The word “Durga” in Sanskrit means a secure and protected place. Another name for Durga is Durgatinashini, which means “the one who eliminates suffering.” She is told to be a supreme power created with a combination of all the powers of the other gods.
She is depicted as having ten arms. In each of her hands, the goddess wields a different weapon gifted by the gods…
· The conch shell symbolizes Pranava or the word Om. Pranava means “cosmic sound” in Sanskrit.
· The bow and arrows represent energy. By holding both the bow and arrows in one hand, Durga demonstrates her control over energy.
· The thunderbolt signifies firmness in one's convictions, to attack a challenge without losing confidence.
· The Lotus or Pankaj, means "born of mud," a reminder to stay true to spiritual quests amid the worldly mud.
· The beautiful discus, spins around the index finger of the goddess. She uses this to destroy evil and produce an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness.
· The sword symbolizes knowledge, which has the sharpness of a sword.
· The trident or Trishul is a symbol of three qualities and uses these to alleviate physical, mental, and spiritual suffering.
She is depicted as 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. (Found here)
The goddess was created to wage a war on Mahishasura, a king with the head of a buffalo. As legends have it, Brahma (his god) offered him a wish after years of dedication. His wish was that he should not be killed by a "man or animal" on the face of Earth. He desired immortality and Brahma granted him this wish.
The legend continues, Mahishasura, high on the power of immortality, attacked again and again and no one was able to defeat him. That was until, armed like a warrior, goddess Durga rode in on the back of a lion. She stands on her lion in a fearless pose called the Abhaya Mudra (Learn more here) or gesture of no fear. She let out a mighty roar that shook the mountains and created huge waves in the seas. Mahishasura asked his soldiers to find out what was happening. When he heard that a woman was challenging him, he laughed and said, ‘Tell her that I will be happy to marry her.’ Cunningly, he assumed the form of a handsome man and went to woo her. ‘Lovely lady, why do you want to fight like a rough man? Why not marry me, the king of heaven?’ he said in the sweetest tones possible. ‘Throw these weapons aside and come and live like a queen.’ She rejected him firmly.
Goddess Durga then fought Mahishasura over several days during which he kept changing his shape to become different animals to escape her. Finally, she was able to distract him by toying with his desire for her. In this moment, she stabbed him with her trident.
I am in awe at the thought that Durga can be seen as both a nurturing goddess as well as a great battle queen…
Here are some ways you can invite her power and energy into your life…
Pranayama: One of the most powerful practices for connecting with the goddess is to imagine that with each inhalation, you draw in her loving, protecting, empowering energy, and with each exhalation you spread her energy through your body. When you invoke Durga, you may feel her as a heightened energy. Durga’s energy is likely to result in a subtle feeling of greater insight, in a feeling of being supported with strength to carry on during a hard time.
Mudra: Make fists with both hands. Cross thumb under curled index finger on each hand. The Durga mudra simultaneously creates courage and calm.
Mantra: Om Dum Durgayei Namaha invokes the feminine energy that protects from all negative influences.
Here is a youtube video of this beautiful Mantra
Think of a time when you felt "powerful." Was it a time when you discovered some inner or outer strength to reach further than you ever had? A time when you found the courage to try something new?