The Meaning of “Durga”
In Sanskrit, the meaning of “Durga” means “a place that is difficult to overrun.” It also means “she who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach.” Durga translates into the one who eliminates sufferings. Hindus believe that Mother Durga protects her devotees by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger and ego.
The Many Forms of Mother Durga
Mother Durga has many incarnations: Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Java, Rajeswari, et al. Her nine appellations are Skondamata, Kusumanda, Shailaputri, Kaalratri, Brahmacharini, Maha Gauri, Katayani, Chandraghanta, and Siddhidatri. Mother Durga is also referred to as “Triyambake” meaning the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon), and right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye represents knowledge (fire).
Symbols of Mother Durga
Red Clothes: Mother Durga is always wearing a red saree. The red color symbolizes action and the red clothes signify that Mother Durga is always protecting her devotees from pain and suffering caused by evil forces.
Many Arms: Mother Durga will always have eight or ten arms. These represent eight quadrants or ten directions of Hinduism.
The Lion: The lion represents power, will, and determination. Mother Durga riding the lion shows that she has all of these qualities.
The Weapons: The conch shell which symbolizes “Om” which indicates her closeness to God in the form of sound. The bow and arrow which symbolizes energy and her control of both sides, potential and kinetic. The thunderbolt which signifies firmness which can break anything that it strikes. The devotee should be firm in any challenge they face and never loose confidence. The lotus, which is not fully bloomed, signifies success but not finality. The Sudarshan-Chakra, which spins around her index finger without touching it, signifies that the entire world is subservient to Mother Durga and is at her command. This is used to destroy evil and create a righteous environment. The sword symbolizes knowledge, which has to be sharp as a sword. The trishul is a symbol of three qualities. These three qualities are Satwa (inactivity), Rajas (activity), and Tamas (non-activity). She is also the remover of three types of miseries which are physical, mental, and spiritual.
Miscellaneous: In the form of Parvati, she is known as the divine spouse of Lord Shiva. She is the mother on two sons, Ganesh and Karttikeya, and daughter Jyoti. When demonic forces create an imbalance, all Gods unite creating Shakti or Durga.