Ma Durga, as she is known to the Hindus, is the Goddess attributed with the creation of the Universe. She is worshipped as the creator, preserver and destroyer of the world. The worship of Ma Durga as the Supreme Being is beyond memory as she appears even in the most ancient of preserved Hindu scriptures such as the Taittareya Brahman, Yajur Veda, and the VahasaneyiSamhita.
It is the belief of the Hindus that the Goddess Durga safeguards her devotees from the evil influences of the world and also alleviates their anguish and unhappiness. This is can be easily derived from the definition of the word Durga. Durga is a Sanskrit word defined as a fortress or a location that cannot be easily overwhelmed. A second definition is of the wordDurgatinashini which is directly translated to “the one who dispenses of sufferings”.
The Different of Forms of Ma Durga
The Goddess is known by many incarnations since time began, a few among them are, Java, Gauri, Lalita, Bhavani, Kali, Bhagvati, Rejaswari, Ambika, and Kandalini. Hindu legends state that the Goddess was brought into the world with the power of all the divine beings in order to defeat the buffalo demon “Mahishasura”. In the religious festival Durga Puja, her nine forms or avatars are worshipped throughout the festival, these are Skondamata, Kushmanda, Shailputri, Kaalratri, Brahmacharini, Maha Gauri, Katyayani, Chandraghanta and Siddhidatri.
Durga’s many incarnations have different numbers of limbs; however the depiction of the actual is that with eight or ten arms. The number of her limbs is known to represent the eight quadrant or ten directions of Hinduism. This also characterizes her as the Goddess who protects her followers on all fronts.
Like the God Shiva, the Goddess Durga is also known as Triyambake meaning the Goddess with three eyes. The central eye symbolizes knowledge, the right eye symbolizes alacrity and the sun, and the left eye symbolizes avidity and the moon.
The proud lion symbolizes strength, courage and perseverance. Ma Durga’s mounting of the beast represents her command of these attributes. This is telling of the qualities required by her followers to overcome the evils of egotism.
1. A Lotus, or pankaja (born of mud) in Sanskrit, is one of the objects ornamenting Ma Durga’s hands. The flower represents an assurance of success; however it is yet to bloom, therefore it represents success that lacks finality. This means that the spiritual qualities of Ma Durga’s devotees should be perpetually cultivated if they are to master the mire of greed and lust.
2. The three-pronged “Trishul” or Ma Durga’s trident symbolizes the three states of action; Rajas (activity), Satwa (inactivity) and Tamas (non-activity). It also tells of how Ma Durga expunges the physical, mental, and spiritual sufferings from her devotees.
3. One of the Goddess’ hands is adorned with a sword which represents knowledge or wit, which should be sharp like a sword. Her sword is radiant, which symbolizes absolute knowledge.
4. One arm is adorned with a conch shell, which represents the Pranava or the mystical word Om, which signifies that the Goddess holds onto divinity in the form of sounds.
5. A discus known as the Sudarshan Chakrarotates on an index finger of one of the Goddess’ hands. This denotes that the entire world is abject to the will of the Goddess. This is her trusty weapon in the destruction of evil and at the same time, she uses it to bring about a utopian world of virtue.
6. A bow and arrow is held out by one of Ma Durga’s hand. It represents energy and denotes how the Goddess boasts of the control of both types of energy, kinetic and potential.
7. The last weapon is the lightning bolt which symbolizes resolve. It tells us that devotees of the Goddess must be resolute in their beliefs. Just like the lightning bolt which obliterates anything it comes in contact with, so too should the devotees of Ma Durga be; they must be resolute and confident and all their endeavors
The Goddess Durga is depicted standing on a lion on a pose known as “Abhay Mudra” which exudes confidence and courage. It is as if the celestial matron is calling out to her followers to surrender themselves to her so that she may bless them with undaunted spirits.