Durga is one of the most Beloved Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. Her worship has continued into current day and culminates every year during Navratri (Nine Nights). It is a nine day festival celebrated around October and is sometimes called Durga Puja as performing puja and fasting are common during Navratri. The festival symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and also includes worship of Lakshmi and Saraswati as aspects of Shakti, Devi. Navratri for 2014 is September 25 – October 3. The date changes every year in deference to the lunar calendar. A reading of the Devi Mahatmya (Glory of the Goddess) is also done at Navratri and throughout the year by Her devotees. Not only is it a hymn/mantra but it also includes stories and is a manual on proper performance of Durga Puja.
Durga is the epitome of Independent Woman. She is fierce, capable, beautiful, and disdains all traditional female roles. Especially in India, it is highly unusual to have such an independent Goddess that refuses to marry, carry out household duties and, instead, is the Battle Queen of the Cosmos. Interestingly, part of Her power is that of maya (illusion or delusion) that allows Her to entice Her enemies and make them think She is helpless. Durga has no children either but on the battlefield, She is known to create Matrkas (Mothers) or other ferocious helpers who are always female. She in unique of all the Shakti Goddesses – She alone does not lend Her power to a male deity, but instead has taken Her initial power at creation from them.
She has also evolved into the Goddess that IS the power of vegetation – literally, Her life force enlivens the entire plant world. At Navratri, She is called the Life-Giver who feeds the hungry of the world. Her power is manifest as the fertility of earth that extends to all creatures. Durga’s ancient form is that of the Goddess VAK or VAC (sanskrit meaning Speech) – Queen of the Gods.
She is depicted with a red sari and She comes from Agni (fire) and, truly, She is the range of colors found in leaping fire. Because of Her close association with Maya, Durga may connect or may be contacted via dreams. Traditional worship of Durga included animal and blood sacrifice. She is the balance of the Terrifying Mother and the Mother who has Endless Love. (excerpt from 52 Goddesses by Kimberly Moore)
Articles on the Goddess Durga
Paralyzing Thouughts and a Prayer to Durga by Kimberly Moore
Resources for the Goddess Durga
Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power by Laura Amazzone
Awakening Shakti – the Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga by Sally Kempton
Shakti Mantras – Tapping into the Great Goddess Energy Within by Thomas Ashley-Farrand
Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses by Dr. David Frawley
Shakti – Realm of the Divine Mother by Vanamali
Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition by David R. Kinsley