Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Uma Haimavati

Once upon a time, it is said, long before history was recorded, there lived a young female ascetic. We know very little of that young woman, except what we can surmise through writings in ancient books of lore that were recorded many centuries, perhaps millennia, after she walked on this earth. Perhaps not knowing her familial identity, texts of ancient lore have called her Parvati (Daughter of the Mountain) or Haimavati (Daughter of the Himalayas) after the mountains where she is thought to have lived and meditated.

Otherwise known as Uma, there is a real possibility that this young female ascetic was a historic figure from many millennia ago. While the name Uma can signify golden light, it is according to sacred knowledge, a restructuring of the holy syllable AUM. In certain schools of thought, AUM is Shakti representing the three conditions of the self and the phenomenal world, and the half-syllable of silence that follows is Shiva, the unconditioned, the Fourth (Turiya). By her very name, therefore, Uma Haimavati has been identified with Shakti, the Mother of all existence. Little surprise then that in Her form as Parvati, the Divine Mother attains and unites with Her Beloved, the Divine Father!

Though we know very little about the ascetic Uma, we can conjecture that if and when she lived, she was a sage of extraordinary spiritual accomplishment. In the extant canon of the holy Veda, we find Uma Haimavati's name mentioned in a narration contained within the Kena Upanishad (III.12-IV.1). Here, when the Deities of the earth (Agni), atmosphere (Vayu) and heaven (Indra) seek and fail to understand the Supreme Brahman, they find a beautiful, radiant figure of Uma who enlightens them. By the time of the composition of the Kena Upanishad, one can surmise that Uma was already a sage of great renown.

Had her great teachings been recorded, they would without doubt have been identical to those found in the Devi Gita of the Devi Bhagavatam, a puranic text that was realized in Bengal in the first millennium of the common era.

Brahman (is) free from all passions and parts
(Manifest externally) as the highest Golden Sheath (Hiranyagarbha).
That is pure, That is the highest of Lights,
It is that which the knowers of Atman know.
He is even in the centre of our Sun and illumining all planets.
The Sun does not shine there in His Presence nor the Moon and the stars
Nor lightning, and much less does this fire shine there.
When He shines, everything shines after Him;
By His Light all this becomes manifest.
The eternally Free is verily this Brahman only.
He is in the west, in the north and the south, in the zenith and the nadir.
The Brahman alone is; it is He who pervades all directions.
This Brahman alone is it who pervades,
This Brahman alone is the Fullness.
This Brahman is the highest.
Srimad Devi Bhagavatam,
Book 7 (Devi Gita):36:12-14

Before Radha or Mira, before Andal or Janabai, before Mahadevi Akka or Lalleshvari, before Karikal Ammaiyar or Rup Bhavani, perhaps even before Vag Ambhrini and Gargi Vacaknavi, there was the immortal yogini, Uma Haimavati, the foremost of female ascetics and the teacher of the Supreme Eternal.

Aum Namah Shivaya.
Agnideva © 2011. All rights reserved. 

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