Durga, also identified as Adi Parashakti, Devi, Shakti, Bhavani,
Parvati, Amba and by numerous other names, is a principal and popular
Hindu goddess. She is the warrior goddess, whose
mythology centers around combating evils and demonic forces that
threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good. She is the
fierce form of the protective mother goddess, willing to unleash her
anger against wrong, violence for liberation and destruction to
Durga is depicted in the
Hindu pantheon as a goddess riding a lion or
tiger, with many arms each carrying a weapon, often defeating
Mahishasura (lit. buffalo demon). She appears in Indian texts as
the wife of god Shiva, as another form of
Parvati or mother
She is a central deity in
Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, where she is
equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman.
One of the most important texts of
Devi Mahatmya, also
called as Durgā Saptashatī, which celebrates
Durga as the Goddess,
declaring her as the Supreme Being and the creator of the
universe. Estimated to have been composed between 400 and
600 CE, this text is considered by Shakta Hindus to be as
important scripture as the Bhagavad Gita. She has a
significant following all over India,
Bangladesh and Nepal,
particularly in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Odisha,
Assam and Bihar.
Durga is revered after spring and autumn
harvests, specially during the festival of Navratri.
1 Etymology and nomenclature
2 History and texts
2.2 European traders and colonial era references
3 Attributes and iconography
4 Worship and festivals
4.3 Other countries
5 In Buddhism
6 In Jainism
7 In Sikhism
8 Outside Indian subcontinent
10 See also
13 External links
Etymology and nomenclature
Part of a series on
God / Highest Reality
God in Hinduism
God and gender
Other major Devas / Devis
Brahma Vaivarta Purana
Shastras and Sutras
Meditation and Charity
Rites of passage
Gurus, saints, philosophers
U. G. Krishnamurti
Ramachandra Dattatrya Ranade
Hinduism by country
Hinduism and Jainism / and Buddhism / and Sikhism / and
Judaism / and Christianity / and Islam
Part of a series on
Scriptures and texts
Philosophy and practices
Festivals and temples
Durga (দুর্গা)(दुर्गा) literally
means "impassable", "inaccessible", "invincible,
unassailable". It is related to the word Durg (दुर्ग)
which means "fortress, something difficult to access, attain or pass".
According to Monier Monier-Williams,
Durga is derived from the roots
dur (difficult) and gam (pass, go through). According to Alain
Durga means "beyond reach".
The word Durga, and related terms appear in the Vedic literature, such
as in the
Rigveda hymns 4.28, 5.34, 8.27, 8.47, 8.93 and 10.127, and
in sections 10.1 and 12.4 of the Atharvaveda.[note 1] A deity
named Durgi appears in section 10.1.7 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka.
While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description
therein lacks the legendary details about her that is found in later
The word is also found in ancient post-Vedic
Sanskrit texts such as in
section 2.451 of the
Mahabharata and section 4.27.16 of the
Ramayana. These usages are in different contexts. For example,
Durg is the name of an
Asura who had become invincible to gods, and
Durga is the goddess who intervenes and slays him.
Durga and its
derivatives are found in sections 4.1.99 and 6.3.63 of the Ashtadhyayi
by Pāṇini, the ancient
Sanskrit grammarian, and in the commentary
Nirukta by Yaska.
Durga as a demon-slaying goddess was likely
well established by the time the classic
Hindu text called Devi
Mahatmya was composed, which scholars variously estimate to between
400 and 600 CE. The
Devi Mahatmya and other mythologies
describe the nature of demonic forces symbolised by Mahishasura as
shape-shifting and adapting in nature, form and strategy to create
difficulties and achieve their evil ends, while
understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn
There are many epithets for
Shaktism and nine appellations:
Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata,
Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. A list of 108 names
that are used to describe her is very popularly in use by eastern
Hindus and is called "Ashtottara Shatanamavali of Goddess Durga".
History and texts
One of the earliest evidence of reverence for
Devi – the feminine
nature of God, appears in chapter 10.125 of the Rig Veda, one of the
scriptures of Hinduism. This hymn is also called the
Devi Suktam hymn
I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first
of those who merit worship.
Thus gods have established me in many
places with many homes to enter and abide in.
Through me alone all eat the food that feeds them, – each man who
sees, breathes, hears the word outspoken.
They know it not, yet I reside in the
essence of the Universe. Hear, one and all, the truth as I declare it.
I, verily, myself announce and utter the word that gods and men alike
I make the man I love exceeding mighty,
make him nourished, a sage, and one who knows Brahman.
I bend the bow for
Rudra [Shiva], that his arrow may strike, and slay
the hater of devotion.
I rouse and order battle for the people,
I created Earth and Heaven and reside as their Inner Controller.
On the world's summit I bring forth sky the Father: my home is in the
waters, in the ocean as Mother.
Thence I pervade all existing creatures,
as their Inner Supreme Self, and manifest them with my body.
I created all worlds at my will, without any higher being, and
permeate and dwell within them.
The eternal and infinite consciousness
is I, it is my greatness dwelling in everything.
Rigveda 10.125.3 – 10.125.8,
Artwork depicting the "Goddess
Durga Slaying the Buffalo demon
Mahishasura" scene of
Devi Mahatmya, is found all over India, Nepal
and southeast Asia. Clockwise from top: 9th-century Kashmir,
13th-century Karnataka, 9th century
Prambanan Indonesia, 2nd-century
Devi's epithets synonymous with
Durga appear in Upanishadic
literature, such as
Kali in verse 1.2.4 of the Mundaka
to about the 5th century BCE. This single mention describes Kali
as "terrible yet swift as thought", very red and smoky colored
manifestation of the divine with a fire-like flickering tongue, before
the text begins presenting its thesis that one must seek
self-knowledge and the knowledge of the eternal Brahman.
Durga, in her various forms, appears as an independent deity in the
Epics period of ancient India, that is the centuries around the start
of the common era. Both
Arjuna characters of the
Mahabharata invoke hymns to Durga. She appears in Harivamsa in the
form of Vishnu's eulogy, and in Pradyumna prayer. Various Puranas
from the early to late 1st millennium CE dedicate chapters of
inconsistent mythologies associated with Durga. Of these, the
Purana and the Devi-
Bhagavata Purana are the most
significant texts on Durga. The
Upanishad and other
Shakta Upanishads, mostly dated to have been composed in or after the
9th century, present the philosophical and mystical speculations
Devi and other epithets, identifying her to be the
same as the
Brahman and Atman (self, soul).
The historian Ramaprasad Chanda stated in 1916 that
Durga evolved over
time in the Indian subcontinent. A primitive form of Durga, according
to Chanda, was the result of "syncretism of a mountain-goddess
worshiped by the dwellers of the
Himalaya and the Vindhyas", a deity
Abhiras conceptualized as a war-goddess.
Durga then transformed
Kali as the personification of the all-destroying time, while
aspects of her emerged as the primordial energy (Adya Sakti)
integrated into the samsara (cycle of rebirths) concept and this idea
was built on the foundation of the Vedic religion, mythology and
Epigraphical evidence indicates that regardless of her origins, Durga
is an ancient goddess. The 6th-century CE inscriptions in early
Siddhamatrika script, such as at the Nagarjuni hill cave during the
Maukhari era, already mention the legend of her victory over
Mahishasura (buffalo-hybrid demon).
European traders and colonial era references
Some early European 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
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.
Attributes and iconography
Left: A sketch of
Durga as buffalo-demon slayer from a 6th century
Hindu temple; Right: in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.
Durga has been a warrior goddess, and she is depicted to express her
martial skills. Her iconography typically resonates with these
attributes, where she rides a lion or a tiger, has between eight
and eighteen hands, each holding a weapon to destroy and
create. She is often shown in the midst of her war with
Mahishasura, the buffalo demon at the time she victoriously kills the
demonic force. Her icon shows her in action, yet her face is calm and
Hindu arts, this tranquil attribute of Durga's face
is traditionally derived from the belief that she is protective and
violent not because of her hatred, egotism or getting pleasure in
violence, but because she acts out of necessity, for the love of the
good, for liberation of those who depend on her, and a mark of the
beginning of soul's journey to creative freedom.
Durga iconography at
Prambanan temple (pre-Islamic Java, Indonesia).
Durga traditionally holds the weapons of various male gods of Hindu
mythology, which they give her to fight the evil forces because they
feel that she is the shakti (energy, power). These include chakra,
conch, bow, arrow, sword, javelin, shield, and a noose. These
weapons are considered symbolic by Shakta Hindus, representing
self-discipline, selfless service to others, self-examination, prayer,
devotion, remembering her mantras, cheerfulness and meditation. Durga
herself is viewed as the "Self" within and the divine mother of all
creation. She has been revered by warriors, blessing their new
Durga iconography has been flexible in the Hindu
traditions, where for example some intellectuals place a pen or other
writing implements in her hand since they consider their stylus as
Archeological discoveries suggest that these iconographic features of
Durga became common throughout
India by about the 4th century CE,
states David Kinsley – a professor of religious studies specializing
Durga iconography in some temples appears as
part of Mahavidyas or Saptamatrkas (seven mothers considered forms o
Durga). Her icons in major
Hindu temples such as in
relief artworks that show scenes from the
Durga appears in
Hindu mythology in numerous forms and names, but
ultimately all these are different aspects and manifestations of one
goddess. She is imagined to be terrifying and destructive when she has
to be, but benevolent and nurturing when she needs to be. While
anthropomorphic icons of her, such as those showing her riding a lion
and holding weapons are common, the
Hindu traditions use aniconic
forms and geometric designs (yantra) to remember and revere what she
Worship and festivals
Durga is worshipped in
Hindu temples across
Nepal by Shakta
Hindus. Her temples, worship and festivals are particularly popular in
eastern and northeastern parts of
Indian subcontinent during Durga
Dashain and Navaratri.
Durga festival images (clockwise from top):
Durga puja pandal in
Kolkata, dancing on Vijayadashami, women smearing each other with
color, and family get together for Dasain in Nepal.
Durga Puja is a major annual festival in Bengal,
Jharkhand and Bihar. It is scheduled per the
Hindu luni-solar calendar in the month of Ashvin, and typically
falls in September or October. The festival is celebrated by
communities by making special colorful images of
Durga out of
clay, recitations of
Devi Mahatmya text, prayers and revelry
for nine days, after which it is taken out in procession with singing
and dancing, then immersed in water. The
Durga puja is an occasion of
major private and public festivities in the eastern and northeastern
states of India.
The day of Durga's victory is celebrated as
Vijayadashami (Bijoya in
Dashain (Nepali) or
Dussehra (in Hindi) – these words
literally mean "the victory on the Tenth (day)".
This festival is an old tradition of Hinduism, though it is unclear
how and in which century the festival began. Surviving manuscripts
from the 14th century provide guidelines for
Durga puja, while
historical records suggest royalty and wealthy families were
Durga puja public festivities since at least the 16th
century. The 11th or 12th century Jainism text Yasatilaka by
Somadeva mentions a festival and annual dates dedicated to a warrior
goddess, celebrated by the king and his armed forces, and the
description mirrors attributes of a
An image of Maa
Durga on display during
Durga Puja in Kolata
The prominence of
Durga puja increased during the
British Raj in
Bengal. After the
Hindu reformists identified
Durga with India,
she became an icon for the Indian independence movement.[citation
In Nepal, the festival dedicated to
Durga is called
spelled as Dasain), which literally means "the ten".
the longest national holiday of Nepal, and is a public holiday in
Sikkim and Bhutan. During Dashain,
Durga is worshipped in ten forms (
Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata,
Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri,
Mahakali and Durga) with one form for
each day in Nepal. The festival includes animal sacrifice in some
communities, as well as the purchase of new clothes and gift giving.
Traditionally, the festival is celebrated over 15 days, the first
nine-day are spent by the faithful by remembering
Durga and her ideas,
the tenth day marks Durga's victory over Mahisura, and the last five
days celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Durga worship with drum beats
A 51-second sample of
Problems playing this file? See media help.
During the first nine days, nine aspects of
Durga known as Navadurga
are meditated upon, one by one during the nine-day festival by devout
Durga Puja also includes the worship of Shiva, who
is Durga's consort, in addition to Lakshmi, Saraswati,
Kartikeya, who are considered to be Durga's children. Some Shaktas
worship Durga's symbolism and presence as Mother Nature. In South
India, especially Andhra Pradesh, Dussera
Navaratri is also celebrated
and the goddess is dressed each day as a different Devi, all
considered equivalent but another aspect of Durga.
In Bangladesh, the four-day-long Sharadiya
Durga Puja is the most
important religious festival for the Hindus and celebrated across the
Vijayadashami being a national holiday. In Sri Lanka,
Durga in the form of Vaishnavi, bearing Vishnu's iconographic
symbolism is celebrated. This tradition has been continued by Sri
The Buddhist goddess
Palden Lhamo shares some attributes of Durga.
According to Hajime Nakamura, over its history, some Buddhist
traditions adopted Vedic and
Hindu ideas and symbols. For example, the
fierce Vajrayana Buddhist meditational deity Yamantaka, also known as
Vajrabhairava, developed from the pre-Buddhist god of death, Yama.
The Tantric traditions of Buddhism included
Durga and developed the
idea further. In Japanese Buddhism, she appears as Butsu-mo
(sometimes called Koti-sri). In Tibet, the goddess
Palden Lhamo is
similar to the protective and fierce Durga.
The Sacciya mata found in major medieval era Jain temples mirrors
Durga, and she has been identified by Jainism scholars to be the same
or sharing a more ancient common lineage. In the Ellora Caves, the
Jain temples feature
Durga with her lion mount. However, she is not
shown as killing the buffalo demon in the Jain cave, but she is
presented as a peaceful deity.
Durga is exalted as the divine in Dasam Granth, a sacred text of
Sikhism that is traditionally attributed to
Guru Gobind Singh.
According to Eleanor Nesbitt, this view has been challenged by Sikhs
who consider Sikhism to be monotheistic, who hold that a feminine form
of Supreme and a reverence for Goddess is "unmistakably of Hindu
Outside Indian subcontinent
Durga in Southeast Asia, from left: 7th/8th century Cambodia,
10/11th century Vietnam, 8th/9th century Indonesia.
Archeological site excavations in Indonesia, particularly on the
island of Java, have yielded numerous statues of Durga. These have
been dated to be from 6th century onwards. Of the numerous early
to mid medieval era
Hindu deity stone statues uncovered on Indonesian
islands, at least 135 statues are of Durga. In parts of Java, she
is known as Loro Jonggrang (literally, "slender maiden").
In Cambodia, during its era of
Durga was popular and
numerous sculpture of her have been found. However, most differ from
the Indian representation in one detail. The Cambodian Durga
iconography shows her standing on top of the cut buffalo demon
Durga statues have been discovered at stone temples and archeological
sites in Vietnam, likely related to Champa or Cham dynasty
Durga is a major goddess in Hinduism, and the inspiration of Durga
Puja – a large annual festival particularly in the eastern and
northeastern states of India. Every village, town and city Goddess is
her form (if not a form of Laxmi).
Durga is celebrated across North
India commonly with the phrase 'Jay Mata Di'. She is worshiped as
Kamakshi in Tamil Nadu. Major cities like
Mumbai (named after Mumba
Devi-a name for Durga) and
Kolkata (from Kalika, a major form of
Durga) are named after her.
One of her devotees was
Ramakrishna who founded
and who was the guru of Swami Vivekananda.
Durga as the mother goddess is the inspiration behind the song Vande
Mataram, sung by Rabindranath Tagore during Indian independence
movement, later the official national song of India.
Durga is present
Indian Nationalism where
Bharat Mata i.e. Mother
India is viewed as
a form of Durga. This is completely secular and keeping in line with
the ancient ideology of
Durga as Mother and protector to Indians. She
is present in pop culture and blockbuster Bollywood movies like Jai
Santoshi Maa. The Indian Army uses phrases like "
Durga Mata ki Jai!"
and "Kaali Mata ki Jai!". Any woman who takes up a cause to fight for
goodness and justice is said to have the spirit of
Hindu mythology portal
Indian religions portal
Loro Jonggrang – Javanese name for Durga
^ It appears in Khila (appendix, supplementary) text to Rigveda
10.127, 4th Adhyaya, per J. Scheftelowitz.
^ In the Shakta tradition of Hinduism, many of the stories about
obstacles and battles have been considered as metaphors for the divine
and demonic within each human being, with liberation being the state
of self-understanding whereby a virtuous nature and society emerging
victorious over the vicious.
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यातां पुरू सहस्रा शर्वा नि
बर्हीत् ॥३॥ –
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Hindu mythology". Encyclopedia Britannica. 2015-02-19.
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