Devi Durga: The symbolism of feminine strength

Devi Durga is considered as the feminine epitome of strength. She is depicted in variety of Vedic literature as a goddess having feminine prowess, power, determination, wisdom and punishment much beyond this material world.

Those who seek prosperity in this material world in terms of material powers and wealth, also ardently worship her.

In India, she is worshipped by most Hindus. Although she is revered across the country, she is mostly worshipped in Rajasthan.

In ancient India, she was primarily worshipped by the Kshatriya class of men, the one engaged in fighting and administration.

Etymology of Durga’s name

Durga means the the one in-charge of this material world, also termed as “durg”. The word “durg” comes from two Sanskrit words, “du” meaning difficult and “ga” meaning cross over.

Therefore, the word “durg” means the fort that is difficult to cross over. As per Srimad Bhagwatam (10.14.58), this material world is stated as padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadāṁ na teṣām, that is, dangerous at every step and hence, difficult to cross over.

Durga is possessed of ‘durga’, which means a prison house. When souls – begotten of marginal potency – forget the service of the supreme personality of godhead, they are confined in the mundane prison house, the citadel of Durga.

Birth of Durga Devi

Devi Durga has been glorified in various shastras like Devi Bhagwat Purana. She is considered as a divine potency responsible for keeping this material world in order and decorum.

As per Brahma Samhita (5.8), she is the reflection or shadow of Rama Devi, the spiritual Shakti of the Supreme Lord in his transcendental abode.

Decoding her appearance and the respective symbolism

Devi Durga is the prime fountainhead of her various forms, each having a distinguished identity from each other. But, her primary form comprises of all the features of her expansions and incarnations.

As stated in Brahma Samhita (5.44),
* She has 10-arms, representing the 10 power activities.
* She rides on the lion, representing her heroic prowess.
* She crushes down Mahishasura, representing the subduer of vices.
* She is the mother of two sons, Kartikeya and Ganesha, representing beauty and success.
* She is placed between Lakshmi and Sarasvati, representing mundane opulence and mundane knowledge.
* She is armed with the 20 weapons, representing the various pious activities enjoined by the Vedas for suppression of vices.
* She holds the snake, representing the beauty of destructive time.

Family members of Devi Durga

Devi Durga is the eternal consort of Sri Rudra or Lord Shiva as Devi Parvati. Both of them reside at Mount Kailash. She has two sons, naming Kartikeya and Ganesha.

Her expansions and forms

She has a variety of expansions as per various shastras. Her expansions comprise
1. Nav Durga
2. Chausath yoginis
3. Shodash Matrikas
4. Dus Mahavidya, etc.

She has number of forms as she is worshipped by various classes of devotees, as per their requirements and desires. Ranging from delivering the souls from the dark mundane world to giving them varieties of siddhis, she takes forms as per the devotees’ requirement.

Benefits of her worship

She is in-charge of this material creation, a place of miseries. She is always there to keep a check on the people living here.

Therefore, in order to live here peacefully, people propitiate her by worshipping her on her sacred days. And, she being the one in-charge, she supplies her devotees with material powers and bounties as per their desires.

As stated in Argala Stotram (17):
Vidyāvantaṅ yashasvantaṅ lakṣmīvantanch māṅ kuru.
Rūpaṅ dehi jayaṅ dehi yasho dehi dviṣo jahi

Translation:
O Devi Durga! Kindly bless me with knowledge, fame, wealth, beauty, victory, glory and let me conquer all my enemies.

* Her worship benefits her devotees from all material angles.
* She is the deliverer from miseries
* She motivates the person to work hard and get a higher position in the terms of material prosperity.
* She blesses her devotees with material psychic powers and siddhis.
* She awards liberation from all sorts of negativities and lack of peace of mind.
* She awards wealth, fame, beauty, recognition, prosperity, progeny, strength and all sorts of bodily comforts.

The secret side of Durga’s worship

Her worship is not limited to material benefits. Although she is the deluding principle of the Supreme Lord and her duty is to punish the souls and keep them astray from the absolute reality on the dint of their free will to enjoy this material world, the intelligent person can get liberation from this material prison house by her grace.

One of the greatest stalwarts Vedic Acharya Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur describes in his commentary.

“The wheel of karma is the instrument of punishment in the material world. The work of purifying these penalised souls is the duty devolved upon her. She is incessantly engaged in discharging the same by the will of Govinda. When, luckily, the forgetfulness of Govinda on the part of imprisoned souls is remarked by them by coming in contact with self-realised souls and their natural aptitude for the loving service of Krishna is aroused, Durga herself then becomes the agency of their deliverance by the will of Govinda. Therefore, one must obtain the guileless grace of Durga, the mistress of this prison house, by propitiating her with the selfless service of Krishna.”

How to please Durga

One of her names is Vaishnavi or Narayani, the great devotee of Lord Hari. She can be easily pleased by worshipping Lord Hari. Other methods to please her easily are:
1. The fasting days of Navratri, which come four times a year.
2. The monthly Durga Ashtami.
3. Offering her the items dear to her like sindoorchunrinariyal, bangles, solah shringar, etc.
4. Reciting Durga Saptashati, Devi Bhagwat Purana, etc.


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