Durga Puja 2019 History: This Durga Puja, tell your child about the birth of Goddess Durga, her many incarnations and stories of her strength.
Goddess Durga was created to combat the evil demon Mahishasura. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came together to create a powerful female form with ten arms.
When Durga emerged from the waters of the holy Ganga as a spirit, she was given a physical form by all the gods put together. Her face was created by Lord Shiva and her torso crafted by Indra. Her breasts were made by Chandra and her teeth by Brahma. The lower part of her body was made by Bhudevi, Varuna sculpted her thighs and knees, and Agni created the Goddess’s eyes. Thus she was a supreme power created with a combination of the powers of all the other gods. So was born Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’, the Great Mother of the Universe, who ensures creation, preservation and destruction of evil forces in the universe.
Then the gods gifted her their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess rode into battle on a lion. After a fierce combat, Durga finally slew the demon king with her trident. Heaven and earth rejoiced at her victory and peace was once again restored to the three worlds. The word ‘Durga’ in Sanskrit means a fort, or a secure and protected place. Another name for Durga is Durgatinashini which means ‘the one who eliminates suffering’. Her name thus indicates her role as the one who protects her devotees and removes evil from the world.
There are numerous incarnations of Durga including Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Java, Meenakshi and Kamakshi, among others. Durga is the incarnation as the all-powerful one with the combined power of all the divine beings.
Durga is depicted as having ten arms. These represent the ten directions in Hinduism; she protects her devotees in all directions. In each of her hands, the goddess wields a different weapon gifted by the gods for her to fight against evil beings such as Mahishasura. In one hand she holds the conch-shell gifted to her by Varuna, God of the Sea. In two other hands she holds the bow and the arrow given to her 104 by Vayu, the Wind God. In another hand she holds the thunderbolt of Indra, which can destroy anything it strikes without being affected. In yet another hand she holds the lotus, a symbol of spirituality and steadfastness. In another hand she holds the sudarshan chakra, or the discus of Vishnu, which can destroy evil forces no matter how powerful they are. In her other hands she carries a longsword, and Brahma’s kamandalu or a pot to carry holy water in. In her forearms she carries Shiva’s all-powerful trident which is the weapon that provides the final death blow to Mahishasura.
Like Shiva, Mother Durga is also referred to as Triyambake, meaning the three-eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire and has the peace and calmness of the moon; the right eye represents action and holds the power of the sun; and the central eye is the all-knowing eye with the ability to burn with its power of fire.
The Mother Goddess as a symbol of unrivalled power has one of the most impressive vahanas or vehicles. Often depicted as a lion or lioness, this animal is strength and power personified and the undisputed ruler of the jungle. The lion is thus the perfect vehicle for the awe-inspiring and all-powerful goddess. Durga stands on her lion in a fearless pose called the Abhaya Mudra or gesture of no fear, which is a sight that can fill any demon with utmost dread.
(Excerpted with permission from Hachette India from Celebrate!: Dussehra & Durga Puja. Paperback Rs. 195.)