Third Eye of the Hindu Goddess Durga

Pika Ghosh, Colby College


I recall a strange experience as a child while observing this ritual being performed during the Durga puja. This experience made me aware of the goddess's power over us and the potency of her third eye. I was praying with the other children of our community at the feet of the clay image of the goddess. I noticed a ray of light emanate from the face of the image and hit the watersurface of the basin at her feet and create a reflection of her three eyes in the water. Even though I was too young to recognise her third eye as a religious symbol, I was awestruck and never forgot the experience. Later I wanted to understand this experience more fully. I discovered that several of the important male Hindu deities such as Siva and Visnu and their male incarnations are endowed with the frontal third eye. Is there a common criterion which these figures fulfill in order to obtain a third? Does the third eye give the same special powers to its owner? Are there any variations in gender roles with regard to the power of the third eye? For instance, why is it that the three-eyed male gods are unable to maintain cosmic order which Durga could restore so effortlessly? How does the third eye distinguish Durga among the thirty three million Hindu gods and goddesses? When I undertook to do the senior scholar project, I realised, in the course of my reading, that religious thought of both the Eastern and Western world has recognized the critical importance of vision for human existence. Most of the major religions have expressed concern about the development of means to enhance our limited power of sight. Moreover, people of many different religions and cultures have explored the possibility of supernatural or divine vision of a higher order than ours.