The name “Durga” means the ‘invincible’ in Sanskrit. Goddess Durga is a Goddess of strength and justice who brings compassion, peace, calm, and order to the chaos, destruction, and conflict in any situation. She is worshiped in different forms and considered a form of Shakti.
The word Durga embodies freedom from all evils like injustice, cruelty, hatred, ego, and other forms of pain and suffering. Thus, is one of the most powerful and decorated Gods in the Hindu religion.
The Legend of Goddess Durga
The legend goes that Durga was created by Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to fight the demon Mahisasura, who could not be defeated by either man or God and was continually reigning terror on man and God alike. In the Shiva Purana, the origin of this divine female energy, Durga is mentioned. It is said that before cosmic creations, Shiva invoked her from his left Half and created Shivloka with her help. It further states the demonic son of Rambha named Mahishasura once created havoc on Bhuloka (Earth) and defeated all the gods of heaven, endangering their existence.
After hearing such events, Lord Vishnu discharged a huge mass of light from his mouth that merged into the similar rays emitted from the mouths of those gods. This powerful light morphed into a powerful female deity called Durga who challenged Mahishasura for a battle. By killing the Asura, Durga freed the world from the demon’s tyranny and has been known as the destroyer of evil since.
Maa Durga is popularly depicted as a Goddess wearing red clothes. The red clothes signify fierceness in fighting evil, and the arms suggest that the Devi Durga protects her devotee from all directions. Being a divine mother and a protector, she is depicted as having eight or ten hands. These represent eight quadrants or ten directions in Hinduism to protect us from all those directions.
The weapons held by Durga are given to her by each of the Gods and symbolize the culmination of all the divine powers in her – Shiva’s trident or Trishul, Vishnu’s discus or Sudarshana chakra, Brahma’s Kamandalu, Indra’s thunderbolt, Kuber’s Ratnahar and other weapons given by different Gods. This also suggested that Durga possesses all the weapons necessary to fight evil. The lotus in Durga’s hand is known as Pankaja and symbolizes the evolution of spirituality among the evils prevalent in this world. Goddess Durga also holds a conch in one of her hands which is known to produce the sound of ‘Om’, which is equivalent to the sound of God in Hinduism. The lion or tiger represents complete power and determination implying that these virtues are required to obtain victory over evil.
In Hindu texts, Durga is frequently depicted standing atop or riding a tiger or lion, which represents power, will, and determination. In riding this fearsome beast, Durga symbolizes her mastery over all these qualities. Her bold pose is called Abhay Mudra, which means “freedom from fear.” Just as the mother goddess confronts evil without fear, Hindu scripture teaches, so too should Hindu faithful conduct themselves in a righteous, courageous way.
Like her consort Lord Shiva, the goddess Durga is also referred to as Triyambake, the three-eyed goddess. Her left eye represents desire, symbolized by the moon; her right eye represents action, symbolized by the sun; and her middle eye stands for knowledge, symbolized by fire.
Goddess Durga has been worshipped for time immemorial with the mention in certain scriptures like the Vedas. Durga Puja is a festival during which Goddess Durga is worshiped. This festival is very popular in Nepal and some other states of India such as West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar. During this festival, Goddess Durga is worshipped as the mother of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya.
According to the Vedas, Durga is a divine form of Shakti and a symbol of power, worshipped in nine different forms. All those nine manifestations of Goddess Durga are worshipped by Her devotees during the festival of Navaratri. The nine forms of Devi Durga are
- Sailaputri – Daughter of the Himalayas
- Brahmacharini – Following Celibacy
- Chandraghanta – Having the moon on her necklace
- Kushmanda – Being the creator of the universe
- Skanda-Mata – The mother of Skanda, Karttikeya, born out of her powers
- Katyayani – The daughter of sage Katyayana
- Kalaratri – Destroyer of Kali
- Mahagauri – The wife of Lord Shiva
- Siddhidatri – Blessing Siddhis and mystic powers
She also appears in the form of Goddess Saraswati to grant wisdom to the sages and thus ensure their welfare. She is also Mother Amba who once accompanied, as the female energy, Lord Vishnu in His divine form of Narasimha to save Maharaja Prahlaad from the cruel hands of Demon Hiranyakashyap who attained liberation because he was killed by the death personified Vishnu accompanied by Goddess Durga.
Thus, to awaken the Goddess, the personification of the active side of the divine “Shakti”, the divine energy, several Mantras are chanted throughout the year and especially during the Navaratri.
“Shiv Yogi Tumhre Guna Gaven | Brahma Vishnu Tumhen Nit Dhyayeb,” says the Durga Chalisa, meaning Lord Shiva, and all yogis always chant her praise. Even the creator Brahma, the preserver Vishnu and all other gods of heavens ever meditate on her.
Goddess Durga has always been a divine form for meditation, bhakti, prayers, and guidance for ages. She is deeply gloried in the Durga Chalisa, a Forty-hymn treatise that vividly praises Her presence, the conquest of enemies, Vedic wisdom, and mercy on the conditioned souls living on Earth.