The most important goddess of the Hindus is Durga, the consort of god Shiva. She is a multidimensional goddess appearing in many forms denoted by many names. The names are Parvathi (the mountain girl), Uma (the light) Gauri (the yellow hued beauty), Himavathi (the daughter of Himalayas), Jaganmata (the mother of the universe), Durga (the inaccessible one), Kali or Shyma (the black hued one), Chandika or Chandi (The fearful one) and Bhairavai (the terrible one).
All these names are qualifications added in front of Devi or Maha Devi. The Hindu devotees speak of Durga Devi or Durga Mahadevi and Kali Devi and Kali Mahadevi etc with great respect and devotion. Durga’s first birth was as Sati and she was born in the house of one of the progenitors of mankind named Daksha. Satee was married to Shiva. Once Daksha organized a massive sacrifice and Satee too attended this ceremony. But Daksha did not invite Shiva. Satee was annoyed over it.
It is said that Satee could not bear this insult and sacrificed her life on the sacrificial fire. On hearing this sacrifice, Shiv flew in a range. He came there carrying his blazing trident and attacked the sacrificial alter destroying the entire place of sacrifice. He was joined by the numerous demi-gods in attendance to Shiv and the whole spot was destroyed through Shiv’s violent anger.
The Second birth
It is said that this terrible act caused the mountains to totter, the earth to tremble, wind to blow violently, and the ocean to rise up. This catastrophe is described in the Purans as “Indra is knocked down and trampled on, Yama has his staff broken, Saraswathi and Matris have their noses wounded Bhag has his eyes pulled out, Pushan has his teeth knocked down his throat, Chandra (the moon) is pummeled, Agni’s hands are broken, Bhargu’s beard is crushed, Prajapthis are beaten and the gods are running helter skelter” (Seth, 1993). It was Vishnu who intervened and propitiated the wrath of Shiv. Daksha acknowledged Shiv’s supremacy and apportioned a due share to Him.
The second birth of Durga was a Parvathi (the daughter of Himalayas). As she has been the daughter of Daksha married to Shiv in the previous birth, she aspired to be the consort of Shiv in her second birth too. But Shiv has lost interest in worldly life after witnessing the sacrifice of his first wife (Satee) in the past.
He did not wish to be wedlocked. But Parvati was determined to win Shiv’s attention towards her. She undertook a great task by performing ascetic rites and chanting hymns for over one thousand years to appease Shiv.
Shiv noticed her devotion and considered her appropriate to become his consort. The wedding ceremony of Shiv and Parvati is described in very exquisite colourful language in the Puranas and there are many descriptive songs on this marriage procession.
There is a story as to how Parvati got the name Durga. There has been a demon named Durg (the son of Ruru) who has pleased Brahma with his austerities and became extremely powerful.
Durg conquered the three worlds and even dethroned Indra (the ruler of heaven) Durg abolished all religious ceremonies and the Brahamins who were terrified even stopped reading the Vedas. The gods were terrified.
They prayed to God Shiv to protect them and the three worlds from the nasty powerful demon Durg. Shiv entrusted the operation to Pravathi. It is reported that Parvathi armed herself with 1000 arms which were brought out of her own body. She fought with the demon. Finally the demon assumed the form of a fearful buffalo, which with its horns cast trees rocks and even mountains at the goddess Parvathi. But Pravathi cut all these into tiny pieces.
She finally used her trident and subdued the demon. The gods praised Parvathi and named her Durga. According to another legend the king of demons, Mahishasur subdued the power of gods including that of Indira.
The gods approached Shiv and Visnu to report the misdeeds of this demon king.
Shiv and Visnu became very angry and with their spiritual power created a goddess named Mahamaya or Durga. It is said that streams of glory that emanated from all gods entered Mahamaya’s body and she resembled a mountain of fire and strength. This goddess killed the demon Mahishasur.
The image of Durga
The image of Durga shows 10 hands. In one of her right hands is a long pointed spear which is piercing the heart of Mahishasur. With one of her left hands, she holds the hair of this demon’s head. Her other hands hold different types of weapons. Against her left leg lies the subdued and defeated demon, Mahishasur, and against her right leg leans a lion. In some pictures and sculptures, the images of Lakshmi, Saraswathie Kartikeya and Ganesh are shown. The festival of Durga is celebrated in Bengal in a grand scale in the month of Ashwin and all the images of the goddess are made. At the end of the festival the images are immersed in the river.
Navarathri (nine nights of feminine divinity) is celebrated by the Hindus, devoting three days each for the goddess Durga (icon of courage), Lakshmi (icon of wealth) and Saraswathie (icon of knowledge). The story behind Navarathri is the battle between the combined strength of these three goddesses (Shakthi) and the greedy demon Mahidasuran.
In this religious ceremony the traditional Kumbalam (a metallic pitcher filled with water, decorated with mango leaves around its neck, carrying a husked coconut at the open top, placed on banana leaf strewen with nine types of cereals) and Kolu a (Display of dolls on an improvised staircase) are some significant features. On the 10 days of the battle Shakthi conquered Mahidasuran with the holy ‘Thirishulan’ weapon.
It is believed that the battle victory occurred in the city of Mysore, Karnataka, India where there is a gigantic statue of the demon. Mahidasuran on the Chaamundi Hills.
In Hinduism the goddess Shakthi represents the origin of power. She is the essence and creative imagination of the supreme power (Jayaratnarajah, 2011). According to Markanddeya Puran, Durga has assumed 10 forms for destroying the two great and powerful demons, Shambhu and Nisambhu respectively.
These two acquired great physical and psychic powers after practicing severe austerities. They began to fight against the gods, and brahma and Visnu had to appeal to Shiv for protection. He gave the operation aspects to Durga.
Durga first assumed the form of a beautiful woman to entice Sambhu and Nishambu.
The two demons dispatched their key generals (Chundu and Mundu) to capture this beautiful woman. But Durga defeated and killed them using her divine lion. Then the two demons themselves came to the Himalays to attack Durga and capture her.
They came there with a general who had a special feature that every drop of blood falling from his body would turn out to be thousands of demons. But Durga assumed her two forms Chandi (the fearful one) and Kali (the black one).
Dasa Mahavidyas – 10 Forms of Goddess Durga
Mahavidyas or Dasha-Mahavidyas are a group of ten aspects of the Divine Mother Durga or Devi/ Adi Parashakti in Hinduism. The 10 Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the gentle at the other.
The goddesses are:
- Kaali– the devourer of time
- Tara– The Goddess as Guide and Protector who is also known as neel saraswathi
- Shodashi– the beautiful one in all three worlds also called as Tripura sundari
- Bhuvaneshwari– the one who governs the universe
- Bhairavi– the fierce goddess
- Chhinnamasta– the self decapitated goddess
- Dhumavati– the widow goddess or the goddess of death
- Bagalamukhi– the goddess who paralyzes enemies
- Matangi– the supreme power of lalita
- Kamala-the lotus goddess or the tantric lakshmi.
The Ten forms
Durga drank every drop of blood that oozed out of the general’s body, before it fell on the ground. Eventually both the demons were killed. Markanddeya Puran places the 10 forms of Durga in the following order.
1. Durga-the goddess who first showed her beautiful face to entice the two demons Shambu and Nisambu.
2. Dusbhooja-the form that destroyed a part of an army of demons
3. Singh-Vahinee-in this from she faught with general Rakta-Vijay, the general whose drops of blood created thousands of demons. In this form she is shown as the goddess wearing white garments bearing a glittering crown bearing either four, eight or ten arms; seated on a lion. One hand is kept for blessings.
4. Mahisha Mardinee-this is the form assumed to defeat the buffalo form of the demon Shambu.
5. Jadhatree-the form assumed to defeat the demons
6. Kali. This form is well known to Hndus as well as to the Buddhists. Kali is the personification of the ferocious nature of the goddess. According to legend, the victory of Durga over the fearful demons Shambu and Nishambu is celebrated by this form. It is said that Durga started to dance of death
after this victory. She continued to dance without a stop and Shiv in order to stop her, had to lie among the slain demons.
Accidentally she danced on her husband (Shiv)’s body and when she realized it, she put her tongue out of her mouth in sorrow and surprise.
She remained in this stunned posture and this is the posture of showing Kali in images with the red tongue protruding from her mouth. According to Adhyarma Ramayan, the origin of Kali takes another form. It is reported that, Ram was boasting of his victory over Ravan.
But Sita has been not happy over his exaggerations and said that Ram was able to defeat a Ravan with only 10 hands. She has asked him what would be the fate if Ravan had thousand hands? Ram, has replied that he would defeat such a mighty Ravan too and he wanted to demonstrate it to her.
Ram summoned all his army personnel and proceeded to Shatdweep, the abode of the demon with a thousand hands. This new “Ravan” had wonderful skills and powers. He just released three magic arrows from his bow.
One arrow made Ram’s Army of monkeys to retreat to Kishkindha, their place of residence. The next arrow made Vibhishana’s (Ram’s ally after Ravan’s death) army to go back to Lanka, beyond the sea shore.
The third arrow, made Ram’s army retreat to Ayodhya. At this humiliating defeat, Sita Laughingly assumed the form of the terrific Kali and attacked the new Ravan with one thousand heads; killed him and drank his blood and began to dance and toss about his body limbs. It is said that only Shiv could stop her dance.
The image of Kali is strikingly fearful. She is shown as a black female with four hands. In one hand there is a scimitar, in another hand she holds the killed demon’s head by his hair, in the third is the blessing mode to the worshippers, while the fourth carries a weapon, usually a spear.
Her necklace is a string of skulls. Her earrings are two heads of demons. Her protruded red tongue is shown to be oozing with blood and blood tickles upon her body. She stands on the breast of Shiv with one foot and the other rests on His thigh.
Animal sacrifices are made before Kali to please her. She is the goddess of the dacolts. The worshippers believe that Kali will take revenge from the evil doers and protect them from dangers. She is worshiped by parents to protect their children from dreaded diseases and their homes from ill omens (Seth 1993). At Kali Ghat near Calcutta, India the celebrated image of Kali is situated.
7. Mukkt-Keshee: This is the form of Durga appearing with hair flown out after defeating an army of demons.
8. Tara-This form too resembles that of Kali. As Tara, she is shown as a black woman with four arms standing on the breast of Shiv. In one hand she holds a sword. In the other hand is a demon’s head. Other two hands hold lethal weapons. Her victory over the demon Shambu is thus depicted.
9. Chinnamustika-in this form she demonstrates her victory over the demon Nishambhu.
10. Jagadguree-in this form She is worshipped by all gods for their salvation.
Another name for Druga is Chamunda as she killed two demons, Chanda and Mundu from the forehead of Durga sprang a goddess of jet black complexion.
Robed in the hide of an elephant wearing a garland of dead corpses. With red hot eyes and a long tongue she uttered a huge shout and jumped upon the two demons, after which she was named Chamunda or Chamundi.
Durga is the goddess widely worshipped by the Hindus.