The Mother Goddess & Her Symbolism
From Shri Gyan Rajhans
Goddess Durga is the mother of the universe and believed to be the
power behind the work of creation, preservation, and destruction of
the world. Since time immemorial she has been worshipped as the
supreme power of the Supreme Being and has been mentioned in many
scriptures – Yajur Veda, Vajasaneyi Samhita and Taittareya Brahman.
The Meaning of “Durga”
The word “Durga” in Sanskrit means a fort, or a place which is
difficult to overrun. Another meaning of “Durga” is “Durgatinashini,”
which literally translates into “the one who eliminates sufferings.”
Thus, Hindus believe that goddess Durga protects her devotees from
the evils of the world and at the same time removes their miseries.
The Many Forms of Durga
There are many incarnations of Durga: Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani,
Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Java, Rajeswari, et al. Durga
incarnated as the united power of all divine beings, who offered her
the required physical attributes and weapons to kill the
demon “Mahishasur”. Her nine appellations are Skondamata, Kusumanda,
Shailaputri, Kaalratri, Brahmacharini, Maha Gauri, Katyayani,
Chandraghanta and Siddhidatri.
Durga’s Many Arms
Durga is depicted as having eight or ten hands. These represent eight
quadrants or ten directions in Hinduism. This suggests that she
protects the devotees from all directions.
Durga’s Three Eyes
Like Shiva, Mother Durga is also referred to as “Triyambake” meaning
the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon),
the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye
Durga’s Vehicle – the Lion
The lion represents power, will and determination. Mother Durga
riding the lion symbolises her mastery over all these qualities. This
suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities
to get over the demon of ego.
Durga’s Many Weapons
The conch shell in Durga’s hand symbolizes the ‘Pranava’ or the
mystic word ‘Om’, which indicates her holding on to God in the form
The bow and arrows represent energy. By holding both the bow and
arrows in one hand “Mother Durga” is indicating her control over both
aspects of energy – potential and kinetic.
The thunderbolt signifies firmness. The devotee of Durga must be firm
like thunderbolt in one’s convictions. Like the thunderbolt that can
break anything against which it strikes, without being affected
itself, the devotee needs to attack a challenge without losing his
The lotus in Durga’s hand is not in fully bloomed, It symbolizing
certainty of success but not finality. The lotus in Sanskrit is
called “pankaja” which means born of mud. Thus, lotus stands for the
continuous evolution of the spiritual quality of devotees amidst the
worldly mud of lust and greed.
The “Sudarshan-Chakra” or beautiful discus, which spins around the
index finger of the Goddess, while not touching it, signifies that
the entire world is subservient to the will of Durga and is at her
command. She uses this unfailing weapon to destroy evil and produce
an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness.
The sword that Durga holds in one of her hands symbolizes knowledge,
which has the sharpness of a sword. Knowledge which is free from all
doubts, is symbolized by the shine of the sword.
Durga’s trident or “trishul” is a symbol of three qualities – Satwa
(inactivity), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (non-activity) – and she is
remover of all the three types of miseries – physical, mental and
Devi Durga stands on a lion in a fearless pose of “Abhay Mudra”,
signifying assurance of freedom from fear. The universal mother seems
to be saying to all her devotees: “Surrender all actions and duties
onto me and I shall release thee from all fears”.