Tag Archives: Durga Puja

Goddess Durga – images from Madhubani painting

          The month of Ashwin  is the month of the Goddess or devi. The fervour can be felt all over India with Durga images everywhere. She is worshipped as Ma Durga  or Durga Mata. There are different legends associated with her.  In Bengal she is believed to come home from the mountains with her children and is worshipped with them alongside with great pomp and festivity !

       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. Taken from the Devi Mahatmyam – the story goes thus – 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. Feast your eyes on some awesome images done in the traditional Madhubani style of painting !         

File:Durga zabijająca demona Mahiszę.jpg

Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.

        The images depicted here are of Goddess Durga from the Mithila school of painting, originated mostly in North Bihar of India which mostly depict religious stories in painting. It is called commonly called Madhubani painting which is made mostly by women. Madhubani art is being created since many centuries in some parts of Bihar, in fact there is no concrete evidence as to when it actually began. The art got national recognition when artists like Jagadamba Devi, Sita Devi were given National awards by the President of India. This art form is well-liked by the European and Canadian people among others. The exhibition Expo 70 in Japan and Asia-72 further established this art form ensuring sales of the paintings, which were made on other media like paper, instead of the regular floor or walls of the villages.  The art has become more visible and popular once it has come on to paper. Now one gets to see the art form on sarees, trains, picture galleries, five star hotels, walls of railway stations and private drawing rooms. However as noted by Indian historian Upendra Thakur in his monumental work, the art needs to be constantly protected from gross commercialisation.

    Madhubani paintings have many colour settings. Deep red, green, blue, black,light yellow, pink etc. Red is dominant in many paintings. A bamboo twig is used for drawing outlines. For filling colour pihua, a small piece of cloth tied to a twig is used. Women gather together and make the painting. A leader among them draws the composition and others fill colour. Younger girls assist the older women. Families keep paper notes of the artwork, to be made during ceremonies. It is even shared with the same caste from different villages. The styles get repeated but with variations, though the idioms remain the same.

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Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.

          Goddess Durga is a favourite deity. Goddess  Kali is an important deity in Tantrik rituals and tantra has had an important effect in the making of Aripana (floor drawings) and wall paintings. The major motifs in Madhubani painting depict flora, fauna,  natural life. Gods, goddesses, lion, fish, parrot, turtle, bamboo, lotus, creepers, swastika among others. These forms are interchangeably used as per the ritual. Events like the thread ceremony, initial wedding formalities, final wedding rites, renovation of shrine all demand paintings. Paintings are made for both beautification and sanctification of the courtyard and threshold. Kohabara paintings augment well for the marriage. The kadamba tree, sun, flowers, peacocks, moon, palanquin, tortoise, fish are all depicted. Bhitti chitra or wall paintings are drawn on auspicious occasions. Symbols used in Madhubani painting have their own significance. Elephant, palanquin denote royalty. Sun and moon represent long life. Goose and peacock are symbols of welfare and calmness. Lotus denotes good luck the bamboo denotes future progeny.

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Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.Related imageDurga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.

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Durga with Lakshmi and Saraswati, Madhubani painting.Related imageDurga with Lakhsmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik, Madhubani painting.

Exotic India Mahishasur Mardini Mother Goddess Durga - Madhubani Painting On Hand Made Paper - Folk                                   Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.


References :

  1. Marg : a magazine of architecture and art Vol 3, No 3, Bombay : Marg Publications, 1949.
  2. Madhubani painting/Thakur, Upendra, New Delhi : Abhinav Publications, 1981
  3. Madhubani painting/Ananad, Mulk Raj, New Delhi : Publications Division, 1984.
  4. Madhubani art /Dayal, Bharti, New Delhi : Niyogi Books, 2016.
  5.  Images are from Wikimedia Commons and Amazon.in


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh



Durga in Indian art: some painting and sculpture depictions

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. 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.


Durga on amulet, Rajasthan.

By Vassil – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1877832

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.


Navadurgas, painting, Banaras.

By No machine-readable author provided. Elishams assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1939544


Mahavidyas and Navadurgas on Amber Fort palace door, Rajasthan,16th cenury.

By Adamina – DSC05814Uploaded by Ekabhishek, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12020687

Durga is Sachika in the Jodhpur area of Rajasthan. She is called Sharika in Kashmir, Meenakshi in the south, Kamakhya in the east. All over India local goddesses are identified with Durga. She is Chandi in Punjab and Haryana. In Kerala she is Bhagavati and worshipped as Bathukamma in Telangana. The Devi Mahatmya is a religious text which describes the Devi as the supreme power and creator of the universe.  This text is used by Shakta groups (who worship the Devi as supreme), Vaishnavas, Shaivas and others.The other important texts are the Devi Bhagavata Purana and Devi Upanishad, important texts of the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism. In fact the earliest evidence for the feminine aspect of God appears in the Rigveda as Devi suktam. Hymns to the devi or Goddess appear in the epic Mahabharata too. By the 3rd or 4th century, the devi became an important aspect of Hindu tradition. The mahadvidyas are a group of ten aspects of Adi Parashakti (Durga) in Hinduism. The mahavidyas include Buddhist goddesses too and are important aspect in Shaktism; and include Kali, Tara,Tripura Sundari,Chinnamasta,Dhumavati,Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala.

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.  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.


Sculpture of Durga, Kashmir, 9th century.

 By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-31961402-O3.jpg Gallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/176350, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27253189



Devi mahatmya manuscript, 17th century.

By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-31973441-O3.jpg Gallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/171565, Public Domain,


The Devi Mahatmya has three episodes. In the first Durga is the sleep state or yoga nidra of Lord Vishnu. The demons Madhu and Kaitabha are threatening to destroy the cosmos. Brahma calls upon the Goddess to emerge and she comes out through Vishnu’s eyes,mouth,nose, arms and chest. Thus Vishnu becomes awake and vanquishes the demons. The second episode is the story of Durga as Mahisasuramardini. The male Gods have been defeated by demons or asuras whose leader is Mahisasura. A strong rage or the tejas of all the Gods takes the form of a woman, Durga who rides lion and is armed with weapons given by the Gods and slays the buffalo-demon, Mahisasura. In the third episode too, the Gods are defeated by the demons or  asuras  Chanda and Munda and Shumbha and Nishumbha. This time the Devi or Durga emerges from the skin of Parvati who is the consort of Lord Shiva and during the battle from her forehead emerges Kali with a tongue dripping with blood and who wears a necklace of skulls and who finishes off the evil beings.


Sculpture of Durga, Karnataka,13th century.

By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-34340591-O3.jpg Gallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/236874, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27303644


Kalighat painting, Kolkata (previously Calcutta)19th century.

By Unknown – The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41948601


Wall relief at temple at Aihole, Karnataka,  7th-8th century.

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19877840


Goddess Kali and the saptamatrikas in battle, from a Devi mahatmya manuscript, Mysore.

By Unknown – LACMA[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2374850


Durga fighting Shunga and Nishunga,painting from Devi Mahatmya, mid 19th century.

By Punjab Hills, India – from a Devi Mahatmyahttp://www.asia.si.edu/collections/singleObject.cfm?ObjectNumber=F1907.602, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18230079

In the 10th or 11th century another text the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Shakta poem Soundaryalahiri became important. Thus Devi or Durga as Lord Shiva’s consort, mahisasuramardini, cosmic power, divine feminine became an important part of Indian religious tradition and culture.

The Devi Bhagavata Purana looks upon the Devi or Shakti as the creator of the Universe and as the Brahman or ultimate reality. This text celebrates the divine feminine and is a mix of mythology, metaphysics and about the conflict between Gods and asuras or good and evil. Durga is described as the eternal truth, the nirguna or formless, saguna, with form, the unchanging reality or purusha and the changing reality or prakriti and the very soul of living beings.

Soundaryalahiri is a poem written by Adi Shankara and sage Pushpadanta about the beauty and grace of Goddess Parvati. It is tantra text book with instructions about pujas, offerings and various yantras.

The matrikas are seven female divinities, together called saptamatrikas; Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Indrani, Kaumari,Varahi and Chamundi. They assist Lord Shiva to battle Andhakusura and assist the devi in their fight with demons.


Saptamatrikas ,red sandstone, Madhya Pradesh, 9th century.

By Ms Sarah Welch – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44761691

Every year during the month of Ashwin(which falls during late September and early October),Durga Puja is celebrated in many Indian states especially West Bengal, Asom, Odisha, Bihar,Tripura,Meghalaya and Jharkhand. Durga Puja celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the buffalo-demon Mahisasura. She is worshipped as destroyer of evil and protector of her devotees with great pomp and festivities.


Durga puja idols, Kolkata,21st century.

By Aryan paswan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21249252



  • Pal, Pratapaditya,ed./Goddess Durga : the power and the glory, Mumbai: Marg Publications,2009.
  •   wikipedia.org

Posted by : Soma Ghosh