In the Hindu pantheon Maa Durga is the most popular incarnation of Devi. She is one of the main forms of the Goddess Shakti. The word Durga defines the unified symbol of all divine forces. She is the Supreme Being among all others who maintains righteousness, justice and moral order in the universe.
She is the original manifested form of Maa Adi-Parashakti, also known as Durga Shakti as per Devi Mahatmya. The divine mother, goddess Durga, helps people from all kinds of evil forces of hatred, jealousy, ego, anger and selfishness. She has been given the name Durga after she killed Durgamaasura as per Skanda Purana. Goddess Parvati is the complete incarnation of Adi-Parashakti with all other goddesses being her manifestations or incarnations.
Durga, in Sanskrit signifies “She who is unimaginable or hard to reach.” Goddess Durga is a form of Sakti worshiped for her gracious and in addition startling angle. Mother of the Universe, she speaks to the unbounded force of the universe and is a symbol of a female dynamism. The appearance of Goddess Durga is said to emerge from Her shapeless essence and the two are indivisible.
In Vaishnavism Durga Maa occupied a place similar to that of Lord Vishnu. She is very popular in Hinduism and is being worshipped in all her manifestations. Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati are the mild forms of Goddess Durga whereas Goddess Chandi and Goddess Kali are the wrathful forms of Durga. She is also known as Padmanabha-Sahodari and Narayani, the wife of Lord Vishnu. In Prakriti Khanda of the Devi Bhagavata Purana Maa Durga has been described by Lord Narayana as the wife of either Brahma or Vishnu and Kalki as her first child.
It is believed that the existence of Durga Maa occurred when the whole universe was under a threat of a demon named Mahishasura. During that time the Gods of Heaven requested Lord Shiva to save the world from the evil forces. Since Mahishasura after hard austerities gained boon from Lord Brahma that no one could kill him except a supreme woman power. So Lord Shiva asked three Goddesses Maa Kali, Maa Lakshmi and Maa Saraswati to release their Shakti or power which altogether emerged in a female form. From the power of the three Goddesses a Divine light emerged and then Maa Durga, an immense power appeared with many arms. Goddess Durga was furnished by all the Gods with their arms. She killed the demon Mahishasura in a violent battle and saved the entire world from his threats.
The love and kindness of Mother for her child is one of the best and pure loves in this whole universe. A mother loves her child unconditionally and pours all her warmth and kindness without asking for any kind of favour. Similarly Maa Durga loves her each and every devotees like a free flowing river without any discrimination or without desiring anything in return and it is very pure and serene.
Durga has been depicted in the female form wearing red coloured sari. The colour of the sari represents the ferocious looks or the fierceness of Maa Durga which implicates that goddess destroys evil forces and protects people from their misery and pain caused by them. In Hindu belief she has been described as carrying different weapons in each of her eight or ten hands assuming hand gestures, showing her teachings, that represent the eight quadrants or ten directions of Hinduism and that she can protect her devotees from any directions. Durga Maa possesses three eyes like that of Lord Shiva. The right eye represents action, the sun; the left eye represents desire, the moon and the central eye represents knowledge, the fire. She is seen to mount on a lion which symbolizes power, determination and will that illuminates her mastery over all qualities and sometimes on a tiger.
There are many different forms of Durga Maa. The nine appellations of Maa Durga include Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kaalraatri, Katyayani, Kusumanda, Maha Gauri, Shailaputri, Siddhidatri and Skondamata. The various incarnations of Durga are Ambika, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Gauri, Java, Kali, Kandalini, Lalita and Rajeswari and so on.
In Hindu scriptures Durga Maa is seen holding a conch in her first upper left hand which represents happiness, a chakra in her first upper right hand symbolizes duty or responsibilities, bow and arrow in her second lower left hand indicates character like Lord Rama, a sword in her second lower right hand represents eradication of vices, lotus flower in her third lower left hand implicates detachment, club in her third lower right hand symbolizes surrender and devotion, the hand gesture of fourth lower right hand shows Goddess Durga’s forgiveness and blessings, trident in her fourth lower left hand represents courage to remove evil qualities.
So Maa Durga is totally furnished with all kinds of Divine forces in the form of weapons and emblems or hand gestures gained from the other Gods of Heaven along with Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
Durga Maa is worshipped in almost all places across India in various forms. This day is celebrated as Durga Puja and it lasts for four days which are termed as Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami. It is the biggest annual festival celebrated in Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Nepal and Jharkhand especially in the Himalayan region. The last day of Durga Puja is also known as Vijayadashami in Bihar and Bengali, Dashain in Nepali and Dussehra in Hindi. The worship of Maa Durga mainly occurs for preceding nine days followed by Dashami so it is often regarded as Navaratri. Mother Nature is also worshipped during the auspicious festival days of Durga Puja. Mother Nature is worshipped through nine types of plants known as Kala Bou which includes Banana tree representing nine Divine forms of Durga Maa.
In North India, Dussehra is believed to be the day on which Rama won battle against the demon Ravana. So on this special day the gigantic straw effigies of Ravana are burnt in a designated open space visualized by thousands of families and little children. In Karnataka she is worshipped as Chamundeshwari. In Gujarat Garba dance is performed in order to celebrate the victory of goddess Durga, Mahishasuramardini. Goan Hindus worship Maa Durga in her peaceful form as Maha Gauri, the fair lady. Ambabai and Tulja Bhavani is the patron Goddess of Maharashtra. Gradually the popularity of Durga Puja increased during the British Raj in Bengal and became an icon for the Indian Independence Movement.
Maa Durga appears in a state of practicing Mudras, garlanded with a meditative smile on Her face. She is believed to be an manifestation of Shakti and exists in a state of self-sufficiency. Devi Durga was manifested when the gods were in danger by the demonic and evil forces of Mahishasura. All the gods unified their divine radiance and created Goddess Durga in order to defeat the demons.
There are many forms of Maa Durga such as Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Java, Rajeswari and many more.
Like Lord Shiva, Mata Durga is also called as “Triyambake” i.e. the goddess having three eyes. The left eye symbolizes desire (the moon), the right eye depicts action (the sun), and the central eye represents knowledge (fire).
The lion is the symbol of power, will and determination. Goddess Durga riding the lion shows Her mastery over all these qualities. This suggests to the devotee that one has to have all these qualities to get over the evil spirit of ego. Ma Durga stands on a lion in a daring pose of “Abhay Mudra”, signifying assurance of liberty from fear.
Devi Durga is remembered in many forms. She is a form of “Shakti”. The evolution of Goddess Saraswati, Mata Laxmi and Mahakali took place from Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahesh respectively. These three deities gave rise to three more forms and thus in all, these nine forms are collectively known as Nav-Durga. Remembering the nine forms of Devi Durga is considered auspicious, as the goddess brings the qualities of power, wisdom and courage to Her devotees.
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