Our first full moon of the year falls during the month of Pauṣa, which is associated with the Goddess Lakṣmī and the abundance of harvest season. Śrī Lakṣmī – who represents every type of prosperity – is also associated with work and right action.
This full moon celebrates Śākambharī Jayanti, and shortly afterwards, we celebrate Makara Saṃkrānti, the day we honor the sun! Both of these auspicious days celebrate the power of the divine in nature – what a wonderful start to the year!
In this tradition, there is unity between spirit and matter, and between the divine and the power of life. The natural powers embody the tangible presence of the sacred. We have to look no further than the sun, moon, waters, and earth to touch God and Goddess.
And because of this, our spiritual practices are deeply linked to the movements of these natural powers. Even if we practice indoors, we still pay attention to and follow what is happening in the natural world. We remain in relationship with nature because that is our divine source and also our protector. How could we survive without nature?
Natural law is inherently dharmic – it is inherently aligned with the power that sustains the universe. Often, we do not discover our own dharma until we first discover our true nature, and the nature of the world around us.
On this day, we honor the goddess Śākambharī, a lesser known incarnation of Durgā-mā. She is worshipped in multiple parts of India, and primarily in the northwest where it is very dry and vegetation is comparatively scarce.
The Birth of Śākambharī
Once upon a time, there was a demon who acquired the power to make people forget dharma. When he unleashed it, everyone forgot all the teachings, forgot all the sacred practices.
Before the curse, people use to live with discipline and devotion. They followed the cycles of the sun, moon, and the earth. Now, they forgot all about this and instead started to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.
Before, they ate food that was sustainable and nourishing; now, they ate whatever they wanted, even if it caused harm to themselves and other beings.
Before, they considered how their actions impacted all beings; now, they were only pursuing their own self-interest and gratification.
Before, they spent their days cultivating humility and reverence; now, they were fixated only on boosting their own pride and sense of importance.
Humans, whose role had been to protect and honor the flow of life were now actively destroying it. The demon’s curse spread unconsciousness through the world.
The result of this unconsciousness was widespread famine, drought, and unbearable suffering, not just for humanity, but all creation. By the time the humans realized they needed help, everything was already lost.
They began to cry out for mercy and protection. Hearing their cries, and out of pure compassion, the Supreme Goddess decided to take birth as Śākambharī-devī.
Gazing upon what was left of the world, She started to weep. Her tears filled all the rivers with clean water again, so all living beings could quench their thirst.
Next, she turned herself into trees and covered the dry, barren land with forests (Vaṇaśaṇkarī), so there would be shelter and a home for all creation.
Lastly, she became all the various edible plants – (Śākambharī), so that we would have sustainable, juicy, nourishing food to eat.
What had been desolation and destruction was once again an abundant paradise. The earth and all life started to prosper once again, and humanity rejoiced and recommitted to upholding dharma.
bāṇamuṣṭiṁ ca kamalaṁ puṣpapallavamūlakān |
śākādīnphalasaṁyuktananantarasasaṁyutān || 35 ||
kṣuttṛṅjarāpahānhastairbibhratī ca mahāddhanuḥ |
sarvasauṁdaryasāraṁ tadrūpaṁ lāvaṇyaśobhitam || 36 ||
She was holding a great bow, arrow, a lotus, and flowers, sprouts, roots, green vegetables, and fruits, all consisting of an endless supply of juice, capable of removing hunger, thirst, and weakness. Her form was shining with loveliness and was the essence of all types of beauty. (v. 35-36)
Stories and teachings like these have served as protectors and guides for humanity for thousands of years. This wisdom helps us all to live meaningful, happy, and healthy lives. They contain universal truths that are relevant to each generation. And this is why it is up to each generation to take the time to receive and practice their life-giving wisdom.
It’s easy to look at this as a “story” of something that happened years ago, or in a fictional world. However, we’d like to remind you that as practitioners, a more effective way to work with mythology is to understand that it’s describing a process that is happening RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.
In this case, we don’t have to look far to realize what truth is contained in this myth. As we lose touch with the dharma, and with sacred wisdom, we start to take increasingly destructive and unconscious choices that have widespread impact not just on us, but on our physical environment. To placate our ravenous appetites for unsustainable food and lifestyles, we are willing to poison and deplete the waters, to destroy the forests, and to ravage the land.
In the end, we are the ones who suffer. We have to wake up and realize that the trees and the plants and the rivers are our divine mother. When we destroy them, we destroy our own source – the body is made of food, which comes from plants. We are destroying the power that nourishes and protects US.
Additional Reflection Questions:
What feelings or sensations do you experience while reading the story? Are there any images or symbols that stand out for you in particular?
What else stands out for you in this story? Where do you see these patterns playing out in your life, and within yourself?
What actions or new choices can you make in your life based on what you have learned from this story?
Suggested practices for this full moon include:
– Create an altar and representation for Śākambharī-devī using fruits, flowers, and vegetables. We have detailed step-by-step instructions for how to do this HERE!
It can be as small or big as you like. Offer her your prayers, traditional ritual offerings (such as kumkum, turmeric, rice, incense, waving a flame) songs of praise and gratitude, or your silent meditation.
-You can also do prayers and practices for Annapūrṇa, the goddess of food and the nourisher of all beings or Dūrga, the Divine Mother and protector of life.
-Eat plant-based food today, and try to to include it in your diet on a regular basis. Commit to eating sustainably where possible.
-Visit a forest and do prayers and practices there. Offer your gratitude and respect for the divine goddess in the form of the forest. You can also contribute money or time to help preserve and protect the forests.
-Conserve and respect water. Reflect and give thanks for the relationship between water, food, and life.
-If you have a garden, you can do some ritual worship of your fruit and vegetable plants. If you don’t, consider getting a plant and resolve to caring for it as a form of divine grace.
May you always revere and serve the Goddess in the form of forests and plants!