Durga: The Mother Goddess and the Warrior

Durga represented as a woman who rides a tiger, with 10 arms gripping different types of weapons. Durga has, in any case, several places of worship in the East, West, South and the North of India. She is already the patron goddess of Bengal.

Durga or Jagadhatri is the great mother goddess in Indian mythology. She would be the equal of Hera or Juno, as Queen of the Mother Goddesses for the Greeks. Hera was sister and wife of Zeus, who is the equal of Indra. In the post-Vedic age as Indra get downgraded Shiva replaces as Durga's consort. Indra is the God who has suffered a real damage to his image. Priests exalted Vishnu and Shiva and lowered the principles represented by Indra.

Today it is difficult to rebuild the image of the God. We will never know how he was at first, how he got worshiped, with what rites, and how his priests were. We can only make hypotheses and conjectures. Indra, in the beginning, had been the most powerful God of the primeval Aryan pantheon. He was even more powerful than Vishnu and Shiva, who imposed themselves only in the passage of the Vedic era.

Durga is heir to the attributes of the goddess Inanna of Sumeria. Durga corresponds to the Sumerian goddess Inanna, Hurrian Shaushka and Ishtar. Ishtar is a Semitic warrior of Mesopotamian origin. She is popular among Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. In Sumerian Mythology Inanna was the goddess of love, war and protector of the city of Uruk.

With the arrival of the Akkadians Inanna got syncretized with the goddess Ishtar. Inanna had many appearances and shapes. Her qualities as a martial and conquering goddess are prominent than of love and sexual life. Ishtar and Inanna represents the archetype of the Mother Goddess.

Istar was a Mesopotamian goddess and was also revered as a goddess of war and sexual desire. She was the founder of Nineveh and wife of Assur. Ištar's symbol is the eight-pointed star, often depicted on a lion. She is the mistress of the battle, and she throws herself at the mountains. When their name gets called, heaven and earth tremble. Istar, with the help of her sexuality, succeeds where other gods fail. Istar is not a goddess of marriage, nor is she a mother goddess.

For Greek mythology, the functions of maternity (or fertility) were in Hera and Demeter. Juno and Ceres would be their Roman counterparts. They got recreated in the Middle East iconography riding on the back of a lion or a tiger. These two are symbols of the queen's power since prehistoric times.

Durga has other names like Uma, Parvati, Kali, Bhawani, Haimavati, Katyayani, and Ambika. Also, known by Druj or Drauga, Durga slew the Asura Mahisha, who unleashed a reign of terror in his kingdom. Mahishasura wished to marry her but she told him that if he beat her in combat, then he would have what he wanted. Then she killed him, bringing joy to the inhabitants.

In Greek mythology and religion, Era or Hera was one of the most important divinities. She was the patron of marriage, childbirth and the guardian of marital sexuality. Hera was the daughter of Kronos (Shani) and Rhea (Aditi).

In the myths and the cult, archaic customs of the sacred marriage of Hera and Zeus got conserved. The local myth saying Hera born on Samos under a Lygos tree, outside the island was not surpassed. Hera was the legitimate wife and one of the three sisters of Zeus. Once a year she joined with her husband Zeus under a Lygos tree to celebrate her wedding. A bath in the river Imbrasus then renewed her virginity.

The legitimate descendants of this union are Ares, Hebe, Eileithyia, Hephaestus, and Enyo. Ares was the god of war, Hebe was the goddess of youth, Eileithyia was the goddess of births. Hephaestus was a blacksmith god and Enyo was a goddess of war. Hera and Zeus got disgusted to see the ugliness of Hephaestus and drifted him down from the Olympus.

Hephaestus avenged the rejection of her mother by building a magical throne. Once she sat down, it did not allow her to get up. The other gods prayed Hephaestus to return to the Olympus and to release her, but he refused. Then Dionysus made him drunk. He brought him back to the unconscious Olympus, transporting him with a mule. Hephaestus agreed to free Era, but only after he got granted Aphrodite as a wife.

Hera occupied the position of Queen of the Gods. Her equal in Roman mythology was Juno. In the western Mediterranean, the goddess Astarte was often equated with Hera. Her resistance to the conquests of Zeus presents herself as "jealous". It forms the main theme of the literary anecdotes that cut her old cult. Hera got known for her vengeful nature against the lovers and the descendants of Zeus.

It was also against the mortals with whom she crossed. She persecuted his illegitimate children. She was jealous of the fact that Zeus had become the father of Athena without her. Hera spent most of her time plotting revenge against the nymphs seduced by her husband. Paris (Ravana), gained her eternal hatred. He offended her by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful woman. The goddess also had other relationships from which she had some children.

She defended all the old rules of society and female emancipation of Hellenes. She was presumably an inhabitant of Greece before the Hellenes.

Hera had some adaptations from ancient Minoic and Pelasgic cults. Hera and Demeter had many attributes characteristic of the ancient Great Goddess. Hera was better known as the matron goddess, Hera Teleia, but also presided over the marriages. Her archaic association was with cattle, as a Bovine Goddess. She was especially venerated in Euboea.

Hera was the stepmother and enemy of Heracles. When Alcmena was pregnant with Heracles, Hera tried to avoid his birth by tying the legs of Alcmena in knots. Her plans got thwarted by Galanthis, the servant of Alcmena. She told Hera that Alcmena had already brought the child to the world. Having discovered the deception, Galanthis got labeled as a puny witch.

When Heracles was still an infant, Hera sent two snakes to kill him while sleeping in his crib. Heracles strangled a snake with each hand. His nurse found him having fun with their bodies as if they were toys. Then Hera sent gadfly among the cattle, to irritate them and to disperse them. Hera then caused a flood that raised the level of a river so much that Heracles could not ford it with the cattle. Heracles piled stones in the river to make the water shallower. When it arrived at the court of Eurystheus, the cattle got sacrificed to Hera.

Hera got associated with the cuckoo (neelkantha), peacock, cow and the lion. In the archaic period, every goddess of the Aegean area got associated with its "bird". The cuckoo was also associated with Era. It appears in some fragments that tell the legend of the first courtesies of the virgin Era by Zeus. In earliest times, her most important association was that of livestock, as a goddess of herds.

Era, during the Troy War, got deployed by Menelaus (Rama) to bring back Helen (Sita). It was because of her hatred for Paris and Aphrodite.

The day of the killing of Mahishasura by Durga is Vijaya Dashami in eastern and southern India. Dashain is in Nepal and Dussehra in northern India. The real period of worship is during the nine days of Navratri in northern India. It is five days in Bengal from the sixth to the tenth day of the full moon in Ashvin.


Throughout Indian history, she has been one of the most important deities of the region. In several neighboring countries, she merged with local goddesses. She also picked up by syncretism different aspects of Indian goddesses. She is present in several major religious centers. Sometimes she takes various features depending on the location where her cult is.

For this, she illustrates the complexity of the designs, practices and religious exchanges. Many of her aspects are and will remain a topic of discussion. In Kashmir, she is Shaarika with the main temple being in Hari Parbat in Srinagar. As per Ramayana, Rama invoked the goddess Durga during his battle against Ravana.

There are variations in her name across India with more than 100 names prevalent till now. As a major goddess of the Indian pantheon, she often plays the role of a supreme deity.

Another salient feature of her personality is more complex to understand. She has the ability to combine opposites and even cause their reversal and break taboos. Her symbolic role is to be a woman, to embody the image of a female. She is often free of any male guardianship, and the inverse of the standard in a patriarchal society. There was no fixed tradition on family relationships. It was able to vary according to place and time.

She is not associated with a single spouse. In the Indian tradition, her relationship with Shiva is strong. But their relationship is ambiguous. Some texts ascribe children in general to her. They are Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya. But again this relationship is also ambiguous. The animal attributed to Durga is sometimes the lion and sometimes the tiger. Her name means a fortress.

The story of Durga is rich and complex, which determines her personality as much. She is a figure born from the meeting of several goddesses by syncretism. Thereby her personality has all its components and not constitute a coherent whole. Several issues related to history and the formation of her complex personality arise.

The goddess has found an important place in many pantheons. She has assimilated other goddesses present before. She became the only major female figure of the Indian pantheon. She existed for itself without a significant male companion. Her complex history has produced the rich personality of the goddess. She is also in the neighboring people of countries, following similar procedures.

The origin of Durga is impossible to determine with certainty. She occurs in periods for which written documentation is absent. There is poor archaeological documentation to be familiar with the religious universe. She occurs in the specific cultural context of the prehistoric Harappan era.

Whatever her origins, she was the main goddess of India from archaic times. Durga was the first to be able to offer a comprehensive panorama of the Indian religious world. Durga also features in the mythology from the time it begins to be in writing. So there is a set of similar goddesses whose origin dates back to prehistoric times. They may have a common origin. That erupted from the beginning of the historical period in a myriad of local events. Each of this seems present in specific aspects even if it rarely appears in theology.

This has not prevented the emergence of a goddess without a local base. She appears in religious literature as a single figure. She has a complex personality but not without consistency. Anyway, her supremacy gain in the following centuries. Durga is not only the main goddess of India, but she became the goddess par excellence. She obscured most of the other female figures of the pantheon.

This contrasts with another fact of the other major goddesses of the Indian pantheon. Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Manasa, Ganga, etc. saw their role declined. Durga, which was already the largest, remained the only female figure in the pantheon. She took a leading role along with, to a lesser extent, Kali. She became the embodiment of the goddess in the Indian mythological tradition.

Literature would then reinterpret objects related to the sexuality. This is relating to this aspect of her cult. But this is still debated. Durga is not a goddess of marriage, nor is a mother goddess. Durga becomes a divinity related to the margins, with a subversive potential. There are the passions and reflect the exalted temperament of the goddess. Several myths are as capricious, or more generally disruptive of the established order.



The aspects of Durga and her disruptive nature caught the attention of researchers. They have attempted to better characterize how it coexists. Durga is also a goddess of marginality, not valued for her role as wife or mother. The cult of Durga also seems to refer to his abnormality. The confusion flows into the established order, with a carnival aspect. It involves the characters and remains less understood by modern scholars.

The androgyny of Durga transcends genres, being female and male. Both reflect its ability to bring in it as well as the fact that it is sometimes a factor order. Sometimes it is a disruptive factor or a guarantor of social convention.

Giving a general interpretation of Durga, she is the image of a free woman. She is a feminine ideal that accompanies the course of a lifetime, to the exclusion of birth and death. The exhibition allows expelling completely free woman equal to man.

Durga is a woman, so different than others in Indian patriarchal society. She represents the essence of femininity and is the quintessential symbol. She has the ability to destroy the social order but also allows to trace the limits.

There was a richness of the figure of Durga. Her status among other major figures almost male, have made her a favorite character. She has the imagination of mythopoetic overflowing personality. She appears as a primary or secondary character in many mythological narratives. She is also in hymns and prayers sung by the devotees, the first being kings.

Durga has many places of worship in different countries of the world. The question arises to what extent these deities were a manifestation of the same deity. But so far we do not see the difference in the theology of these variants. Or at least incarnations of a specific aspect of the Goddess as there may be. And who also have dedicated places of worship.

These deities reflect the complexity of the history of Durga. Of how the worship spread, often taking up where other similar deities existed. The latest evidence of the existence of Durga seems to be in the inscriptions of the Mauryan period.

Durga like many other ancient goddesses exercised an obvious fascination. This link to the traits of the eastern woman in the Western imagination.

In South India, Durga is also associated to Dravidian Korravai. She is the mother of Murugan. People adore her as the female mountain warrior. People sacrificed buffalo in her honour. She is also known in Sanskrit as Uma.