The offering of the Durga Dhār or Argh
What is Pooja?
In Hinduism, there are systematic forms of worship known as Pooja. Pooja comes from the combination of two words; 1) Paapanashana (destruction of impurities) and 2) Janmah-vicheda (going beyond the cycle of birth and death).
So in essence Pooja is the means through which we become pure in mind, body and intellect which in turn illumines our path towards enlightenment making our life and our death blissful experiences, ultimately returning us to the supreme Brahman.
One such simple but profound aspect of Pooja is the offering of the Durga Dhaar. On the auspicious days of the Devi such as Mondays, Fridays and the Navratri periods amongst others, it is customary to make offerings of Argh or Dhār to the Goddess.
What is the Durga Dhār?
Durga Dhār is a liquid mixture consisting of usually NINE auspicious ingredients (which vary) and is also called the Pakkha Dhār in some communities. This liquid mixture is prepared with much devotion, poured into a brass vessel known as a lota and offered into the Devi Yantra in the form of a small triangular opening dug in the earth. Camphor is lit during the offering.
Now, in different traditions there are different customs and as such the ingredients which constitute the Dhār may vary a little from area to area. This is in NO way meant to suggest that one is superior to the other since the underlying principle is summarized by the lord in Shrimad Bhagavat Gita as follows:
Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam, Yo Mey Bhaktya Prayachchati
Tadaham Bhakt Yupahrutam Asnaami Prayataatmanaha
Translation: (I accept a leaf, flower, fruit, water or whatever is offered with DEVOTION). Thus in this sense what is of utmost importance is “the love, or the devotion with which it is prepared and offered)
Durga Dhār Ingredients
- Green Hardi – Hardi is also known as saffron and is renowned for its purifying properties. In this way we are prayerfully saying O Mother may our mind, bodies and intellect and by extension our lives become as pure as you O MahaGauri
- White Camphor – The camphor when burnt leaves no residue, in this context we are prayerfully saying, O Mother may the sins of our actions in the past and present be burnt away. Forgive us O Divine; may our Tapas and perseverance be like you O Mother Bramhacharini, that we may return to Thee.
- White Rice – This represent bounty and Nourishment. The outer husk of the rice must be removed before it is useful to us. In this way we are prayerfully saying, O Mother may our husky EGO which creates our bondage and takes away the clarity of vision be removed and liken us to these grains that we may spread bounty (Love, friendship, understanding etc.) and nourishment (wellbeing, nurturing actions, calmness of the mind, self control, faith etc.) wherever we are.
- Cloves – These are very small yet spread a wondrous aroma. In this way we are prayerfully saying O Mother though I am so small and but one, may my life be divinely fragrant and an inspiration to the lives I touch.
- Jai Phal (Nutmeg ) – “Jai” means victory and “Phal” means fruit. The aromatic nutmeg is protected by an outer shell. In this way we are prayerfully saying O Mother may our lives having become “victorious” and sacred, may you O Mother protect our bliss. May we always have success and victory.
- Neem Leaves – The neem is famous for its antiseptic and other medicinal properties. It is well known in Ayurveda and expansively used in Indian medicine. In this way it is a representation of cleansing, purification and beautification. So we are prayerfully saying O Mother may our bodies be free from afflictions. May we be healthy in mind, body and intellect and may we have healthy habits that we are an inspiration wherever we are.
- Milk as liquid base – From the celestial cow comes the milk, from the milk we have the Cottage Cheese (Paneer), Yogurt (Dadhee), and Butter (Ghee) amongst others. From one so many nourishing items evolve. So we are prayerfully saying O Mother may our lives flow in continuous harmony (like the way this offering flows), and may our actions be such that our entire LIFE is enriching to us and those that I touch.
- Honey – A golden nectar, pure and sweet and doesn’t become honey until it goes through a process. So in this way we are prayerfully saying O Mother help us through the “spiritual challenges” and processes we must go through so that every moment no matter what the situation or circumstance, we reside in the pure, sweet and ever blissful state of enlightenment.
- Arahul Flower (Red Double Hibiscus) – The vibrancy of this red flower is a delicate beauty to behold. It is a flower which even when plucked from the shrub in its half bud state, it will still blossom. I have had to pick the flower sometimes a few days before and keep them in the refrigerator, as it is hard to get them sometimes when needed. In doing so I would be greeted by blossoms in the fridge on a morning. So this flower is placed at the top of the “lota” and represents the supreme Brahman. So like this we are prayerfully saying O Mother may we blossom ultimately realizing our true selves and merge with You who are verily no other than the supreme Brahman. Even if our blossoming is delayed you never forsake us O Mother. Protect us and Bless our journey to the path of enlightenment.
The ingredients (1-8) are ground on a traditional ‘Sil” or grinding stone or in the modern way in the blender. We pour this our prayer (which is our life breath) into the lota (representing the physical body) so that we may awaken and realise our true nature (symbolically crowned with the flower) the beauty, victory and glory of the Brahman that is Sat-Chit-Ananda (True Knowledge, True Consciousness, True Bliss).
Variations: Some folks add the Sindhoor (which is a symbol of success and fertility. Usually used by married women), Durva or Doob Grass (which symbolizes determination), Water (instead of milk) and Sugar (instead of honey).
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