Greetings to all my Adbhut friends on the auspicious occasion of Navratri and Dusshera.
This is one of the mandatory posts I do for Dusshera. Ever since I started our blog, I have been sharing stories about this beautiful festival full of myriad hues. In last year’s post, I narrated a beautiful story about the importance of Nama Japa with a podcast. While the podcast didn’t garner much momentum, the story of a bangle seller and his love for Ma Durga remains one of the loved posts, with almost daily clicks on the blog.
As I did the simple sketch of Devi Ma, it undoubtedly gave me tremendous happiness not just as an art creation process but also to feel the divine positivity. However, a zillion questions popped into my mind when browsing the Pinterest pictures of Ma Durga regarding her origin, form, and weapons.
So for this year, I thought of putting together all the aspects of Adi shakti in a concise write-up. Though, I am no authority to do it. I have just collected and compiled all the points from the internet. It is my humble offering at the feet of the universal Mother and seeking her blessings. Celebrating the win of good over evil by meditating on the form and symbolic features of the all-powerful Adi Shakti. Ma Durga is the root cause of creation, sustenance, and annihilation. The name ‘Durga’ means invincible in Sanskrit, one who is the destroyer of poverty, suffering, famine, bad habits, disease, sins, injustice, irreligion, cruelty, and laziness.
As the legend has it, Ma Durga’s form manifested to kill the demon buffalo Mahishasura. Bestowed by a boon from Bhagawan Brahma, Mahishasura became very powerful, created havoc on the earth, and challenged and threatened the very existence of Gods. So to end the autocracies of the demon Mahishasura, Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara trinity, along with other gods of devaloka, came together. All the gods contributed a part of their bodies and aspects to create the ultimate divine power. After gaining energy and weapons from all the gods, she became more powerful than the gods. Thus energized and equipped, Ma Durga started the battle with the Mahishasura and his army, slayed the demon with her trishula, and hence came to be known as Mahishasura Mardini. Ever since we have celebrated these nine days to thank Ma Durga for saving humanity from the evil Mahishasura.
Ma Durga has a unique and powerful portrayal which can be seen in her fierce form.
1) The eight or ten hands of Ma Durga symbolize eight quadrants (चतुर्थांश) or ten directions (दिशा) in Hinduism, suggesting that the divine Mother protects the devotees from all directions.
2) Ma Durga is “Triyambake,” meaning the three-eyed Goddess. Each of these three eyes symbolizes different aspects of the universe. The left eye is symbolic of desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye is knowledge (fire).
3) The lion represents power, will, and determination. Durga riding the lion is representative of the Goddess’s mastery over all these qualities. Devi Durga is depicted as standing on a lion in a fearless pose of “Abhaya Mudra,” signifying assurance of freedom from fear.
Now, when one observes the weapons of Ma Durga, we see that with the supercharged weapons, Ma Durga slays all the demons torturing earth and liberates humble minds from the clutches of evil forces. She is the fire force/energy of creation and life. Each of these weapons has special meaning and significance attached to them. Here is the compilation of weapons of Ma Durga.
- Shankh or Conch Shell: Gifted by aquatic God Varuna, the conch is the symbol of the primordial embryonic sound of cosmos called ‘AUM’ from which the entire creation emerged.
- Sudarshan Chakra: The disc, Lord Vishnu’s gift, symbolizes that Durga is the center of creation and that all the universe revolves around her.
- Kamalam or Lotus: The lotus is the symbol of Brahma and represents wisdom, as well as liberation through knowledge. Durga’s compassion help’s us rise up from our worldly bondage and evil to attain Moksha or liberation. It represents humility and triumph. Just like the lotus growing in the mud, the human mind must strive for spiritual awakening amidst the mud of worldly pleasures.
- Khaḍga or Sword: The sword marks the sharpness of intellect, enjoining humans to use the sense of discrimination to overcome their negativity.
- Dhanush and Iṣu (The bow and arrow): These are the symbols of energy, while the bow represents potential energy, and the arrow represents kinetic energy. Thus suggesting that Maa Durga is in control of all energies of the cosmos.
- The Trishul or the Trident: The trident has three sharp edges meaning that humans are composed of three qualities, namely Tamas (inactivity and lethargic tendency), Rajas (hyperactivity and desires), and Sattva (positivity and purity).
- Mace or the Gada: The Mace urges humans to exhibit loyalty, love, and devotion to Mother Durga.
- Vajra or Thunderbolt: Vajra is Indra’s gift symbolizing firmness of character, determination, and supreme power.
- Parashu or Axe and Club: These two weapons of Durga alternate in representation, symbolizing the powers of Vishwakarma and having the power to destroy and create.
- The snake: Held in the tenth hand, the snake represents consciousness and Shiva’s masculine energy.
The first reference to the figure of the Goddess Devi as the primary deity is found in the Sanskrit text written about the 5th or 6th century CE, called the Markandeya Purana. The Devi Mahatmya forms Chapters 81 through 93 of the Markandeya puraṇa and is also known as Sri Durga Saptashati, Sri Chandi, or Saptashati.
Devi Mahatmyam has seven hundred mantras; hence, it is referred to as Saptashati. It is more popularly known as Sri Chandi because it describes the glory of the Goddess as Chandika, the terrible. Like the god Rudra, the Goddess also has a malevolent form and another benevolent form. In Her fierce form, She destroys the evil demons. Yet in Her destruction, one can see the light of a resplendent regeneration. This resplendent and benevolent form is Her compassionate form as the Mother of the Universe. Among the sacred texts that praise the glory of the Mother, Lalita Sahasranamam and Devi Mahatmyam are the most popular. Both are considered to be highly auspicious and powerful tools of transformation. Both can be recited daily. While Lalita Sahasranamam narrates the conquest of the Goddess over Bhandasura, the Devi Mahatmyam elucidates the triumph of the Goddess over the asuras Madhu-Kaitabha, Mahishasura, and Shumbha-Nishumbha.
Shakti’s formless and immeasurable power can be conceptualized only by her activity as the universe’s creator, sustainer, and destroyer. Accordingly, Shakti is Mahadevi, the Great Goddess, worshiped throughout India in various forms, beneficent and awesome, including the powerful Durga and Kali.
All the mythological narratives are allegories of outer and internal experiences. Outwardly, the asuras symbolize the chaos or adharma that threatens cosmic stability or dharma. Inwardly, they suggest the ego-based ignorance that plagues the human condition. The gods and the all-powerful Devi, in her many aspects, represent light and truth, and their clashes with the asuras symbolize the internal struggles that human beings face daily.
As I said, this write-up resulted from a few questions that popped into my mind while trying to do Devi Ma’s sketch. Because, as I remember, there used to be a lot of Puja of Ghatsthapana for Navaratri and then Saraswati Puja and Ayudha Puja and, of course, loads of yummy food. But I don’t remember all the details of Devi Ma being discussed. Thanks to all the social media, I am learning so many aspects of Devi Ma. And learning and enjoying all the different ways Devi Upasana is done across the cultural tapestry of our Bharat Ma.
On this auspicious day of Dusherra, I surrender all actions and duties to Adi Shakti Jagat Janani Ma Amba Bhavani and pray that she releases us from all fears and protects us, blessing us with peace and happiness.
Happy Vijayadashmi, everyone 🙏
Kalyani S Kakade
25, Ashwina Shukla Paksha, Dashami 2079 Rakshasa, Vikrama Samvata Singapore, 05, October 2022 Wednesday