HistoryEditThe word Shakti means divine energy/force/power, and Durga is the warrior aspect of the Divine Mother/Brahman (Supreme Absolute Godhead).
Durga's feminine power contains the combined energies of all the gods. Each of her weapons was given to her by a different god: Rudra's trishula (trident), Vishnu's Sudarshana Chakra (whirling, sharp edged discus), Indra's thunderbolt, Brahma's kamandalu (water pot), Kubera's gadā (mace), etc.
In Jain Texts, she is referred to as Durga or Kushmaandi devi and is the yakshini of 22nd tirthankar of Lord Neminath or Arishtanemi.
According to a narrative in the Devi Mahatmya story of the Markandeya Purana text, Durga was created as a warrior goddess to fight an asura (an inhuman force/demon) named Mahishasura. Brahma, the Supreme Creator had given Mahishāsura (an ambitious demon who had observed penance) the power not to be defeated by a male or any God. Mahishasura, thus misusing his powers, unleashed a reign of terror on earth, heaven and the nether worlds. He created cosmic disruption and defeated The Gods of Sun, Fire, Earth, Thunder and all other Nature Gods. The Gods felt helpless and went to Brahma, the Creator for help and, with Brahma, then made their way to Vaikuntha—the place where Sri Bhagwaan Vishnu, the cosmic "Man" lay on Ananta Naag. They found Vishnu and, Shiva, the Supreme destroyer and re-creator, discussing the reign of terror of Mahishāsur. Shiva, made a request to all Gods to combine all their Divine Energies and provide it to Parvati.Thus, to save the 3 worlds, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma and all of the Gods (Indra, Varuna, Surya, Agni, Yama, Vishwakarma etc.) emitted beams of fierce Divine Energy from their Bodies. The blinding sea of light spread in all directions of the universe like a supernova and reached Parvati (who was providing her Darshan to a priest Kātyāyan and from this sea of energy evolved the omnipotent Goddess Durga. The Goddess Durga took the name Kaatyaayani from the priest, in whose ashram she appeared. She introduced herself in the language of the Rig-Veda, saying She was the Female aspect (swarup) of the Supreme Brahman (Godhead). Now she had come from their combined energy to fight the demon to save the gods. They did not create her; it was her lila that she emerged thus. The gods were blessed with her compassion.
To combat the evil Mahishasura, she had appeared in a gigantic blinding light that pervaded the skies and covered all the worlds. When Mahishasura challenged Her, Durga, the supreme cosmic energy, roared with laughter, which caused an earthquake which made Mahishasura aware of her powers. The goons and accomplices of Mahishasura attacked Her from all directions, hurling weapons at Her. However, the all-powerful Goddess, armed with lethal weapons of death, proved to be too powerful and severed their weapons along with their heads with Her lethal cosmic weapons. The Goddess thus 'cut' Her way through the army, stunning them with Her fierce light, hurling weapons on the demons, thus severing their bodies. She breathed an army of Divine warriors, who severed the heads of the demons and danced in fury.
Despite that, the terrible Mahishasura rampaged against the Goddess, changing forms many times. At first, he was a buffalo demon, and She defeated him with Her sword. Then he changed forms and became an elephant that tied up the Goddess's vehicle, the mighty and gigantic lion, and began to pull it towards him. The Goddess cut off his trunk with her sword. The omnipotent goddess proclaimed to Mahishasura in a colourful tone —"Roar with delight while you still can, O illiterate demon, because when I will kill you, the Gods themselves will roar with delight."[Devi-Mahatmya] When Mahishasur had half-emerged into his buffalo form, he was paralyzed by the extreme light emitted from the Goddess's body. The Goddess overpowered him with Her mighty trident and then resounded with laughter before cutting Mahishasur's head down with her sword. Durga slew Mahishasur and his accomplices, but actually freed them of their karmic debts and cleansed them of their sins, so that their souls could attain peace- that is the power of Goddess Durga. Hence, Mata Durga is also known as Mahishasurmardini—the slayer of Mahishasur.
The goddess, as Mahishasuramardini, appears quite early in Indian art. The Archaeological Museum in Mathura has several statues on display including a 6-armed Kushana period Mahisasuramardhini that depicts her pressing down the buffalo with her lower hands. A Nagar plaque from the first century BC – first century AD depicts a four-armed Mahishamardhini accompanied by a lion. But it is in the Gupta period that we see the finest representations of Mahishasuramardhini (2-, 4-, 6-, and at Udayagiri, 12-armed). The spear and trident are her most common weapons. A Mamallapuram relief shows the goddess with eight arms riding her lion subduing a buffalo-faced demon (as contrasted with a buffalo demon); a variation also seen at Ellora. In later sculptures (post-seventh century), sculptures show the goddess having decapitated the buffalo demon.
The 16 names of Durga or SRI DURGA SHODASHANAMAVALI according to Brahmavaivarta purana given by Lord Narayana Himself reciting which the four purusharthas can be obtained along with the grace of the goddess. These holy names of the great goddess were revealed by Lord Vishnu Himself and are very powerful when recited on the tritriya day or on Fridays and mitigate all the sufferings of the devotees. Devi Durga’s sixteen names viz. Durga, Narayani, Ishaana, Vishnu Maya, Shiva, Sati, Nitya, Satya, Bhagavati, Saavarni, Sarva Mangala, Ambika, Vaishnavi, Gauri, Parvati and Sanatani. Bhagavan Vishnu annotated the above names:
1) In the word Durga "Durg" means any ostacles/vighnas in spiritual or material life and the shabda ‘aa’ stands for ‘hanta’or demolisher; in other words Durga demolishes Daityas, Maha Vighna, Bhava bandhana, Karma, Shoka, Duhkha, Naraka, Janma / birth, Yamadanda, Maha Bhaya and Atyanta Roga or extreme illnesses.
2)Narayani denotes kirti (fame), teja (radiance), rupa (excellent Form) and guna (characteristics)of The supreme Narayana.
3)Ishaana is Ishaan + ‘aa’; Ishaan indicates ‘Siddhis’and ‘aa’ stands for ‘Provider’.
4)Vishnu Maya refers to the Thick Cover of Maya or illusion created by Bhagavan Vishnu at the time of Creation of the Universe.
5) Shiv+ aa refers to Durga who is bestower of Shiv / ‘Kalyana’or propitiousness. Also she is the consort of Lord Shiva.
6)Sati denotes the Better Half/wife of Lord Shiva, Pativrata or the chaste wife and the epitome of Sadbuddhi / excellent outlook.
7) Durga is Nitya or Everlasting supersoul which resides in the hearts of all living beings as ‘paramatma’.
8)Satya is the Everlasting Truth.
9)Bhagavati denotes the one who is the emblem Bhaga (blessing).Durga can bestow any blessing including the supreme moksha or liberation.
10)Saavarni means the one who provides uniform qualities to all living beings in Srishti from Brahma downward.
11)Sarva Mangala is theEmbodient of Priopitiousness or auspiciousness.
12)Durga is Ambika or the Universal Mother.
13)Vaishnavi is the Shakti or power of Lord Vishnu.
14)Durga is Gauri as she has Goura Varna or the white radiance; also she possesses Parama Shakti; Shiva is her Guru as well as Shri Krishna.
15)She is Parvati or Parvata Raja Putri and the Adhishtaana Devata of ‘Parva’/Festivities. Parvati not only means daughter of parvatas or mountains but being the supreme source of all shaktis it is Parvati who is worshipped during festivals or parvas for any other goddess. Since all goddesses have their origin from parvati if we worship any goddess we are indirectly worshipping parvati or durga.
16)Sanatani denotes ‘Sanaa’ or Sarvada and ‘tani’ or Vidyamaan or the eternal one.
The four-day-long (Saptami to Dashami) Durga Puja is the biggest annual festival in Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Nepal, where it is known as Dashain. It is celebrated likewise with much fervour in various parts of India, especially the Himalayan region, but is celebrated in various forms throughout the Hindu universe.The day of Durga's victory is celebrated as Vijayadashami (Bihar, Bengali), Dashain (Nepali) or Dussehra (Hindi) - these words literally mean "the Victory Tenth" (day). In Kashmir she is worshipped as shaarika (the main temple is in Hari Parbat in Srinagar).
The actual period of the worship however may be on the preceding nine days (Navaratri) followed by the last day called Vijayadashami in North India or five days in Bengal (from the sixth to tenth day of the waxing-moon fortnight). Nine aspects of Durga known as Navadurga are meditated upon, one by one during the nine-day festival by devout Shakti worshippers. In South India especially Andhra Pradesh Dussera Navaratri is also celebrated and the goddess is dressed each day as a different devi like Saraswati, Parvati, Laksmi etc. for the nine days.
In North India, the tenth day, is celebrated as Dussehra, the day Rama emerged victorious in his battle against the demon, Ravana - gigantic straw effigies of Ravana are burnt in designated open spaces (e.g. Delhi's Ram Lila grounds), watched by thousands of families and little children.
In Mysore (which originated from Mahishasooru) in Karnataka, she is worshiped as Chamundeshwari, the patron goddess of the city during Dussehra (Dasara).
In Gujarat it is celebrated as the last day of Navaratri, during which the Garba dance is performed to celebrate the victory of Mahishasura-mardini, Durga.
The Goddess Durga is worshipped in her peaceful form as Maha Gauri, The Fair Lady, Shree Shantadurga also known as Santeri, is the patron Goddess of Goa. She is worshipped by all Goan Hindus.
In Maharashtra, Tulja Bhavani and Ambabai are worshipped as Mahishasur Mardini, who is the patron goddess of the land. Bhavani is known as Tulaja, Amba, Renuka, Yamai Saptshrungi and Jogai in different places of Maharashtra. She is the inspirational goddess of Raja Shivaji. As per legends, Bhavani appeared after Shivaji prayed to her and blessed him to be able to make Hindustan or the then India (ruled by the Mughals) independent - the kingdom he established eventually became the Hindu Pad Padshahi (sometimes also called the Maratha Empire), which comprised all the land ruled by the Mughals and brought India back under Hindu sovereignty.
In Bangladesh also, the four-day long Sharadiya Durga Puja (Bengali: শারদীয়া দুর্গা পুজো, ‘autumnal Durga worship’) is the biggest religious festivals for the Hindus and celebrated across the country with Vijayadashami being a national holiday.
Some early Western accounts refer to a deity known as Deumus, Demus or Deumo. Western (Portuguese) sailors first came face to face with the murti of Deumus at Calicut on the Malabar Coast and they concluded it to be the deity of Calicut. Deumus is sometimes interpreted as an aspect of Durga in Hindu mythology and sometimes as deva.
It is described that the ruler of Calicut (Zamorin) had a murti of Deumus in his temple inside his royal palace.The temple was two paces wide in each of the four sides and three paces high, with a wooden door covered with gods carved in relief. At the centre of the temple, there was a metal idol of Deumus placed in a seat, which was also made of metal.
Western accounts also describe the ruler of Calicut worshiping an ultimate god called Tamerani ("Tamburan"). The accounts also describes a misunderstood form of the "hook-swinging" ritual once commonly performed as part of some popular Hindu religious festivals.