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At the Feet of The Mother

“The Dance of Mahakali” – from reminiscences by Shobha Mitra

This incident had taken place in my life when I was very young. If I remember right, it was just a few years after my settling here in the Ashram for good. The incident has left a very strong imprint on me and is among the few most amazing events of my life. I cannot ever wipe away the memory of this incident from my life. Had this not happened to me, I would never have believed that such an experience was even possible!

Let me then come back to my narrative. That year Anu-ben, our dance teacher, was directing a dance-drama called Mahishasuramardini for the 1st December programme. The story depicted the four aspects of Mother Durga and a lot of the actors for the dance-drama had been selected by the Mother Herself: for instance, Mother Durga was Anu-ben, Maheshwari was Gauri Pinto, Mahalakshmi was Light Ganguly, Mahasaraswati was Jhumur and Mahakali was myself. In addition, there were three Asuras: Shumbha, Nishumbha and Raktabeej, played respectively by Mona, Vishweshwar and Niranjan, if I recall correctly. I don’t quite recollect who had selected the actors for the Asuras, the Mother or Anu-ben.

The story was the well-known traditional one. The dance choreography and direction were by Anu-ben and the music was by Sunil-da. In those days, Sunil-da’s music still had echoes of traditional Indian motifs. Although the new strains had not yet come into his ken, his music invariably had a distinct originality which was most enchanting. Anu-ben’s dance choreography was ready and we had begun rehearsing with Sunil-da’s music. As the slaying of the Asuras was the central theme of the drama, my dance was the longest. I had to appear in several scenes.

Each day, during the rehearsals, I was face to face with a feeling that I could not quite describe or understand. This unresolved state of being persisted within me. I could not share it with anyone either, even though it was beginning to bother me considerably. The 1st December was around the corner. Something had to be done quickly about this problem, otherwise I would not be able to clear my mind and dance my part to satisfaction.

Finally, I decided to go and see the Mother on 29th November and tell Her about it.
I – Mother, I am unable to dance the part of Mahakali.
Mother – Why, what’s happened?
I – Mother, how can I dance Mahakali before You?
Mother – Make the effort, it will come.
I – There’s a thought that invades me all the time. We do not know anything about the consciousness of Mahakali. You will be sitting before us. How will I be able to battle with the Asuras in front of the real Mahakali? My dance is very powerful, Mother, but how can I dance in front of You? How can I act as Mahakali, when the real Divine Mother is present before me? Tell me, Mother, what I should do.

The Mother sat for a long time in silence, eyes closed. Then, She spoke:
– Try and gather all the force within you. Now channelize this concentrated force on all those weaknesses in your nature you are conscious of, so that these are destroyed. Try and destroy the limitations from your nature. I think this will help you.

I came away from the Mother with Her blessings. The next day, I had another interview with Her.
I – Divine Mother, tomorrow is 1st December, the day of our programme. I am just unable to do Mahakali’s dance. Nothing is coming.
Mother – Call Her. She will help you.
I – (stunned) Call Mahakali, Mother?
Mother – Yes, call Her. She will come.
I – I am calling, Mother. You come, come, come.
The Mother fixed Her regard on me for quite some time. Total silence reigned between us. I bowed down to Her and came away.

1st December arrived. That day, I just kept calling Mahakali and thought of nothing else. I kept praying to Her. I arrived at the Theater at the designated time to get ready. Millie-di did my make-up, helped me with my costume and ornaments. I was wearing a red Banarasi silk Saree with a golden zari border, hair open, a crown on the head and other ornaments 0n the body. I held a big metal sword in my hand. Millie-di said, “Shobha, go and look at yourself in the mirror.” But in Shobha’s mind and heart, there was but one prayer repeating itself: “Mahakali! Compassionate Mahakali! Come down, O Mother!”

The clock struck eight. The gong sounded for the curtains to be drawn. The dance started with the strains of Sunil-da’s music. I was to enter the stage a little later. I sat totally concentrated in the wings awaiting my cue. Now it was my turn to go on stage. With two striding leaps I landed on the stage with great force. Under the impact, my sword broke into two! The upper part landed in front of the Mother’s feet. The lower half remained in my hand. As soon as this happened, there was a loud gasp of panic from those who were sitting around the Mother. I myself was awe-struck by this gasp of panic. But I was reassured that the broken sword piece had not touched the Mother.

My dance was such that I had not a second of pause. The music rolled on. I danced with a lot of power and enthusiasm. (The spectators told me the following day that the dance had been quite out of the ordinary.) Mahakali’s role on stage was to slay the Asuras Shumbha and Nishumbha. Even before the goddess had slain them, they were covered in blood. One of them was hurt in the neck, the other one in the arm. I concluded it must have been caused by my broken sword. Just then, such a power came down into my body that I could not be bothered about anything or anyone. I began moving with tremendous power and elan as I slew the Asuras. At the end of the dance-drama, Mother Durga reappeared on stage, her foot on the chest of one of the slain demons. Then, slowly the four aspects of the Mother came on to the stage and stood around Mother Durga – Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati. The concluding strains of Sunil-da’s music had uplifted the atmosphere with such sweeping beauty and emotion that I find it difficult to describe and impossible to forget.

In the final part of the dance-drama, the spotlight was on the Asuras at Mother Durga’s feet. The other aspects of Mother Durga were standing behind Her and seeing my condition, I too moved a little behind. My body was trembling visibly and I did not wish to catch anybody’s attention. Mercifully, the last pieces were rather short and soon the curtains came down. At once, I went and caught hold of the wooden side-wing to stabilize myself. I felt quite out of sorts with that uncontrollable trembling of the body. I was unable to speak at that moment. I had no control over the body. The people on the stage, observing my condition, went and got Millie-di. Seeing me in that state, Millie-di asked, “Shobha, what’s happening to you.? Why are you trembling like this?” I was unable to reply, as my body kept trembling terribly. She called Amiyo-da who seeing my condition, at once called Vishwanath-da. In the meantime, Millie-di kept holding me. She asked Amiyo-da to quickly inform the Mother about it. Both of them holding me from either side took me to the Mother.

The Mother was sitting in Her resting-room on the left side of the stage. They made me enter the Mother’s room and closed the door behind me. She was seated in an easy-chair. Pranab-da was standing next to Her, talking. As soon as I entered the room, She turned Her gaze on me. She laughed. Then She stretched out both Her arms, beckoning me towards Her. At this point, Pranab-da went out of the room. As soon as I was in front of Her, She held both my arms. I sat down in front of Her. She took my hands into Hers and concentrated intently on me. My body continued to tremble, so much so that even as She held my hands tight, Her shoulders began to tremble as well. In that instant, the Divine Mother’s real form was revealed to me. She was silent but what power Her eyes radiated! Through Her hands, I experienced an extraordinarily divine strength! Even though Her body too was trembling because She was holding me, the force emanating from Her eyes was formidable. She kept holding me in this way for some time. The trembling in my body began slowly to abate. Then I returned to my normal self. When my body took back its normal poise, the Mother concentrated on me with exceeding sweetness and a gentle smile, and placed Her right hand on top of my head. After a while, She said, “Do you know what you have done, my dear child? You have invoked Mahakali’s presence in your body! C’était très bien, mon enfant! C’était très bien.” (It was very good, my child! It was very good.) I found my familiar Mother now. She used to often mix a few sentences in French while talking to me in English.

Had I not experienced this in my body, had I not had this incredible experience, I would never have believed that such a thing was possible. The Mother had asked me to call Mahakali. So, I had called out to Her with all my heart and soul, with all the sincerity I was capable of. I did not know at all, then, what the force of Mahakali was, how powerful its effect on the human body. In that day’s experience, I found once again the unmistakable compassion and blessing of the Mother.

[Living in the Presence, pp. 159-163]

For more, go to the Shobha Mitra page.


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