Durga is extraordinarily powerful. She is the originating manifestation of the Sacred Divine Feminine. Simply put, she is the strand of all that is feminine in this world.
Durga is recognized as the mother of the Universe, and as the force behind the work of creation, preservation, and destruction in the world. Since time immemorial she has been worshipped as the supreme power (Shakti) of the Supreme Being.
Among other titles, Durga is known as Devi, Mother Goddess, Universal Mother, Divine Mother, Adi-Parashakti, Goddess Shakti, and manifestation of Mahashakti. She has one thousand manifestations in all including Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Jagadambe, Ambe, Mata, Bhavani, Devi, etc.
She originates from the Sanskrit word meaning “invincible.” Durga refers to a fort, or a place, which is difficult to overrun. Durga can also be defined as “Durgatinashini,” referring to “the one who eliminates sufferings.”
Hindus believe that Durga Ma protects her devotees from the darkness of the world, and at the same time annihilates their miseries. More specifically, she supports in the rising above the negative energies linked with anger, greed, lust, egoism and pride. The forms of Durga may be portrayed as being both fierce and loving at the same time.
Like Shiva, Mother Durga is also referred to as “Triyambake,” meaning the three-eyed Goddess. Her left eye signifies desire (the moon), the right eye depicts action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).
Durga’s worship dates back to prehistoric times before the birth of the Vedic age. The birth of Durga is related with the slaying of the demon Mahisasura, the Lord of the Asuras (demons).
According to Hindu mythology, Mahisasura, armed with his knowledge and power defeated the Gods and became the Lord of Heaven. The legend of his slaughters compelled Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva to create “Shakti” in the form of Maa Durga, to obliterate Mahisasura. The Lord of the Asuras, who was fated to be unconquered by a man or a God, was forced to bow down before a female, Maa Durga. The sheer power of the divine Goddess Durga was no match for the demon, and after 10 days of battle the Goddess terminated all the evil in the world by cutting off Mahisasura’s head. This event is commemorated in the form of “Dusserah” (or “VijayaDashami”), the victory of the soul.
Devi Durga stands on a lion in the fearless pose of Abhay Mudra, indicating a declaration of freedom from fear. The Universal Mother seems to be saying to all her devotees: “Surrender all actions and duties onto me and I shall release thee from all fears.”
The lion Durga sits on represents power, will and determination. Riding the lion symbolizes her mastery over all these qualities. This suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities to get over the demon of ego.
Durga Puja, held annually in her honour, is one of the most renowned festivals of India. The nine aspects of Durga known as Navadurga are meditated upon, during the nine-day festival by devout Shakti worshippers.
This article was originally published for Salt Spring Malas.