"She is ever attentive to the world, particularly to her devotees"
"Although the male deities are frequently portrayed as carrying out their traditional cosmological functions at the Devi's command, she herself is also pictured as taking an active role in the cosmic processes. She is ever attentive to the world, particularly to her devotees, and in various forms she acts to uphold cosmic order and protect her creatures. Although her concern is that of a mother for her children, hence a passionate and ever-watchful concern, her favorite role as protector and preserver of the cosmos is that of the warrior, a traditional male role. Many of her epithets emphasize this aspect of her character. The Lalita-sahasranama calls her she who slays demons (Raksasaghni, 318), she who grant boons to great warriors (Mahavirendravarada, 493), ruler of armies (Caturangabalesvari, 691), she who is worshipped by warriors (Viraradhya, 777), and mother of warriors (Viramata, 836)."
"The central role the Devi plays in mythology is that of creator and queen of the cosmos. When she is portrayed in her own form (sva bhava), she is usually described as a beautiful young woman in regal attire surrounded by thousands of attendants and seated on a throne in the highest heaven. As cosmic queen she oversees or performs directly the three primary cosmic functions of creation, preservation, and destruction. The world is said to be destroyed when she blinks her eyes and to be recreated when she opens her eyes.
Many Hindu mythological texts attribute the three cosmic functions to Brahma (creation), Vishnu (preservation), and Siva (destruction). While texts extolling the Devi often picture these three deities in their familiar roles, it is made clear that the male gods only act according to the Devi's will and at her command. Some myths make the point that the great male gods are entirely dependents on the Devi for her strength and power and that if she withdraws her power they are impotent and helpless. The Devi-bhagavata-purana also makes it clear that the traditional heavenly bodies of these deities are far below and inferior to the Devi's heaven. Indeed, the text asserts that there are innumerable Brahmas, Visnus, and Sivas, whose tasks are to govern the innumerable universes that ceaselessly bubble forth from the inexhaustibly creative Devi (3.4.14-67). In the Lalita-sahasranama the Devi is called she from whose ten fingernails spring the ten forms of Visnu (Karanguli-nakhotpanna-narayana-dasakrtih, 80). In the Saundaryalahari the entire universe is formed from a tiny speck of dust from the Devi's foot. Brahma takes that speck and from it fashions worlds that Visnu, in his form as the many-headed cosmic serpent, can barely support with his thousand heads (verse 2). In a particularly humbling scene for the male deities, the Devi is described in her heaven as seated upon a couch, its four legs consisting of the great male deities of the Hindu pantheon.The point is clear: the great male gods still have important roles to play, but ultimately they are servants of the Devi and do their bidding. She has created them, indeed, she has created innumerable copies of each of them, and they act as her cosmic agents, overseeing the universe she has created.
Although the male deities are frequently portrayed as carrying out their traditional cosmological functions at the Devi's command, she herself is also pictured as taking an active role in the cosmic processes. She is ever attentive to the world, particularly to her devotees, and in various forms she acts to uphold cosmic order and protect her creatures. Although her concern is that of a mother for her children, hence a passionate and ever-watchful concern, her favorite role as protector and preserver of the cosmos is that of the warrior, a traditional male role. Many of her epithets emphasize this aspect of her character. The Lalita-sahasranama calls her she who slays demons (Raksasaghni, 318), she who grant boons to great warriors (Mahavirendravarada, 493), ruler of armies (Caturangabalesvari, 691), she who is worshipped by warriors (Viraradhya, 777), and mother of warriors (Viramata, 836).
The Devi's most famous mythological exploits usually involve the defeat of demons who have taken over the world and displaced the gods from their positions as rulers of the cosmos. The three episodes featuring the goddess Durga are particularly popular in texts celebrating the Mahadevi, and she is identified with Durga in various renditions of the tales. To a great extent Durga is the Devi's most common or favorite form, and Durga's exploits are the most commonly celebrated events in Devi mythology. From the point of view of Mahadevi's theology the two are essentially the same deity. The account of Durga's defeat of Mahisa in the Devi-bhagavata-purana, for example, explicitly states that the Devi, though nirguna in her ultimate essence, assumes for her pleasure a great variety of forms in order to maintain cosmic order and that her form of Durga is simply one of those forms, though undoubtedly a very important one. As Durga, the Mahadevi is typically described as a ferocious, invincible warrior who descends into the world from time to time to combat evil of various kinds, especially demons who have stolen the positions of the gods.
As Durga, the Mahadevi is in many ways like the great god Visnu. Visnu is usually pictured as a cosmic king who oversees that stability of the world. When the world is threatened by demons, he descends in different forms to combat the danger. The Mahadevi is also said to assume forms appropriate to cosmic threats. Visnu is traditionally said to have ten avataras. In each universal cycle he takes ten different forms to combat ten different demons. The Mahadevi, too, is said to have ten forms, the Dasamahavidyas (the ten great scenes or insights). These ten forms include several well-known Hindu goddesses, and like the Vaisnavite idea of avataras the ten forms of the Devi effectively bring together distinct strands under a unifying great deity. From the point of view of Devi theology and cosmology the Hindu goddesses are varying manifestations of the Devi's activity on behalf of the world. Durga, Laksmi, Parvati, and other goddesses are all understood to be parts of a transcendent divine economy that is governed by the Devi in her own form (svabhava) or in her aspect as brahman. This economy, with a few important exceptions, is oriented toward upholding and protecting the world.
The Devi, like Visnu, also plays the role of protector and preserver in less grand, cosmic ways by making periodic and dramatic appearances on behalf of her individual devotees. In this role she plays the savior. Her devotees Samadhi and Suratha propitiate her in the closing scene of the Devi-mahatmya. She appears before them and graciously grants their desires (13.7-16). In the Devi-bhagvata-purana when her devotee Sudarsana is surrounded by his enemies and prays to her for help, she appears as a great warrior riding on her lion and quickly routs them (3.23.18-41). She appears to aid Rama when he prays to her for help in defeating Ravana. She empowers him to build a bridge from India to Lanka and announces that she will cause him to defeat Ravana (3.30.43-61). In the Devi-bhagvata-purana's account of the well-known story of Hariscandra, who is reduced to poverty and the pitiable status of an outcaste, the Devi answers Hariscandra's prayer by appearing and restoring him to his former state and reviving his child from the dead (7.27.1-7). The Mahadevi, then, though typically pictured as a distant, awesome figure who sits in majesty on a heavenly throne surrounded by divine attendants, is responsive to the pleas of her individual devotees and is quick to come to their aid in times of distress. She is understood to be an approachable, motherly figure who is never deaf to the cries of her children."
Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine
David R. Kinsley, U. of California Press (July 19, 1988), pp. 137-9
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