The festival of Navratri celebrates nine nights dedicated to the nine divine forms of Goddess Durga. A Hindu festival symbolizing the triumph of good over evil, Navratri takes place at the beginning of October around harvest time and, as the name implies, is celebrated for nine days. On the tenth day is Dussera which celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. An effigy of Ravana is burnt; often giant dummies of Ravana stuffed with fireworks are shot with arrows until it blows up. Navratri in Gujarat is celebrated with dandiya, and garba-raas.
Goddess Durga symbolizes the divine forces (positive energy) known as divine shakti (feminine energy/ power) that is used against the negative forces of evil and wickedness. She protects her devotees from evil powers and safeguards them. It is believed that Goddess Durga is the combined form of powers of Goddesses Lakshmi, Kali and Saraswati.
It is also believed that Goddess Durga was created by Lord Vishnu as a warrior goddess to protect good people (devas) for fighting the demon, Mahishasur. Her divine shakti contains the combined energies of all the gods in the form of weapons and emblems (mudras).
Goddess Durga represents the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation. The Sanskrit word durga means fort or a place that is protected and thus difficult to reach. Durga, also called Divine Shakti, protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces (negative energy and vices—arrogance, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, greed and selfishness).
Goddess Durga is depicted as a warrior woman with eight hands carrying weapons of different kinds assuming mudras, (symbolic hand gestures) that represent her teachings.
• Chakra in her 1st upper right hand symbolizes dharma (duty/righteousness). We must perform our duty/responsibilities in life.
• Conch in her first upper left hand symbolizes happiness. We must perform our duty happily and cheerfully and not with resentment.
• Sword in her second right lower hand symbolizes eradication of vices. We must learn to discriminate and eradicate our evil qualities.
• Bow and arrow in her second left lower hand symbolizes character like Lord Rama. When we face difficulties in our life we should not lose our character (values).
• Lotus Flower in her third lower left hand symbolizes detachment. We must live in the world without attachment to the external world. Just like the lotus flower stays in dirty water yet smiles and gives its beauty to others. This is the only way to receive Her blessings.
• Club in her third right lower hand is the symbol of Hanuman and symbolizes devotion and surrender. Whatever we do in our life we do with love and devotion and accept the outcome as the Almighty’s will.
• Trident/Trishul in her fourth left lower hand symbolizes courage. We must have courage to eliminate our evil qualities and face the challenges in our life.
• Fourth Lower Right Hand symbolizes forgiveness and Her blessings. We must forgive ourselves and others for mistakes and/or any hurt we may have caused.
Durga Maa is depicted as riding on a lion or a tiger. A tiger symbolizes unlimited power. Durga riding a tiger indicates that She possesses unlimited power and uses it to protect virtue and destroy evil. The lion is a symbol of uncontrolled animalistic tendencies (such as anger, arrogance, selfishness, greed, jealousy, desire to harm others etc.) and Her sitting on it reminds us to control these qualities, so that we are not controlled by them.
She is usually shown wearing a red sari. The color red symbolizes action and the red clothes signify that She is destroying evil and protecting mankind from pain and suffering.
Thus, Goddess Durga symbolizes the Divine forces (positive energy) that is used against the negative forces of evil and wickedness. She represents pure energy (positive), known as divine light or jyoti that is the embodiment of feminine and creative energy.
This month we must pray to Maa Durga, the Universal Mother, asking Her to use Her destructive power to remove the vices within us (anger, selfish desires, greed, ego and undue attachments), imperfections and faults; and purify us to become a receptacle of her Divine Shakti—Anandamayi Shakti.
There are several mantras for Goddess Durga, but the most simple and easy mantra to remember is “Om Sri Durgaya Namah.” It is believed that by chanting this mantra regularly the Divine Mother will remove the physical, mental and worldly problems in life and shower us with her unlimited blessings.
India Currents Magazine Article What Does Goddess Durga Symbolize? By Satya Kalra