By Kartik Bajoria
There is a strange dichotomy that seems to exist across India. While on the one hand we celebrate and venerate women role models, on the other, in large parts of the country, patriarchy reigns. There is even an undeniable preference and bias for the male child, with thousands of unfortunate cases of female infanticide. Around a time when the country is celebrating Goddess Durga through Durga Puja and celebrations across India, perhaps it is time we reminded ourselves of the true worth and potential of the girl child. As parents, uncles and aunts, brothers, teachers to young girls, we must delve into Durga’s life and seek lessons on how to treat women and why they are so vital to our very existence.
In order to understand this better, let us first revisit a specific story from Durga’s life. In the famous mythological tale of Devi Durga versus the tormentor Mahishasur, when the demon goes on rampage and takes on the gods, it’s left to the goddess to destroy the demon in a 10-day battle.
It took a woman of many talents and powers to triumph over evil. This story from our own mythology is of particular significance simply because it reminds us as a society, of the boundless vigour and tenacity of a woman. It ought to also serve as a reminder of the value and significance of the girl child, and how lucky we are if we are blessed with a girl at home.
There is a slew of other qualities that Durga embodies, that are inherently present in the girl child, that we as caregivers should be aware of, and conscious about nurturing. Let us look at some.
The power of transformation
It is well-known that Goddess Durga transformed herself into many different avatars depending on the situation she was presented with. Women mirror this trait in everyday life, smoothly transitioning from wife to mother, employee to sister. This dexterity ought to be treasured, celebrated and appreciated much more than it perhaps is. And it ought to start from the time a girl child is born!
Durga also displays and demonstrates that she was strong of mind and body. She wasn’t just a woman who was a great physical warrior but also an individual who had tremendous psychological resolve. This again is an enviable quality that is present in all women, something that ought to be applauded and amplified, and lessons learned from.
The reason Durga was able to overcome Mahishasur was because her endeavour to conquer him was the culmination of a collaborative enterprise. All the various gods who put their might and trust in her, helped her overcome the demon monster. In real life too, women are naturally prone to draw from people around them. If a girl child is surrounded by people who are positive, loving, embracing, and encouraging, there is virtually no limit to the heights that child can reach as a grown woman.
Durga always stayed steadfast of purpose. She too had fears but didn’t cower, choosing instead to face them, head on. She tamed a wild lion too! Herein is another great lesson for young women and girls across the country – to not let fear determine their actions, rather push them to confront and triumph.
Durga is one of the best examples of a single entity embodying ferocity as well as compassion. Equal parts destroyer and creator, Durga’s life and story provide invaluable learnings for people who are bringing up a girl child. That your precious daughter has a duality of purpose that should be treasured.
Let us not dilute the real modern-day significance of Durga Puja by simply celebrating in grand fashion. Let us consciously choose instead, to take inspiration from goddess Durga’s own life and develop a genuine understanding, appreciation, and respect for the girl child. For if there weren’t girls on the planet, there wouldn’t be a planet!
(Kartik Bajoria is a writer, educator and moderator.)