Durga, one of the many manifestations of Shakti, is a formidable energy invoked to combat negative forces of evil. She is the goddess who is fierce and unrelenting to evil forces but compassionate and protective to her devotees. She embodies power of the Supreme Being to preserve order and righteousness.
Rise of Durga Shakti
Devi Mahatmyam or Glory of the Goddess is a section in the ancient text Markandeya Purana describing how the divine feminine energy manifests in the form of Durga to slay the tenacious demon Mahishasura. Demon king Mahishasura had become all-powerful by virtue of a boon he had earned from lord Shiva -that he will never be killed by a man or a deity. Assuming that he has become invincible, he began to unleash a reign of terror on the earth. He even attacked the Gods, defeated them in a war and banished them from heaven. The Gods approached the Trinity Gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and pleaded them to save the world from tyranny of the demons. Enraged with Mahishasur’s gross abuse of power, the Trinity Gods combined their energy to give birth to a formidable force in the form of a fierce warrior goddess Durga, having ten hands. The Gods endowed the goddess with their divine weapons to strengthen her against Mahishasur.
Slaying of the demon
The warrior Goddess Durga riding on a lion approached to meet her enemy. Being ignorant of his adversary’s strength, Mahishasur sent his army instead to crush the raging goddess. The effortless extermination of his army by a woman shocked and enraged Mahishasur. He decided to confront his enemy head-on. Mahishasur took many forms to counter the fierce attack of the warrior goddess. He turned himself into a demonic buffalo, then into a giant elephant, and later into a ferocious lion but nothing could match the strength and prowess of his opponent. Finally, the goddess pounced on him, grasped his head and pierced his body with her trident and beheaded him. Durga, also called Mahishasur mardini (slayer of Mahishasur) annihilates evil forces in the form of arrogance, selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego.
Origin of Durga Pooja
In Ramayana, the epic written by sage Valmiki, Lord Rama who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu performed Durga Pooja to invoke blessings of the Mother goddess before going to war with demon king Ravana. As it was untimely invocation of the Goddess who is usually worshipped during spring time, this pooja was called ‘Akal Bodhon’. Thereafter, it was this uncustomary time of worship of the goddess in the month of Ashwin (September – October) also known as Sharadiya (Autumnal) Durga Pooja which gained popularity. There are records indicating kings and landlords in the Indian state of West Bengal organizing ceremonial worship of the mother goddess Durga during the British era. Even higher level British officials would join them in the celebration. Gradually, with time the festivities percolated to other sections of the society.
Relevance of Durga
Despite being a religious festival, Durga Pooja celebration touches heart of people across different caste, creed, region and age. Durga is the energy we call upon for strength and courage to fight our inner demons. Our belief and devotion towards her help us connect with the divine Shakti within us. Read our related articles: The Sacred Navratri – Do’s and Don’ts