Goddess Durga is one of the major deities in Hinduism. Durga is a Sanskrit word, meaning, “invincible”.
How was goddess Durga created?
The philosophical & mystical references are made in The Devi Upanishads, as the spiritual energy, identifying her to be the same as the Brahman & Atman ( self, soul). The earliest evidence was found in a form of a cylindrical seal, in the Indus Valley, dating back 5,000 years.
There are caves throughout India, with ancient carvings of Durga’s conquests.
She is mentioned in Rig Vedas & according to legend, she was created by the Gods to defeat Mahishasura, who had a boon that he could only be killed by a female. She’s later mentioned in Ramayana & Mahabharata.
She’s an aspect of Mother Goddess, associated with:
She manifests herself to combat evils that threaten peace & prosperity.
What does Goddess Durga look like?
She is depicted as a beautiful woman, riding a lion or tiger, with 10 arms each carrying a weapon and often defeating demons and her attributes are extensively listed in the sacred text, Devi Mahatma.
Her icon shows her in action, yet her face is calm and serene. She’s shown wearing a red sari, denoting power/energy.
She acts out of necessity, to destroy evil & manifest goodness, & for liberation of those who worship her.
She is revered throughout India especially after spring & autumn harvests and during Navratri.
How many names does Durga Maa have?
Goddess Durga has 108 names but nine aspects, called Navdurga & each are worshipped during the nine days of Navratri.
What is the story of Durga?
The most popular legend associated with the goddess is of her killing of Mahishasura.
Mahishasura was half buffalo demon who did severe penance in order to please Lord Brahma, & asked for the boon of immortality.
Brahma refused, stating that all must die one day. Mahishasura then thought for a while and asked a boon that only a woman should be able to kill him.
Brahma granted the boon.
Mahishasura started to torture innocent people. The devas were worried and they went to Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva). They all together combined their power and created Durga.
Durga emerged from the waters of the holy Ganga as a spirit. She was given a physical form by all the Gods.
They put together a warrior woman with many hands, each holding a weapon donated by them.
She became the Shakti or energized power.
She is the derivative from the male divinities and the true source of their inner power. She is also greater than any of them.
Himavan, the lord of Himalayas, gifted a lion as her mount. Durga on her lion, reached before Mahishasura’s palace.
Mahishasura took different forms and attacked the goddess.
Each time, Durga would destroy his form & we would create a new form. The battles lasted 9 days.
On the 10th day, Durga slayed Mahishasura when he was transforming as a buffalo.
The victory on the Tenth day is celebrated as Durga puja is an occasion of major festivities throughout India.
This typically falls in September or October. The festival is celebrated by communities by:
- making special colourful images of Durga out of clay
- recitations of Devi Mahatmya text
- prayers and revelry for nine days, then
- procession with singing and dancing, then
- then the image is immersed in water
How can I please Maa Durga?
There are powerful mantras to seek the blessings of the divine Mother:
“Om Aim Hreem Kleem Chamundaye Viche Namaha”
Om (Universal sound)
Aim (Maha Saraswati)
Hrim (Maha Lakshmi)
Klim (Maha Kali)
thus, representing all the three feminine forces of the universe. The shakti of the mantra is enhanced by the Om at the beginning and the Namaha at the end. Chanting this mantra brings protection & gives one strength
What are the ten weapons of Goddess Durga?
She has 10 arms which symbolises the protection given to her devotees from all 8 corners, the sky & earth. She has the following weapons:
- chakra: spins to show centre of creation & all world revolves around her
- conch: represents OM (God in the form of sound)
- bow & arrow (represents control of energy)
- lotus: grows in murky waters. Helps men arise from their worldly bondage & attain moksha
- sword: sharp sword: sharpness of knowledge. The shine of the sword means freedom from all doubts
- mace: exhibits loyalty, love & devotion
- club/axe: the power to destroy as well as create
- thunderbolt: firmness of character, determination & supreme power
- snake: masculine energy of Shiva
- trident: symbol of Sattva (inactivity), Rajas (activity) & TAMAS (non-activity)
These weapons are considered symbolic for:
- selfless service to others
Durga herself is viewed as the “Self” within and the divine mother of all creation.
In spiritual terms, it’s the destruction of evil & negative energy:
She is revered by warriors, blessing for their new weapons.
Durga puja in British Raj
During the British Raj, the Durga puja gained prominence increased as the Hindu reformists identified as the icon for the Indian independence movement.
Durga Mata, the Goddess is the inspiration of India’s national anthem, Vande Mataram, written during the Indian independence movement.
She is revered as Bharat Mata i.e. Mother India, the protector to Indians.
The Indian Army uses phrases like: “Durga Mata ki Jai”. Any woman who takes up a cause to fight for goodness & justice, is said to have a spirit of Durga in her.
How many days celebrate Durga Puja in Nepal?
In Nepal, the festival is celebrated over 15 days.
- first nine-day are dedicated to devotion to Durga.
- the tenth day marks Durga’s victory over Mahisura
- five days celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Different forms of Maa Durga
Buddhism has adopted some Hindu deities.
- Tibet & Sri Lanka: Goddess Durga is called Goddess Palden Lhamo
- Japanese Buddhism: called Butsu-mo
- Jainism: Sacciya mata found in ancient Jain temples & in Ellora caves. She is presented as a peaceful deity.
- Sikhism: is depicted as the divine in Dasam Granth (a sacred text attributed to Guru Gobind).
- In Indonesia, she’s called Loro Jonggrang (slender maiden). Over 135 statues have been excavated dating back to the 6th century.
- In Vietnam & Cambodia, during Hindu rule, Durga sculptures have been found, with her standing on of a cut buffalo’s head.
She is often shown in Bollywood movies e.g., “Jai Santoshi Maa”.