She is both fierce and feminine. She nurtures and she destroys. Such is the image of Goddess Durga, the strongest goddess in Hinduism. In this day and age, Durga is the perfect icon of feminism for modern women. Durga herself is thought to be greater than all the gods and goddesses. Her power comes from within and she protects the cosmos from falling into chaos.
Durga is the personification of feminine energy and power. She is depicted with 10 hands and riding a lion, each holding a special weapon from the gods. With rising misogyny and violence against women in our society, Durga is the one who women and girls should look to for inspiration. We must learn to be just as fierce and fearless as her. We must learn how to fight our enemies and protect ourselves and the ones we love.
Durga is the goddess of war, and in the war against sexism, she shows us the way to liberation. She is invincible and untouched by the constructs of patriarchy. Durga is the breaker of the chains that hold women back from achieving their true potential. In stark contrast to the way society portrays women as belonging to their husbands and partners, Durga remains unchanged no matter who she loves. Goddess Durga is the symbol of all that is sacred and feminine. In Durga, these aspects are adored and worshipped. Whenever a woman tries to assert herself or raise her voice against injustice, society finds a way to silence her, or call her aggressive. Durga encourages us to disregard the societal norms which hamper our progress and freedom.
Durga holds the power to create and destroy; a metaphor for the power of womanhood. Women have the potential to create life and bring another living being into this world. At the same time, women also possess the capability to destroy all that holds them back. Unlike the aggressive masculine nature of certain men, Durga never seeks out war or violence. She is violent and vengeful only when the necessity arises and due to her protective nature. She does not enjoy or revel in violence.
The Goddess Durga also represents motherhood. Through her worship, we pay respect to the sacrifices and struggles of mothers. She symbolizes the protective and nurturing nature of motherhood. Durga is the personification of divine wrath against oppression. She fights for the liberation of the persecuted and paves the way for creation through the destruction of the wicked. She is the embodiment of feminism as the fight against discrimination and oppression of women.
Although feminism has existed for hundreds of years, the Goddess Durga has been a champion of women’s empowerment even before the formation of women’s rights movement. She has encouraged and unshackled women from the chains holding them back for centuries and will continue to do so for years to come.
We can reflect on the Devi Suktam hymn to really know the essence of goddess Durga: ‘I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship. Thus gods have established me in many places with many homes to enter and abide in. Through me alone all eat the food that feeds them, each man who sees, breathes, hears the word outspoken.
They know it not, yet I reside in the essence of the Universe. Hear, one and all, the truth as I declare it. I, verily, myself announce and utter the word that gods and men alike shall welcome. I make the man I love exceedingly mighty, make him nourished, a sage, and one who knows Brahman.’ Here I end with a mantra in honour of Durga ‘Om Dum Durgayei Namaha’. It means “Salutations to the feminine energy that protects from all negative influences.”