Symbolism of Goddess Durga
Literally translated, the word ‘Durga’ in Sanskrit means a fort. For her devotees, the word Durga means the Shakti who eliminates all sufferings or ‘Durgatinashini’. The legend is that whenever her devotees needed the Shakti to ward off evil for their lives, Goddess Durga manifested in one of her many forms and vanquished the demons.
Goddess Durga’s image symbolizes power and divinity as well as compassion for her devotees. Her ten arms symbolizes that she protects her devotees from all directions. In some of her forms Goddess is depicted with three eyes, the third being placed in the center of the forehead. The three eyes represent the moon, sun and the third, fire.
Maa Durga is popularly seen holding different weapons in her ten hands along with a lotus flower and conch. Each of the weapons holds special significance. The trishul or trident is symbolic of the three human qualities – Satwa (Inactivity or the ideal state of mind characterized by awareness and purity of thought), Rajas (activity or energy associated with desires, wishes and ambitions) and Tamas (lethargy and stress). In order to attain peace and happiness, there needs to be balance between these three qualities.
The discus or ‘Sudarshana chakra’, which spins around the Goddess’s index finger, denotes that the whole world spins around her and she is commander of all that is happening. These weapons can also be used to destroy evil.
Goddess Durga also holds a sword in her hand, signifying knowledge, as sharp as the blade of the sword that is free from all doubts, depicted by the sheen of the metal sword. The bow and arrows held by the Goddess symbolize energy, both potential (bow) and arrow (kinetic).
The thunderbolt in her hand symbolizes firmness, like that required in convictions. This conveys to the devotees that they need to attack their fears and challenge it with a firmness that is unyielding and full of confidence.
Besides these weapons, the Goddess also holds a conch and lotus flower in her hands. The conch emanated the sound of ‘Om’, the Sound of God which should be the dominant sound at all times. The lotus bud in her hand means that the out of the world of murkiness emerges the truth of life and that her devotees can achieve spiritual awareness amidst all the sins and evils surrounding them.
The ultimate message that Goddess Durga gives her devotees is that armed with the force of righteousness, we can achieve the victory of all the demonic forces inside us and reach spiritual heights to become one with God.