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Maa Durga and Cosmic Divinity

Maa Durga is considered an epitome of Shakti (ENERGY) that is GOOD which can triumph over EVIL.

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Maa Durga
Maa Durga encompasses all three incarnations. Pixabay

By Salil Gewali

October is here, and we are all set to welcome Maa Durga for a few days. For many of us, Durga Puja is more of an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. We buy ourselves new clothes, move from pandal to pandal, and forget our exercise and diets for a few heavenly days. But is that all Durga Puja stands for? Are we aware of the philosophies behind this annual celebration? There is not one single philosophy, actually.

The word Durga is derived from the root word ‘Durg’ which means Fort. Just as a fort stands tall and mighty around low lying land and water and jungles, and protects the inmates from all kinds of dangers, we look upon Maa Durga as our “divine protector” from all evil. We feel safe and secure in her divine embrace and feel her all-pervasive energy around us and within us. Divinity has always been looked upon as something far removed from science, mundane logic, and facts. But modern science is only just beginning to realize that the energy of Maa Durga which we refer to as Shakti does have strong underpinings in every aspect of our life, and is actually the governing philosophy behind many of the relational dynamics – visible and invisible.

Maa Durga
Maa Durga and cosmic divinity

Of course, the philosophy behind our worship of Maa Durga is not just an amalgamation of sundry religious rites. A rational scientist would find many similarities in facets of her story and our real life. For example, let us look at her weapons.  Trident or trishul: The three-headed sharp weapon is said to symbolize the three gunashuman being is made of, i.e – tamas, rajas and sattva – this itself a very complex and vast subject to understand. Discus or Sudarshan Chakra is Lord Vishnu’s gift symbolizes the centre of creation. Thunderbolt or vajra: Indra’s gift meaning steadiness of character, determination, and supreme power. Conch is the symbol of the primordial sound of “creation” – AUM. Spear represents auspiciousness which is a gift of fire also symbolizes purity of power. Sword symbolizing intellect and wisdom with the complete sense of responsibility and the understanding to discriminate right from wrong. Bow and arrows are the combination of potential and kinetic powers symbolizes all segments of ENERGY. Axe symbolizes the power of Vishwakarma, and have the power to create as well as destroy. Lotus represents wisdom, “LIBERATION though KNOWLEDGE”. Snake symbolizes consciousness and the masculine energy of Shiva.

When you juxtapose this life-giving form of Maa Durga against the Trishul and sword-wielding warrior form of the Mother Goddess, she comes across as the Destroyer. The target of her weapons of destruction are the evil forces which she wishes to protect her children against. So the philosophy of Maa Durga encompasses all three incarnations in one form – The Destroyer, The Life Giver, and The Creator.

Maa Durga
She embodies the perfect amalgamation of power and mercy which we see in Mothers everywhere.

Yes, it is easy to look upon the fable of Maa Durga as a story we have created for our own consumption. But like the examples we have illustrated above, there are several ways in which the legend of Maa Durga finds reflection in our daily life and helps to underline some of the philosophies she represents. Let us examine a few of these.

According to mythological accounts, Ramba was an asura who pleased the fire God Agni with his devotion and got a boon that a son would be born to him who could not be killed by any God or man or animal. This son was named Mahishasura and he grew up to be a strong and powerful warrior. When he heard of the boon, it made him incredibly haughty and merciless, and he went around defeating all kind of men and demi-Gods and expanding his own kingdom. This cold-blood massacre and destruction soon left Gods worried, and they went into a huddle to plan an effective counter to Mahishasura without tampering with the boon he had been granted.

The solution came from the Gods themselves, who took advantage of the syntax of the boon. The boon had mentioned God, man, and animal, but had no mention of the “woman”. So the Gods put together their powers and created Maa Durga, she who would fight for the forces of good and vanquish the evil. Armed with all the boons and weapons that the Gods could provide, Maa Durga took on the EVIL represented by Mahishasura. After a long and ferocious battle, she finally put an end to the cursed life of Mahishasura. This story is a fable, but the philosophy it underlines is profoundly cerebral. Every force of evil in this world would be balanced by an equivalent force of good. Whenever the evil goes beyond a certain level, the forces of good come together to destroy the evil and restore the balance of this world.

Maa Durga
Look at her weapons. Pixabay

Outside of the physical manifestations of our prayers and devotion for Maa Durga, she also embodies the spirit and the characteristics of a mother. Maa Durga is the divine force we look up to who can protect us from worldly ills in every kind of situation because she is “omnipresent” and all powerful. SHE embodies the perfect amalgamation of power and mercy which we see in Mothers everywhere.

As we see from these few examples, Maa Durga is considered an epitome of Shakti (ENERGY) that is GOOD which can triumph over EVIL. Yes, our scriptures pour out a rich vein of philosophical underpinnings on which to lead our lives well and gradually make an earnest effort for the self-realization and merge with the DIVINE GOOD.  Ultimately, it is the Mother’s DIVINITY that encompasses the WHOLE COSMOS.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.  Twitter: @SGewali.

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Top Investment Options for Beginners in India

The most important thing that guarantees high returns on your assiduous earnings is safety

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Time and Money
"Money can't buy happiness". A group of researchers believes the opposite with scientific backing. Pixabay

Investing your savings is a good idea. You just cannot keep saving money because of two main reasons.

Firstly, the savings will not grow. Most of the times they stay the same unless you count the nominal savings account your bank keeps adding half-yearly or yearly. Secondly, some need or the other arises, and you will be inclined to spend the money out of your savings than going for a loan.

We cannot stop some need. Now and then, some appliance in your house needs a repair or replacement, same goes good with your vehicles, kids, spouse and so on.

So locking away your savings so that you will not use them at convenience and letting them grow in the meanwhile is a good strategy.

Only if you knew how, when and where?

Most of us are good at working hard, slogging it out and earning the few extra bucks, but when it comes to investing and make money grow, we have neither the expertise nor the time for it.

As the famous billionaire and investor, Warren Buffet put it – “Unless you are making money while you are sleeping, you will keep working till you die”.

Safety First

Let us explore some of the investment options for people who are planning to invest.

  1. Public Provident Fund (PPF)

For a change, the Public provident fund or PPF as it is more popularly known as needs no introduction. Every employee working in a limited company or a governmental organization knows of this.

PPF is also one of the main reasons behind most of the Indians growing lazy and not trying to look for other investment options unless your wall in the above average or the top bracket. At an interest rate of 7.9% and dual contribution from the employee and the employer, PPF is the lifeline for all employees, especially if they keep contributing until retirement without withdrawing.

There is a facility to withdraw the money if you are jobless for a particular time or you can even avail three-year loans. However, mostly PPF is looked at as a post-retirement benefit than an investment option during your working years.

But an investment nonetheless.

You can save anywhere between ₹ 500 to ₹ 1.5 lakhs a year, and we all know why it is the favorite – These savings exempt from tax, However, if you choose to invest more than ₹ 1.5 lakhs a year in your PPF, the excess amount will neither earn interest or tax benefits. Minimum lock-in period is 15 years.

Fixed Deposit Scheme, India
Fixed Deposits are one of the more common and preferable investment schemes in India. Pixabay
  1. National Savings Certificate (NSC)

At an interest rate of 8% per annum, backed by the Government of India and the convenience of obtaining one (your nearby post office), a National savings certificate or an NSC can be not ignored.

Though it has a minimum lock-in period of 5 years, (the other option is 10-year lock-in period), the guaranteed good yields make it a preferred investment option by quite a few. But this is also the most ignored option by many for some reason.

Investment up to ₹ 1.5 lakhs is exempted from tax. The interest rate is revised quarterly, and the amount is compounded annually.

Another advantage is that the investments in NSC are accepted as collaterals by many banks and NBFCs (non-banking finance corporations). However, you cannot touch your amount for a minimum period of 5 years.

  1. Equity Linked Saving Scheme (ELSS)

Shorter lock-in periods and high-interest rates are the USP of the equity-linked saving schemes (ELSS).

In the ELSS, the minimum lock-in period is three years, and you can choose to make your earnings as regular dividends through the three years or receive a lump sum at once after your lock-in period ends. Therefore, this is a plan that lets you draw the amount within your investment period and gives you a chance to earn more than the rest – 15-18% returns. A near 11% interest offered by NPS (the national pension scheme) is a distant second. In addition, you do not need to invest the entire amount at once. You have an option called SIPs (systematic investment plans) by way of which you can invest as low as ₹ 500 a month.

Investments up to ₹ 1.5 lakhs are exempt from taxation, but returns are taxable. The LTCG or long-term capital gains from ELSS are taxable if they are above ₹ 1 lakh.

There is a fair amount of risk involved, and your investment may not end profitable every time. However, you can take the help of fund managers (or mutual funds) and play it safe.

  1. Recurring and Fixed deposits

Most of the nationalized and private banks offer you this facility at different interest rates and deposit lock-in periods.

In a fixed deposit (FD) scheme, you make a deposit lump sum, which will mature at the end of the pre-determined period, and if you do not have the capital to start with, you can choose a recurring deposit (RD), where you can add a fixed amount every month, which can be withdrawn at the end of the maturity period.

The interest earned with a recurring deposit may be less than that of a fixed deposit, but in case of an RD, you are creating an investment with your savings. Not all of us may have the luxury of investing a lakh or five lakh rupees to start with.

Again, investments up until ₹ 1.5 lakhs in 5 years fixed deposits are exempt from taxation, but returns are taxable. Recurring deposits and fixed deposits for a period of less than five years are not exempt from income tax.

  1. National Pension Scheme (NPS)

Many, after the introduction of 2-tier system, look upon another government-backed scheme, NPS, as a useful option.

Under the Tier I NPS, one has to contribute a minimum of ₹ 6,000 per year to keep the account active. The money cannot be withdrawn till you reach 60 years of age (partial withdrawal allowed in exceptional cases) and if you choose to exit the scheme mid-way, 80% of your savings have to be invested in an annuity plan (which will be returned to you as monthly pension payments after retirement).

The Tier II NPS is a non-retirement scheme, which is more like a savings account and allows you to withdraw money when you want. There is no lock-in period, but government employees can avail tax exemption if they lock-in their savings for a minimum period of 3 years. You need to have an active Tier I account to open a Tier II account. However, this scheme is not looked at as a long-term investment due to certain limits on investments, as you cannot invest more than 50% of your savings in stock markets, etc.

Interest rates are high at 12-14% and investments up to ₹ 1.5 lakhs a year and an additional ₹ 50,000 per year can be exempted under subsection 80 CCD.

Also Read: Online Games: What Risks Do They Pose To Children?

Though there are many more private and non-governmental schemes whit flexible options which offer you a lot of conveniences and promise higher returns, it is always wise to think about safety first when it comes to investments.

It is hard-earned money, and we cannot earn it again. So, it is always safer and wiser to go with a trustworthy scheme which may offer fewer returns than a fancy scheme which gives you a lot more.

The most important thing that guarantees high returns on your assiduous earnings is safety.