The word ‘Durga’ in Sanskrit means ‘She who is insurmountable or incomprehensible’. Durga is a form of Shakti, the consort of Lord Shiva. However, unlike Sati or Parvati (other names of Shakti) she has a terrifying aspect as well. She protects the virtuous and destroys the wicked. This makes Durga different from other Goddesses like Lakshmi, Parvati or Saraswati. They only bestow blessings. They don’t wage war on the wicked. Durga does that. Actually, the very purpose of her existence is to punish the wicked.
For Hindus, Durga is the Mother Goddess. She is the ultimate symbol of female energy and dynamism. In fact, she is regarded as the Supreme Power. She is thought to be more powerful than even the three Gods of the Hindu Trinity. She is the Shakti (power) behind Shiva. Durga killed the mighty demon Mahishasur and restored peace and balance in the universe.
Durga has numerous names and each name denotes a certain aspect of the Goddess. Some of her very popular names include Parvati, Sati, Ambika, Chamundeswari and Kali. In the form of Parvati she is the consort of Lord Shiva and the mother of Lord Ganesha and Karthikeya.
Durga Puja is the main component of Navaratri celebrations in most parts of India. The other two Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswathi are also given equal importance. Actually, the first three days are meant for the worship of Durga. The next three days are for the worship of Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth and prosperity) and the last three days are meant for the worship of Saraswati (the Goddess of learning). In Bengal, the land of Durga worshipers, Navaratri means Durga Puja. She is the supreme deity for Bengalis and the whole state plunges into a religious fervor during these ten days. In Bengal the last five days of the festival are the most important.
Durga has endless forms. She is usually depicted as a powerful Goddess with ten arms holding Sword, Conch, Discus, Rosary, Bell, Winecup, Shielf, Bow, Arrow, and Spear. Durga rides a lion (Simha in most Indian languages) and wears royal red. Her name Simhavahini came from this.
Goddess Durga exists eternally. She inhabits the hearts of her ecstatic devotees for whom she is their loving mother. As Shakti (power), she nurtures the whole universe. She is also regarded as the subtle spiritual energy called Kundalini. According to Hindu scriptures there are seven centers of awareness in the human body. By awakening Kundalini through the practice of Yoga and meditation one can experience the higher realm of existence.