Durga is an important deity from the Hindu pantheon. She is revered as a destroyer of evil. She is a Goddess or a devi. The word devi in Sanskrit means divine or heavenly and a shining presence. The concept of devi first appeared in the Vedas in 200 B.C. but gained focus in Puranic literature with texts like the Devi Mahatmya. Goddess Durga reigns supreme and is the divine feminine as Devi in Hinduism and a divine mother as Mata.
Durga slaying the demon, Nurpur painting, Himachal Pradesh, early 18th century.
The legend of Durga appears as an avatar of Parvati, who is angry, ferocious and has eight to ten arms, holding weapons and skulls, riding a lion or tiger. She is a warrior goddess who kills Mahisasura whom the male Gods were unable to control. Durga is a unified form of all Gods. She is one who saves a devotee from durgati or misfortune. Her mythology is described in the Devi Mahatmya, a part of the Markandeya Purana from the 4th to 6th century.
The nine manifestations of Durga or Navadurga are worshipped during Navaratri in the month of Ashwin of the Hindu calendar; Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta,Skandamata,Katyayani,Kaalratri,Mahagauri and Siddhidaatri. Durga is associated with two mountain ranges, the Himalayas in the north and the VIndhyas in central India. She is Paravati in the Himalayas; daughter of the mountains. Durga images have been found in Afghanistan(ancient Gandhara) and also in Tibet.
Scene from the Devimahatmyam, painting, 17th century.
The Shiva Purana says Lord Shiva invoked Durga from his left half to create and together both created Shivaloka. As per the Devi Mahatmya ,Mahisasura, son of demon Rambha unleashed terror on earth and defeated the Gods. The Gods then approached Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Together they created a woman on whom they bestowed weapons and she was Durga. Durga as Mahisasuramardini is one of the manifestations of the Divine mother whose primary aim is to combat demons who threaten the cosmos. She has many arms and each has a different weapon. She rides on a lion and defeats the buffalo demon Mahisasura who has been given a boon that no-one can defeat him except a woman. The demon’s entire army was challenged by Durga. Mahisasura attacked Durga as a buffalo-demon whom Durga kills with a trisula (trident) after a fierce battle.
Durga after victory over Mahisasura, the demon, opaque watercolor embellished with applied gold and lacquer strips, 19th century. Brooklyn Museum, U.S.A
Durga slaying demons, Kashmir, early 19th century.
Durga slaying the demon, Kalighat painting, 19th century.
”Sarva mangala mangalye shive sarvaartha saadhike Sharanye trayambake Gauri Narayani namosthute ”
”To auspiciousness of all auspiciousness Shiva -to the Good sarvarrtha saadhike – to the accomplisher of all objectives sharanye – to the Source of Refuge tryambake – to the mother of the three worlds. Gauri – to the Goddess who is Rays of Light Naaraayani – Exposer of consciousness Namostute- We bow to you again and again. We worship you”.
References and images :
- Mahisasuramardini by Sanjaya Kumar Mahapatra, Agam Kala Prakashan, 2014.
- Goddess Durga : the power and the glory, Marg Publications, Mumbai,2009.
- Images are from Wikimedia Commons