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Who is Goddess Durgā?

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Who is Goddess Durgā?

Brahma Samhita 5.44 explains that Goddess Durga is the “creating, preserving and destroying agency” of this material world. But she does not act independently, she does everything as per the wish of Lord Krishna.  Durgādevī is also known as Māyādevī, the illusory energy of Lord Krishna. In this world she appears as the daughter of Yashoda. Thus, she is a sister of Krishna.

“The external potency Māyā who is of the nature of the shadow of the cit potency, is worshiped by all people as Durgā, the creating, preserving and destroying agency of this mundane world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda in accordance with whose will Durgā conducts herself.” Brahma Samhita 5.44

Characteristics of Goddess Durga

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura describes following characteristics of Goddess Durga in Brahma Samhita 5.44 purport.

  • The world, in which Brahmā takes his stand and hymns the Lord of Goloka, is Devī-dhāma consisting of the fourteen worlds and Durgā is its presiding deity.
  • She is ten-armed, representing the tenfold fruitive activities.
  • She rides on the lion, representing her heroic prowess.
  • Durgā tramples down Mahīṣāsura, representing the subduer of vices.
  • She is the mother of two sons, Kārttikeya and Gaṇeśa, representing beauty and success.
  • Goddess Durga is placed between Lakṣmī and Sarasvatī, representing mundane opulence and mundane knowledge.
  • She is armed with the twenty weapons, representing the various pious activities enjoined by the Vedas for suppression of vices.
  • And she holds the snake, representing the beauty of destructive time.

Why does Goddess Durga come to this material world?

In this material world which is described as “fort”, Durgā plays an important role. “Fort” in Sanskrit means Durga.  And Durgā Devi is the presiding deity of this fort (durga) which is like a prison house. To protect this fort, she carries ten different types of weapons in her hands. So, no one can escape from this fort no matter how powerful he may be.

Krishna confirms this in Bhagavad Gita 7.14, daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī/mama māyā duratyayā. “This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome.” 

Different names of Goddess Durgā

Durgā Devi is the external potency of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this world she is worshipped in different places by different names.  Srimad Bhagavatam 10.2.11-12 says the following things about Durgā Devi:

“Lord Kṛṣṇa blessed Māyādevī by saying: In different places on the surface of the earth, people will give you different names, such as Durgā, Bhadrakālī, Vijayā, Vaiṣṇavī, Kumudā, Caṇḍikā, Kṛṣṇā, Mādhavī, Kanyakā, Māyā, Nārāyaṇī, Īśānī, Śāradā and Ambikā.”

Who comes to this material world?

People like us who have forgotten our service to Krishna are sent to this prison, fort.  And here, we the souls are bound in gross and subtle material body.  Gross body comprises of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Subtle body consists of mind, intelligence and false ego.

So, in this mundane world we do not have full freedom and the material pleasure which we get here is always contaminated by pain.

Three types of sufferings in this world

In a prison, the prisoners are punished for different crimes. A prison cannot expect comfortable life confined in a cell. So, we see that in this world we constantly experience different kinds of sufferings. Scriptures explain three different types of suffering we undergo in this mundane world.

  • adhidaivika-klesa: Sufferings caused by the higher powers like the demigods.
  • adhibhautika-klesa:  Sufferings caused because of other living beings
  • adhyatmika-klesa : Sufferings because of one’s own body and mind

These punishments which we get here is to remind us that this is not our permanent home, and no amount of material comforts can free us from miseries. Through these punishments Durgā Devi wants to reform us, the prisoners.

Regarding Durgā Devi’s activities in this world, Srila Prabhupada explains, “She is Vaiṣṇavī. She is a great devotee of Kṛṣṇa. But she has accepted a thankless task: to punish. The policeman is a sincere government servant, but he has accepted a task, nobody likes him. If some policeman comes here, immediately you shall feel disturbed. But he is the sincere servant of government. That is the position of Māyā. Her business is to punish these rascals who have come to enjoy here. You see? But she is a sincere servant of God.”

Goddess Durga fulfils material desires reluctantly

But in spite of so much suffering you and I still want to enjoy this world. Most of the people due to ignorance believe that with the help of material wealth they can live happily here. So, they seek material benedictions like wealth, property, worthy progeny, beautiful spouse, good health from Goddess Durgā.  Goddess Durgā can fulfil material desires.

“By sacrifices of animals, ordinary human beings will worship you gorgeously, with various paraphernalia, because you are supreme in fulfilling the material desires of everyone.” Srimad Bhagavatam 10.2.10

Although she fulfils these desires, but she does it reluctantly. Because she knows that in this world which comprises of 14 planetary systems no one can be permanently happy. Death which is the supremely reality of the material world snatches away everything from us. So, she wants us to go back to Krishna and live in Krishna’s kingdom, Goloka Vrindavan, where everything is eternal including our life.

When does Goddess Durgā becomes happy?

She becomes happy when she sees a soul trying his best to become a devotee of Krishna. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura explains, “The work of purifying these penalized jīvas is the duty devolved upon Durgā. She is incessantly engaged in discharging the same by the will of Govinda. When, luckily. the forgetfulness of Govinda on the part of imprisoned jīvas is remarked by them by coming in contact with self-realized souls and their natural aptitude for the loving service of Kṛṣṇa is aroused, Durgā herself then becomes the agency of their deliverance by the will of Govinda.” Śrī Brahma-Saṁhitā 5.44 Purport

Goddess Durgā, the sister of Krishna, comes to this world to make us a devotee of Krishna. So let us not pray to her for material wealth. But let us beg her for spiritual wealth. Let us pray to her to remove all material desires from our hearts and make us a devotee of her beloved Krishna.

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