself asking, if so many people knew about this why are they trying to grab it only now? Nonetheless, if you can ignore those little glitches, get yourself a copy of this and experience the thrill of the hunt. Also, watch this space for the review of the sequel, coming right up next week.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
sabrina.ahmad@thedailystar.net


Meditations for a happy life

It is not the outward appearance that characterises our identity as human beings but the inner glow of righteousness and tranquillity that comes from within and truly defines us as 'beautiful.'

The mind controls our brain - the central processing unit of our body and hence all our activities. It is important that the mind works in the right direction, which as a result, governs our brain to work in the righteous path.

If we look at the world around us, we hear and see achievers who are successful in life some are notable scientists while others are conquerors of Everest. If we study the lives of these successful people we often see that it is their strong will that lead them to glory.

The mind is analogous to fingerprints - each is unique. No two souls in this world of six billion people have the same prints and the mind is the same. Thus one must seek their path to glory in their own individualistic approach.

Quantum Foundation has been working since 1993 to help people come closer to their unique place in society. After 17 years they have been helping thousands of people discover their individual identity and helping them succeed. Today, even medical science is advocating the need for meditation for healthy living. A good look at the world around us reveals a prevalence of depression and frustration. Meditation can be a key to the prevention of these psychological problems.

Regular courses are held, each of which features over 2000 participants. The courses are conducted by Shahid Al-Bukhari, whose convincing words help individuals seek answers to questions that plague their soul. It must be said that Quantum Foundation is a self-reliant organisation that works without any financial help from the government or any non-government organisations.

Besides propagating the benefits of meditation, Quantum Foundation is also working in favour of social causes like blood donation, education of poor children and others.

If you are having trouble coming to peace with your inner dilemmas, or seek to come in close proximity to your soul, Quantum Foundation may just have the right solution.

Contact:
Quantum Foundation Main Office:
31/V, Silpacharjo Zainul Abedin Sarak,
Shantinagar, Dhaka-1217.
Tel: 9341441, 8319377, 01714-974333.

Quantum Meditation Hall:
1/1 Pioneer Road (YMCA building, ground floor),
Segunbagicha, Kakrail, Dhaka 1000.
Tel: 83911391, 01711-671858.
Email: info@quantummethod;org.bd; quantummethod.org.bd

By Romana Rumu


 

 

 
 

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