WHO IS MA DURGA?
She is the wife of Lord Shiva and exists in various divine (both friendly and fearful) forms. Two of her fierce but very powerful forms are Durga (goddess beyond reach) and Kali (goddess of destruction). Durga has ten hands and great power and energy (Shakti). Durga rides on a lion. The family of Lord Shiva, Durga and their sons Ganesha and Kartikeya, their daughters Lakhsmi and Saraswati is an ideal example of family unity and love. She has a charming personality. She is adored by married women for a happy married life.
THE LEGEND OF MA DURGA
In the ancient times, a demon called 'Mahisha' earned the favour of 'Brahma" after a long meditation. Brahma blessed him with a boon that no man or deity would be able to kill him. The invincible demon, Mahisha, started his reign of terror over the world. A strong army of demons was gathered to siege the abode of the Deities. The army was led by the king Mahishasura, the green skinned demon with the form of a giant buffalo. With its weapons of iron, and its phalanxes of elephants and charioteers the army finally marched on the king of gods, Indra, defeating him. Then, Mahishasura usurped the throne of heaven.
The victory was complete, and all the gods were driven out of the heaven. Routed they went to the trinity of the Supreme Gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to save themselves and the men on the world.
It was Shiva who advised all the devas to release their shaktis (spiritual prowess) locked within their bodies. The shaktis of the gods emerged in female form – Shivani from Shiva, Vaishnavi from Vishnu, Brahmani from Brahma, Aindri from Indra, Kaumari from Kumara. These goddesses fused together in blinding light from which arose a magnificent goddess with many arms.
The gods called this goddess Durga, the invincible one. They armed her with their weapons – Varuna, the sea-god, gave her a rope; Indra, the god-king, gave her a thunderbolt; Vishnu gave her a discus; Kumara gave her a lance; Surya, the sun-god, gave her a bow and arrow; Chandra, the moon-god, gave her an axe; Yama, the god of death, gave her a mace; Brahma gave her a shield; Agni, the fire-god, gave her an axe; Vayu, the wind-god, gave her a conch; Shiva gave her a trident.
Now equipped with the fearsome weaponry and magical powers of the gods, and dressed in golden armor and jewels she set off, seated gracefully upon the lion.
His thunderous roars shook the three worlds. Oceans swelled up to scrape the sky and surf broke over the land. Continents were torn at their granite foundations as whole new chains of mountains rose, while older ranges crumbled, cracked, and gave way to dust in a thousand landslides. Seeing these cataclysmic ripplings in waves through all the three worlds, Mahishasura and his demon allies found their attention drawn from heaven to Earth.
Attracted by her beauty, Mahishasura came to the mountain and proposed marriage. "I will marry only he who defeats me in battle," said Durga. Mahishasura immediately attacked the goddess. She hurled many weapons at the buffalo-demon but each time he rose unscathed.
Surrounded by chants of praise, the blowing of horns the beating of drums and songs of worship by her fellows, Durga roamed the battlefield on her mighty lion. From her divine breath her army was constantly replenished with new warriors, each able, brave and resolute.
Shocked and enraged by the disastrous events on the battlefield. In a mad desperate bid Mahishasura then reverted to his own form, a buffalo, and charged about on the battlefield. In a wild rage he charged at Durga's divine soldiers wounding many, biting others and all the while thrashing with his long, whip-like tail. Durga's lion, angered by the presence of the demon-buffalo, attacked him. While he was thus engaged, Durga threw her noose around his neck.
But through magical spell Mahishasura kept changing his shape and form from one to another so as to puzzle the Devi.
Finally the Goddess beheaded the buffalo and from it emerged Mahishasura in his original form. Mahishasura, immune to the weapons of the gods, succumbed to the touch of her feet. Durga immediately impaled him with her trident and blew her conch in victory.
All the gods saluted this warrior-goddess and celebrated her triumph.
THE BENGALI BELIEF
Daksha, the king of the himalayas and the plains, and his wife, Menoka, had a daughter called Uma. Uma, right from her childhood, started worshipping Shiva as her would be husband. Shiva, being pleased with the worship of Uma, came to marry her. Daksha did not like this tiger-skin clad groom with ash & dirt spread over all of his body. Uma got married to Shiva but was prevented by her father from moving to Kailash, the abode of Shiva. Daksha, later on, arranged for a 'yagna' where everyone except Shiva was invited. Uma, feeling ashamed of the behaviour of her father and shocked by the attitude metted towards her husband, went on fast and finally died. Shiva came to know about this and went to Daksha's house. He lifted the body of Uma on his shoulders and started dancing madly. With the supreme power dancing, the World was on the verge of destruction. Narayana, another SuperGod, came forward as a saviour and used his 'Chakra' to cut the Body of Uma into pieces. Those pieces started falling off from the shoulder of the dancing Shiva into different parts of the World. Shiva was finally pacified when the last piece fell off from his shoulder. Narayana revived Uma for a new life. Daksha, who was extremely sorry about his misdeeds, prayed for mercy and was finally forgiven. The places where the pieces had fallen are known as the 'Shakti Piths' or energy pits, few of these places being Kalighat in Calcutta, Kamakshya near Guwahati among others. Ever since peace was restored, Uma, with her four children, Ganesh, Kartick, Saraswati and Laxmi and with her two 'sakhis' - Jaya and Bijaya, comes to visit her parent's home each year during the season of 'Sharat' or autumn when Durga Puja is celebrated.
(© text collected from various websites)