Warrior Goddess of Protection and inner Strength:
Durga was the deity invoked by Kings for victory in battle and although she is a battle Goddess she is also the inner force that unleashes the power behind spiritual awakening. She is the Shakti that decend into us and ignites the subtle body, beginning a process that can eventually change the way we think, feel, and see ourselves in the world.
The story of Durga is a story about how we are supported and protected when we admit we are powerless over the forces of darkness and take refuge in the higher power. It’s a commentary on the danger of underestimating the feminine.
The Story of Durga:
There once was a dark force of evil who amassed an army of warriors who practiced many austerities to be granted a boon by the God Brahman. After thousands of years of practice they finally petitioned the God for a boon and the God had no choice but to grant it to them. He declared that in battle no man or God would be able to defeat them. So began the reign of evil spreading throughout the earth and cosmos. No God or man could defeat these evil warriors and as a result they were forced into slavery or exiled from their homes.
One day a wise sage pointed out a loop hole in the God Brahman’s gift to the evil warriors. There was no mention of a woman being able to defeat the evil forces. So the God’s climbed to the highest peak of a mountain where the Goddess Durga was waiting for them.
She stood behind a curtain and they begged her to step in and stop the atrocities that were taking place. After a century of singing her praises and worshipping her she finally agrees.
When she emerges from behind her curtain she is a woman whose skin is dark and whose hair is lustrous. Her body is seductive, curvaceous and when you look into her eyes you instantly fall in love with her. Her perfume is erotic but there is an air of untouchability that brings all men to their knees when in her presence. She is riding a the back of a lion.
Down from the mountain she descends. Instantly she is in the Kingdom of evil. as she rides into the palace the soldiers and warriors come out to watch, transfixed by her beauty and think that she has come as a gift to them from the exiled Gods. She is beautiful and seductive in appearance, but her beauty does not serve its normal function, which is to attract a husband. It serves to entice her victims into fatal battle.
She explains to the soldiers that she is a warrior race, and must marry an equal. "In my girlhood I took a silly vow that I would only marry a man strong enough to defeat me in battle". The soldiers fear for her safety and try to persuade her into reason. She holds her ground and they eventually relent but send their weakest man out.
Out of the gates comes a man and instantly she kills him with her light. Still blocked by their egos the soldiers send more warriors who are no match for her. Finally after several rounds of battles and defeat their eyes begin to see more clearly and they realize the loophole in their boon from Brahman but it is too late the army is defeated by her many arms and weapons and Goddesses that emerge from her form.
Finally the evil King her equal emerges. He rides on a buffalo. They exchange words and and over a fierce battle she defeats him. When he lies on the ground breathing his last breath the Goddess Durga fills his being with light. A smile of ecstasy comes over his face and he dissolves into Durga’s body, dying into the mystery. When the ego dissolves, even the most demonic soul comes home, back to the heart of the mother.
As a world protector Durga’s fierceness arises out of her uniquely potent compassion. She is the deity to call upon when you are in deep trouble.
Visualize your own image of Durga. See her strong body, her weapons and her intense gaze. Ask her what are your major obstacles and what it is that you need to let go of or pay attention to? Turn to your heart ask the same questions in your heart. Turn your answers over to the radical power of grace (the love and mercy of the Divine)
The Shadow side of Durga:
The path of the Goddess is all about learning to ride the expansion and contraction until you can recognize her different faces in the ups and downs of your inner journey. You become aware of her subtle hints, the signs that the path is opening up for you, the warning to back off, back down, go deeper or turn to parts of yourself that need more development. Little by little Shakti energy partners with your own efforts and practices to subtly reshape your character and nature. The more you understand the process as the natural expression of the Goddesses acts of revelation and concealment, the more easily you can partner with her unfolding inside you.
For meditations and contemplations on Durga visit Sally Kempton's book "Awakening Shakti"