The Many Faces of the Divine
By Sandra Anderson
On the way to the Ganga one morning a couple of days ago, I noticed something new: a postcard of Durga propped up under a small tree growing in a niche in the wall of bricks lining the decent to the river just outside our campus. Every morning now I see a new offering of marigolds, water and incense. All over rural India, any unique or distinguishing feature in the environment capable of capturing and holding the attention of the heart and mind is likely to attract some form of worship—a hilltop overlooking a valley, the high bank of a river, a swale, the confluence of drainages, a unique copse of trees, or a very old tree, an intersection of roads in a village, even a tree in the courtyard of an urban apartment complex. In this case, it’s an empty shelf at the foot of a tree in the niche of a wall along the path to the Ganga.
It’s as if the landscape harbors the potential for giving birth to gods, waiting for the right time or circumstances to manifest the divine. Or perhaps the gods are just slumbering behind the curtain of the physical world, waiting for someone to recognize the shrouded contours in a swirl of folded rock, or the view from a hill top, or the configuration of bark on an ancient mulberry tree.
Someone notices, someone is inspired, and the songs of praise and appreciation and supplication begin. The locus is further distinguished from its background by the offerings, and the next passerby notices…and makes their own contribution, even if it’s just a knowing smile. The Divine has been seen.
Now I have seen Durga here on this path, and so have you, so the power of this place grows. The next passerby does the same, each of us offering a little of our heart, each of us calling the Divine out of the matrix—be with us here in this world, guide us, protect us, show us your face…..A thousand people outside your door calling your name would be hard to resist! Multiply by millions of people and thousands of years, and the power of adepts, and you have a holy place like the sangam.
Chances are this little shrine will be forgotten after the mela is over, and will fade away back into the brick wall, not capturing enough shakti to remain a charged place, but sweet for the moment, nonetheless.