The famous mythological tale of Devi Durga vs the tormentor Mahishasur goes something like this. There was once a vicious young demon named Mahishasur who wanted nothing more than to become immortal. He prayed relentlessly to the Gods, and feeling his dedication and prayers, Lord Bramha granted him one wish. The cunning demon Mahishasur asked that he should be the most powerful creature on the planet. Bramha unsuspectingly granted him his wish. Shortly after, Mahishasur gained immense strength and powers, and began to misuse his superiority by wreaking havoc across earth. Sounds familiar, doesn't it ? How many times you would have experienced a Mahishasur misusing the powers vested upon.
Soon realizing the blunder , an urgent meeting between Bramha, Vishnu and Mahesh saw them create Goddess Durga in order to take on and vanquish Mahishasur. Many Gods came together and bestowed a slew of powers and weapons upon Durga. Shiva gave her a Trishul, the God of the Himalayas gave her a Lion to ride on and many more. You will see all these powers in the different hands of durga. Durga became an one-person army, endowed with multiple special skills. Armed with all these powers, Durga descended from the heavens, and after a long and arduous ten-day battle, beheaded Mahishasur, restoring peace and order. This doesn't sound familiar, because this hardly happens.
Here are some facts:
In 2017, India’s position in the gender gap index of the World Economic Forum (WEF) fell by as much as 21 points, putting us well behind countries like Bangladesh and China.
The management consulting firm Zinnov in collaboration with Intel India released the findings of their study titled, Zinnov-Intel India Gender Diversity Benchmark. The report is a part of an industry initiative Be-WISE (Women Innovators, Social Leaders and Entrepreneurs), that aims to accelerate inclusive participation of women in the workplace. The report highlights that there is a 30% representation of women in corporate India. While 31% of women are a part of non-technical, a mere 26% represents in technical roles at corporates across India.
As many as 40% of Indians who graduate in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines are women. However neither the country nor the graduates are gaining much from this. According to UN, only 14% of the total 280000 scientists, engineers and technologists in the research development institutions are women. This is despite so many women centric initiatives undertaken by not only by the government but also by 100s of private organizations. There is a disbalance between the number of women enrolling in higher education and the number of women entering the workplace.
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, provided she is able to develop, and hone her skills. It is the former aspect of the aforementioned statement that is especially relevant today; that a woman whose skills and powers are developed and nurtured, is an unstoppable force. THIS is what we need to draw and learn from Durga’s story, and apply it to society. Not only does Goddess Durga serve as an icon for empowering women, her life presents many lessons from which we can learn, particularly with reference to women in society today. Can we try to utilize the power to have an inclusive environment where everyone is allowed to grow or are we waiting for numerous Durga's to emerge in our society to take care of things herself ?
Every year we celebrate Navratri or Durga Puja worshipping the nine forms of the goddess. It is also a time to worship and glorify female power.
As we commence yet another year of joyous festivities to celebrate Durga Puja, let us pause for a moment to honestly and intently examine how big the gap is between our glorification of the female principle at the level of religion and the dereliction of our duties towards females at the level of society.
Wishing you all a blissful Durga Puja, the time of Puja might have different meaning for all of us, but what remains intact through all those feelings is our respect for a woman who conquers a demon and unleashes everyone from the misery.