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Goddess Durga: The Divine Mother

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 5:08 AM
Goddess Durga is the embodiment of the divine force of the Almighty. She symbolizes the power of the Supreme Being that maintains righteousness in the universe. In images she is generally depicted with eighteen arms holding Trident, Chakra, Snake, Conch shell, Mace, Bow, Long sword and Thunderbolt. Her different weapons suggest the idea that she can face any evil force. She is the divine mother, who protects people from evil forces. She is known by many other names such as Parvati, Ambika, Bhagwati and Kali. Durga's darker aspect Kali is represented as the consort of the god Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing. In the form of Parvati, she is known as the divine spouse of Lord Shiva and is the mother of two sons, Ganesha and Karttikeya. Worship of the goddess Shakti is very popular among the Hindus. Her nine forms are Skandamata, Kusumanda, Shailaputri, Kaalratri, Brahmacharini, Maha Gauri, Katyayani, Chandraghanta and Siddhidatri.

Goddess Durga manifested when evil forces threathened the very existance of the Gods. To destroy these demons, all gods offered their radiance to her creation and each formed part of Durga's body. Durga also obtained very powerful weapons from different gods. She is the warrior aspect of the Divine Mother. Durga killed the powerful demon Mahishasura and all his great commanders. Therefore, she is also known as Mahishasurmardini (the destroyer or killer of Mahishasur). 

According to legends, goddess Durga was created as a warrior goddess to fight a powerful and cruel demon, Mahishasura. He worshipped Lord Brahma and performed severe penance for a boon. Brahma was pleased and appeared before him. Mahishasura obtained a boon from Brahma by which no male could kill him. He could not even conceive of a situation in which a female would challenge him. After getting the boon, he began to expand his reign of terror on earth, heaven and the nether worlds. After defeating from Mahishasura, all gods went to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who were aware that only a woman could kill Mahishasura. They decided to create a Goddess out of the collective powers of all the god's, thus goddess Durga was born. She was given various weapons a trident from Shiva, Chakra from Vishnu, a Lion from Himalayas and bows and arrows from Vayu. The Goddess filled with combined powers of all gods. She rode on her vehicle (vahana) lion to the top of a mountain to meet Mahishasura. A battle of nine days and nine nights took place, during which goddess Durga decimated Mahishasura's armies using lesser Goddesses produced from her own body. At last, a fierce battle took place between goddess Durga and Mahishasura and Mahishasura was killed thus, she saved the world from the demonic powers. 
Goddess Durga is the goddess of “Shakti” or power. There are nine forms of Goddess Durga which are worshiped over the nine days and nights in Navratri. Navaratri is the biggest Hindu festival celebrated throughout India with great enthusiasm. There are nine forms of Goddess Durga, which are explained below-

1. Shailaputri: ‘Shail’ means mountains, Parvati, the daughter of king of Mountains Himavana, is known as "Shailputri". She is also known from various names such as Sati, Bhavani, Parvati or Hemavati, the daughter of Hemavana (the king of the Himalayas). In this form, the divine Mother holds a trident in her right hand and a lotus in her left hand. Sailaputri is believed to be the rebirth of Sati, the daughter of Daksha and the wife of Lord Shiva. Once Daksha organized a big Yagna and did not invit Shiva, but Sati reached there. Thereupon Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati could not tolerate the insult of husband and burnt herself in the sacred fire of Yagna. In other birth she became the daughter of Himalaya named Parvati and married with Shiva. Shailaputri is worshipped on the first day of Navaratri. Her veihicle (vahana) is a bull.

2. Bharmacharini: Bharmacharini is worshipped on the second day of Navaratri and is the second form of Goddess Durga. She is also known as Tapasyacharini. Her name ‘Bharmacharini’ is derived from Brahma which means penance. Bharmacharini means one who practices pious austerity. In this form, the divine Mother is two armed and carries a rosary in her right and holy water pot (Kamandalu) in the left hand. One day when she was playing with her friends, sage Narad came and told her that you would marry with Shiva, who was with you in the form of Sati. But now you have to do penance for him. On hearing this, she vowed that she would marry with Shiva only. After a long penace, she finally got married with Shiva. 

3. Chandraghanta: Chandraghanta is the third form of goddess Durga, who is worshipped on the third day of Navaratri. In this form, she has three eyes and ten arms holding different weapons such as a trident, disc, mace, bow, arrow and sword. She also holds a lotus, water pot and rosary. This is a terrible aspect of the goddess, who rides on a lion. There is a half circular moon in her forehead in the shape of a ‘ghanta’ or bell, therefore she is known as ‘Chandraghanta’. The sound of her bell terrifies demons as well as evil powers and she possesses great powers to fight battles against demons. 

4. Kushmanda: Kushmanda is the fourth form of the divine mother Durga, who is worshipped on the fourth day of Navaratri. In this form goddess Durga created solar system by liberating her power to Lord Sun, so Kushmanda is considered the creator of the entire universe. She shines brightly in all the directions. She has eight arms, in which she holds different weapons, rosary and sacred water pot. She rides on a tiger. It is believed that the eternal darkness ended when she smiled. 

5. Skanda Mata: Skanda Mata is the fifth form of the mother goddess. She is the mother of Skanda or Kartikeya; she is who is worshipped on the fifth day of Navratri. Lord Kartikeya was chosen by gods as their commander in chief war against the demons. Skanda Mata has four arms and three eyes, she holds her infant Skanda with her right upper arm in her lap and a lotus in her right hand. Her one hand is in blessing posture. Her complexion is very bright and often depicted as seated on a lotus. This the motherly form of Durga, so she is generous and kind.

6. Katyayani: The sixth incarnation of the goddess Durga is known as Katyayani, who is worshipped on the six day of Navaratri. According to a legend, Once upon a time, a sage Katyayan was the son of the great sage Kata. He did rigorous penance and worshipped Mother Goddess with a desire to get Mother Goddess as his daughter. His wish was granted and Katyayani was born to Katyayan as an incarnation of Durga. Her vehicle is lion. In this form the goddess has four arms, holds a sword, shield and lotus. One arm is depicted as giving blessings to the devotees.

7. Kalratri: Kalratri is the violent and dark side and the seventh form of the goddess Durga. Kalratri literally means 'dark night'. Her skin color is black as night. She is worshipped on seventh day of Navaratri. She rides on a donkey. She has long, unmated hair and three large eyes that are shiny and bright. She put on necklaces shining like lightening. Thousands of flames of fire come out while she respires from nose. Kalratri form encourages her devotees to be fearless. Sometimes she is also referred as Shubhamkari. She has four hands; her right hand holds a sharp sword, while her lower hand is in blessing mood. Her raised right hand always seems to grant boons to all the devotees.

8. Maha Gauri: This is the eighth form of the goddess Durga, who is worshipped on the eighth day of Navratri. She wears pure white clothes and her skin color is also white. As a result of her worship, all sins get washed away and devotees get purified in all aspects of life. She is intelligent, peaceful and calm, who rides on a bull. She has four arms. She holds a trident and damaru (a music instrument) in her hands. Her one hand is always in the position of granting boons to all the devotees. It is said that when her body became dirty due to the dust, Shiva used the water of the Ganges to clean the dust from her body. After that she became extremely white as a conch and moon therefore, she is known as Maha Gauri. Her power is unfailing and instantly fruitful. 

9. Siddhidatri: The ninth form of Goddess Durga is known as Siddhidatri, who is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri. She is worshipped by all the gods, saints, yogis, Gandharvas, Yakshas and devotees to achieve spiritual elevation. She has four arms and holds a mace, discus, lotus and book. She rides on a lion, but she is also depicted sitting on lotus. According to ‘Devi Bhagvata Purana’, lord Shiva worshipped Siddhidatri and received all the eight Siddhis (supernatural powers). By goddess’s blessings half body of lord Shiva became female, hence he is called 'Ardhanarishwara'. Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakamya, Lishitya and Vashitva are the eight Sidhis. All paintings are courtesy of Art of Legend India.

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