Durga Mahisasuramardini.JPG
Durga as Mahishasura-Mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon
AffiliationAdi-Parashakti, Sati, Parvati, Ambika, Katyayani, Kaushiki, Tridevi, Vaishno Devi, Bhagavati
WeaponChakra (discus), Shankha (conch shell), Trishula (Trident), Gada (mace), Bow and Arrow, Khanda (sword) and Shield, Ghanta (bell)
MountTiger or Lion[1][2]
FestivalsDurga Puja, Durga Ashtami, Navratri, Vijayadashami
Personal information
ChildrenKartikeya, Ganesha, Ashok Sundari

Durga (Sanskrit: दुर्गा, IAST: Durgā), identified as Adi Parashakti, is a principal and popular form of the Hindu Goddess.[4][5][6] She is a goddess of war, the warrior form of Parvati, whose mythology centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity, and Dharma the power of good over evil.[5][7] Durga is also a fierce form of the protective mother goddess, who unleashes her divine wrath against the wicked for the liberation of the oppressed, and entails destruction to empower creation.[8]

Durga is depicted in the Hindu pantheon as a Goddess riding a lion or tiger, with many arms each carrying a weapon,[2] often defeating Mahishasura (lit. buffalo demon).[9][10][11]The three principal forms of Durga worshiped are Maha Durga, Chandika and Aparajita. Of these, Chandika has two forms called Chandi who is of the combined power and form of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati and of Chamunda who is a form of Kali created by the goddess for killing demons Chanda and Munda. Maha Durga has three forms: Ugrachanda, Bhadrakali and Katyayani.[12][13] Bhadrakali Durga is also worshiped in the form of her nine epithets called Navadurga.

She is a central deity in Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, where she is equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman.[14][7] One of the most important texts of Shaktism is Devi Mahatmya, also known as Durgā Saptashatī or Chandi patha, which celebrates Durga as the goddess, declaring her as the supreme being and the creator of the universe.[15][16][17] Estimated to have been composed between 400 and 600 CE,[18][19][20] this text is considered by Shakta Hindus to be as important a scripture as the Bhagavad Gita.[21][22] She has a significant following all over India, Bangladesh and Nepal, particularly in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar. Durga is revered after spring and autumn harvests, specially during the festival of Navratri.[23][24]

Etymology and nomenclature

The word Durga (दुर्गा) literally means "impassable",[23] [4] "invincible, unassailable".[25] It is related to the word Durg (दुर्ग) which means "fortress, something difficult to defeat or pass". According to Monier Monier-Williams, Durga is derived from the roots dur (difficult) and gam (pass, go through).[26] According to Alain Daniélou, Durga means "beyond defeat".[27]

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.[26][28][note 1] A deity named Durgi appears in section 10.1.7 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka.[26] While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks the legendary details about her that is found in later Hindu literature.[30]

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.[26] 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 of Nirukta by Yaska.[26] 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.[18][19][31] 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 Durga calmly understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn goals.[32][33][note 2]

There are many epithets for Durga in Shaktism and her nine appellations are (Navadurga): Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. A list of 108 names of the goddess are recited in order to worship her and is popularly known as the "Ashtottarshat Namavali of Goddess Durga".

Other meanings may include: "the one who cannot be accessed easily",[26] "the undefeatable goddess".[27]

One famous shloka states the definition and origin of the term 'Durga': "Durge durgati nashini", meaning Durga is the one who destroys all distress.[citation needed]