Durga – the goddess of power and strength, is perhaps the most important goddess of the Hindus. She is a multi-dimensional Goddess, with many names, many personas, and many facets. As Mahishasuramardini or Shakti, she is the destroyer of evil – with her ten mighty arms carrying lethal weapons she triumphantly slays the demon Mahishasura. As Sati, beloved daughter of King Daksha and Queen Menaka she gives up a kingdom and earns her father’s wrath. As Kali, she turns black as the night and omnipotent, terrible in rage and fury, with just a string of skulls as her garland and her only garb. As Parvati, she is serene, the pretty consort of Lord Shiva by his side in the snowy peaks of the Kailash mountain. She is Bhawani, symbol of life. She is Sati, the object of death. She is Basanti, the heralder of springtime. She is also Amba, Jagadhatri, Tara, Ambika, Annapurna.
The weapons held by Durga are given to her by each of the Gods and symbolize the culmination of all the divine powers in her – Shiva’s trident or ’trishul’, Vishnu’s discus or ‘Sudarshana chakra’, Brahma’s Kamandalu, Indra’s thunderbolt, Kuber’s Ratnahar and other weapons given by different Gods. This also suggested that Durga possesses all the weapons necessary to fight evil. The lotus in Durga’s hand is known as ‘pankaja’ and symbolizes the evolution of spirituality among the evils prevalent in this world. Goddess Durga also holds a conch in one of her hands which is known to produce the sound of ‘Om’, which is equivalent to the sound of God in Hinduism. The lion or tiger represents complete power and determination implying that these virtues are required to obtain victory over evil.
Goddess Durga has been worshipped for time immemorial with mention in certain scriptures like the Vedas. Durga Puja is a festival during which Goddess Durga is worshiped. This festival is very popular in the States of West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Nepal, although the victory of Durga over Mahisasura is also celebrated in other States of India as well. During this festival Goddess Durga is worshipped as the mother of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya.