Devi poojan partaal – Bhai Vir Singh [Translation of extract]

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Devi poojan partaal – Bhai Vir Singh [Translated in 2010 by dalsingh]


Part 1:


Devi in Hindu thought.


Whenever we try to investigate the truth behind any being worshiped by Hindus we confront many difficulties. It is the same when trying to establish the truth behind the worship of devi. Any attempts at uncovering and finding [facts] result in one being beset with an equal amount of complications. If we try to develop an understanding based on investigation and exploration it appears that prior to the arrival of the Arya race in India, some of the original dark skinned inhabitants around the Vindhyachal mountains, were worshippers of ‘Kali’. Kali was thus an idol these people venerated. Generally, those people who were referred to as ‘thags’ were her devotees. This grasp of the relationship between Vindhyachal area and devi survives in Hindu thought till the present day. Bhai Santokh Singh writes in [source unclear] that devi, tired of killing demons, and having lost [her war], arrives at the Vindhyachal where she installs a small figure and settles down - because of this, the place is also known as ‘Vindhyachal vaasnee’ [vaas referring to an abode or dwelling]. Such a named place exists roughly where the Vindhya mountains and Ganges meet and she (Kali) is worshipped there, next to an area called Mirzapur. They say the blood of sacrifices made in front of the statue there, never dries*.


Some people have expressed the possibility that perhaps Kali was a queen of the dark skinned inhabitants of the Vindhyachal region who later came to be worshipped as a goddess. She repeatedly fought with the invading Arya clan armies and people referred to her enemies as demons (asuras). Those who support this theory state that devi [in pictorial representations] is of a dark hue whilst the heads of the enemies she has slain with own hands are of a white complexion (implying they are heads of Aryans†).


The devotees of the Kali referred to as ‘Vindhyachal Vaasnee’ (resident of Vindhyachal) were certainly members of the ‘thag’ community. Thags were an old sect, within which Muslims too were incorporated, but prior to the Muslims, this cult existed even before the [arrival of the] Aryans. Members would gain the trust of people, after which they would strangle them with a rope or handkerchief in order to rob them. They considered this [activity] to be their profession and did not recognise it as a sin. After the killing they would perform some religious rituals, involving the worship of an axe but mainly in homage to devi, to whom much of the stolen goods were ceremoniously offered. These people considered everything they were doing to be under the orders of ‘Kali’ herself**. The Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsiang, referring to his own past, has described how when having left Ayodhaya to tour Haymukh, he was captured by thags along the way and selected to be sacrificed in front of devi ***. So, in this way Kali was an ancient object of worship as well as a fear inspiring icon for the authentic inhabitants [of the region].


When we investigate [the subject] from the ‘Arya Hindu’ perspective we find that instances of the of the word ‘Kali’ do indeed occur in the Vedas but not with the meaning associated with devi. Instead [we find that] it is the name given to one of the seven tongues of Agni [the fire goddess], for whom sacrificial fires were undertaken. Of Agni’s seven tongues, ‘Kali’ was a dark and terrifying tongue††. These deities of the Vedas were mostly presented in a form to be worshipped [sentence meaning unclear]. We have some mention of human sacrifices in the preVedic period or during the early stages of its emergence¥; but later, the sages of the Vedas replaced these with accounts of horse sacrifices. Overall, the Vedic deities were the embodiment of radiance and not terror. The actual meaning of dev is illumination and it is said that awareness of devi amongst the Hindus, started after a time in this fashion. Following worship in all of the Vedic gods, they started to believe in 3 chief deities, then after some time they started to worship the three powers of the deities¥¥. The deity called ‘Rudar’ in the Vedas is in actuality the god of ‘thunder and tornadoes’, however, eventually he came to be recognised as ‘Shiv’ in the Hindu trinity, who possessed the power of destruction and the ability to absorb the world [to purge it??]. At about the time of the emergence of the doctrine of the three principal gods; Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv and their 3 powers, Parbati became equated with Shiv’s power and his attributes of destruction and absorption [of the world] fell within this [conceptualisation].


In the Mahabharat one can read many references to devi in the position of ‘wife to Shiv’ under different names. Thus, the main ideas of the worship of the trinity [of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv] as well as the mode (and more), all emerge during the era of the Puranasπ.


Even if there are verses in Mahabharat which describe devi as the object of sacrifices involving meat and alcohol, it is not correct to say that Shaktism or Tantric practices were taking place at this time because we find no mention of Tantric philosophy when we read the Chinese traveller’s [Hiuen Tsiang] manuscript. Amar Kosh too, (which was written some years before this time, perhaps in the 5th century, Christian era), doesn’t contain any explanation of this word [devi] under any of the schools of thought [it describes] nor is mention made in any other ancient ‘explanatory texts’.


Some have also considered the possibility that devi may have been a great Hindu warrior, who fought with Saka invaders and slaughtered the leaders of those 'demons' and that ballads and stories concerning her bravery, presented her in the form of devi. ‘The Saka wars’ happened mainly in the north of India and it is here that she is well known in her tiger riding, powerful, demon destroying form. Bhai Ditt Singh has posited the possibility that devis were the brave royal maidens of the Rajputs and the rakhsas were Maharatas, who would turn up to try and take the pretty Rajput girls away. Back then, those Rajput females who fought bravely alongside the men and obtained victory, would become famous and were worshipped. So these historically based, regal women were the root of the devi story [according to the theory]. After informing us of the way the names of the rakhsas: Sambha, Nisumbh, Dhandoo and so forth, align with the Maharata names (Sambha ji, Nisumbh ji, Chand ji etc.) and presenting evidence of this, we are told that the section of the Dasam Granth based on the Markanday Puran, the story of Chandi; describes devi as a young and beautiful women. One day whilst she was seated somewhere, Sambh, a demon’s brother passes by, and upon seeing her he feels a strong desire to secure his brother’s betrothal to her. In this way the narrative agrees with [the theory] in that it is rooted in an incident of devi, the daughter of some warrior king, who fights victoriously against a tyrant king to preserve her essence.


Giani Gyan Singh believes that there is a possibility that prior to 665 AD (Christian dating) an Iranian queen ‘Sameerma’ occupied northern India and was involved in constant battles with the lowland kings, Sumbh and Nisumbh. It is thought that the Padam Puran was created by calling this very ‘Sameerma’ devi and representing her battles. By depicting her as a queen of the mountainous regions, she may have come to be worshipped there.


From the above we come to learn that ‘Kali’ was an icon worshipped by the older inhabitants of India and that someone from amongst the Aryans, through some jugglery [later], initiated the school of thought of devi tying it to a previous one that was centred on the various powers (shakti) of their deities.


*Dawson[?] - Classical dictionary of Hindu mythology.

†Woodriffe[?] - Shakti and Shakta

**Encyclopedia Britannica 8th edition

***Hind da puritan itihaas. Tract number 442. Pg. 13.

†† Dawson

¥ See Rig Ved Ashtak...........xxxx

¥¥ Encyclopedia Britannica

π Dawson

-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part 2:

(continued: Devi in Hindu thought)


It should also be remembered that when Shivji’s wife is being described, it is as the daughter of the Aryan king of Kanakla, Dakya Prajapati. From this we can infer that the gentle devi* is the daughter of Aryan thought and the fearsome devi was the black mother figure of the original darked hued inhabitants [of India]. The Himalayas have also been considered to be Parbati’s father and from this we can correctly say that the Himalayan daughter is the Aryan devi and that the ‘Kali’ resident in the Vindhyachal mountains is the devi of the ancient, true residents [of India].


When the Aryan folk mixed with the real races [of the region], those people were eclipsed by Vedic thought so that their modes of worship came to be mixed together. In this way, the two schools of thought of devi, represented by the Himalayan ‘church’ and the Vindhyachal vasnee kali, met in one location but both of their forms and colours were still represented separately.


All accounts thus point at battles, peace agreements and co-habitation between the warriors of the darker skinned ancient Indian inhabitants and the Aryan clans, causing to them influence each other. At this time the two distinct schools of devi met and led to the creation of a single devi figure, who was considered to have two forms, one tender and the other terrifying. The names of these gentler forms were: Oma (meaning bright), Gori (the white skinned), Parbati (daughter of Parbat), Jugdumbha (mother of the earth) and Bhavani Adh**.


With the dread-inspiring representation of devi we find names of the following types: Kali, Shyami, Chandi, Chandika (fierce), Bhayrvee (fearsome). It was to this form that goats, young buffalos and so forth were given in bloody sacrifices. It is also apparent that at some previous point, human sacrifices also took place. The mention of some of these things that were considered normal practice by Tantric folk [then], is uncomfortable and because of this, details of these activities are left out. Kali’s costume is dark skin, her form is terrifying and she desires blood. Snakes and decapitated heads hang from her neck. Durga (that obtained through difficulty) has a beautiful form, presented as fair skinned and riding a lion giving an impression of deftness and agility.


Bhavani Omi, Parbati, Durga, Chandhi or Kali, whatever facts lie behind these devi beliefs, in India, with the expansion of Hindu philosophical thought, a form was chosen that allowed the practitioners of higher Tantrism to attempt to present matters with a philosophical hue. This is what we will deliberate and draw conclusions upon now.


From the thoughts derived from an individual called devi, the Hindu mind developed beliefs of a philosophic nature, and this is that ‘birth and death’ are linked. So that we are provided with birth, existence and the essence of life (ਜੀਵਨ ਰਸ) from the beautiful and kind form, whilst this same source also provides us with something with a death like, horrific quality [interpretation of ਸ਼ੈ is very difficult here]. And so, with these God (ਬ੍ਰਹਮ) like capabilities she is immanent and neutral with the power to sustain life in her gentler form and in her frightening manifestation, she takes it away***.


Those who present this in a philosophical manner**** say that the word ‘Kali’ derives from the word ‘kal’ (meaning time), and that very power which she manifests from within time, she is able to draw into herself so she is able to devour time itself. Because of this she is Kali. In this way, Kali in the ‘timeless’ interpretation, can be considered to have become an expression of the one ultimate reality (ਬ੍ਰਹਮ). Kali is described as ornamented with decapitated heads, corpses and crematorium ash because she is the power which can absorb [and thus destroy] all of creation.


The reason devi is called black coloured is because she is able to take all visible things to nothingness and remove the world from time itself+. Then she is nude - clothed in nothing but the four directions of the compass – stark naked. Because if she is clothed, she appears constrained, so referring to her as being ‘without garment’ she becomes unrestricted. Then she is illusion, from which the world is created, in this fashion she is a creative form of power of the transcendental great supreme reality (ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ). Because of this she is sometimes portrayed as standing in Shiv’s white corpse. Shiv is white because he is the manifestation of pure consciousness. The appearance of the cadaver is not to signify lifelessness but rather her ancient, untainted, unchanging, single minded and incorruptible form. The dead body upon which she stands signifies the altering, creative, destructive form and is an icon of these powers. In reality both of these are one, one being’s two colours. One, a single incorruptible, unalterable essence and the other of change, itself a visible attribute of the unchanging.


At this point the matter that needs reflecting upon is that on one hand we have the original forms of devi in the shape of the fear-inspiring statues installed in the Vindhya temple near Mirzapur and the Kalibari temple in Calcutta, where Tantrism as well as other sorcery and various superstitious practices take place. Whilst on the other hand we have the higher ‘intellectualised devi’ as outlined above. Both are astonishingly conflicting conceptualisations between which there is immeasurable difference. What is a thinking person supposed to think? Which one of these is Guru Gobind Singh ji supposed to have invoked, according to that written by the poets? Because the authors of Gurbilas and Gur Prataap Suraj etc. present a hotchpotch of the schools of thought [in their works]


For a while, the worship of Kali by the wild, tribal [indigenous] folk involved offerings of the blood of the innocent (at the hand of the thags etc.) before the [Kali] effigy. Then we have the war-spirit inspiring workings of the Durga etc. and in another place we have the essence of Tantrism. Whatever they are, if we ignore them all and try to distinguish the truth of the highest interpretation given by devotees of devi, we find that these writers have developed their school of thought through deliberation and by stretching and distilling their understanding of devi and taking it into a philosophic form. Like some have come believe in the philosophy that subordinate to Brahma, a creating, nurturing and destroying immanent being called “Ishwaar” exists. Similarly, in Vaishnavism, beneath the transcendental supreme soul, a world unifying and consciousness melding immanent being has been understood to exist - who is referred to as Vishnu. In this very way, devi is an immanent entity, who because of the transcendental supreme soul’s untaintable (ਅਲੇਪ) nature has been established as the creative, sustaining and destroyer of earth, in higher philosophic Shaktic thought.


Now we will attempt to find the place of devi in Gurmat. For this purpose, we will start with the higher school of thought, which Hindu philosophy presents as ‘transcendental Ishwaarat’ and proceed with that: -


(beginning of new section entitled Gurmat vich devi or devi in Sikh thought)




*In the northern mountains very early idols of Vaishu devi, Kheer bhavani, Chintpoorni presented in a gentle manner can be found at separate places even today.


*** Sir Charles Elliot

**** Woodriffe

+ Long footnote


[Original Gurmukhi text available here - https://www.scribd.com/doc/57000534/Devi-Poojan-Partaal ]

[Some of my thoughts at the time of translation can be found here - http://www.sikhawareness.com/topic/13060-bhai-vir-singh-on-devi/ ]

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interesting, this very much correlates with what Guru Sahib wrote in Chaubis Avtar, the good were called gods/devta and the bad were called asura/demon.

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