Durga is a form of Prakriti, the mother of entire existence. She represents the Supreme Consciousness and was manifested by combining the energies of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. Within her, Durga has the combined powers of Laxmi, Saraswati and Kali. Durga has numerous forms, roles and names; She is Shakti, Parvati, Gauri, Kali and much more. The name Durga means ‘the invincible’ – the destroyer of the evil and preserver of truth and righteousness.
The Making of Durga
The asura Mahishasura (a combination of an asura and a buffalo) performed severe penance to please Lord Shiva and was blessed with a boon that no man or god would be able to kill him. Some stories say this boon was granted by Brahma. Taking undue advantage of the power of this boon and blessings Mahishasura created havoc and soon conquered both earth (bhuloka) and heaven (swargloka).
The gods fled and sought the help of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. To defeat Mahishasura they combined their powers and energies into one celestial being in the form of a woman – Durga. To battle the demons and triumph, Durga was further bestowed with beautiful gifts and weapons by all the gods, making her Adi Parashakti.
Durga went into battle with Mahisasura. Mahishasura engaged her in a long battle turning from one form of animal to another. Goddess Durga after nine days and nights of fighting finally stabbed him with Shiva’s trident and beheaded him with a sword.
The Symbolism Behind Durga’s Form
In the Vedas, Durga is described as a bright, focused woman clad in a red sari. The color red symbolizes that She is divine in form. She is resolute in destroying evil and protecting Her worshippers from any pain and suffering. Her vahana is the lion which is the symbol of determination and willpower. She is depicted with eight or ten hands. She had the third eye on Her forehead similar to that of Lord Shiva. Her third eye represents her ability to see beyond the normla, giving her immense shakti, sense of discernment and focus to vanquish the enemy. Since She was created with the purpose of waging a war against evil, Her hands are occupied with weapons used for battle.
The many arms of Goddess Durga also depict the eight quadrants or ten directions denoting that She has the power to destroy evil in all the directions. Goddess Durga holds many weapons that represent various aspects. The significance of each is as below:
- Chakra – given by Vishnu, is the Sudarshan Chakra that spins in Her index finger which symbolizes righteousness or dharma. She uses this weapon to destroy evil and protect righteousness.
- Conch – given by Varuna, is seen in her first upper left hand. The conch stands for the cosmic sound of OM vibration. The sound destroys all evil negative forces and when one prays to her, the vibrations fills one with peace and tranquillity.
- Bow and Arrow – given by Vayu, are held in Her second left hand to destroy the difficulties arising in a person’s path in life.
- Sword – She holds it in her second right lower hand and it depicts knowledge and keen intellect. After felling him with the trident, Durga beheaded Mahisasura with the sword.
- Spear – This weapon helps to destroy the negative and evil forces and grants auspiciousness.
- Club – This is seen in her third right lower hand. This weapon destroys the power of the enemy, no matter how powerful that be.
- Trident – This weapon was given by Shiva. Durga finally killed Mahisasura with this weapon
- Thunderbolt – Given by Indra, this weapon symbolizes firmness of spirit.
- Lotus – It stands for awakening of spiritual consciousness in a soul
The Nine Forms of Durga Worshipped During Navratri
Durga manifested herself in many forms during several lifetimes. Her incarnations include Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Jaya and Rakteshwari.
The divine power that reside in these goddesses combined to form Her – the true incarnation of the power that exists in all divine beings. The nine goddesses that are worshipped during Navratri are Shailaputri, Brahamcharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri.
The Mahisasura Mardini stotram dedicated to Durga invokes and praises her greatness and her exploits as a destroyer of all evil and protector and savior of all humans.
Mantras to Ma Durga
Ya Devi SarvaBhutesu, Shakti RupenaSansitha,
Namastasyai, Namastasyai, Manastasyai, NamoNamaha!
The mantra helps in praising Goddess Durga who is omnipresent as the embodiment of power.
Durga Gayatri Mantra:
Om Girijayai Cha Vidmahe,
Sivapriyayai Cha Dhimahi,
Tanno Durgih Prachodayat
This mantra helps the devotees to meditate on Devi, the wife of Lord Shiva and the origination of power behind Goddess Durga.
Om SarwaSwarupey Sareshey Sarwa Shakti Samanwithey
Bhaybhya traahino Devi Durgey Devi Namostuthey
The mantra offers salutation to the divine Mother Durga and offers Her with a prayer to bless the worshippers with unlimited power and strength to overcome all evil in life.