Durga Puja is widely celebrated starting at the 7th day of Sharad Navaratri till Dussera, across the country. The deity we worship is actually not Durga but MahishasuraMardini , the slayer of the demon Mahishasura.

There has always been a certain confusion between the forms of Durga and Mahishasura Mardini. Mahishasura Mardini is mounted on a Lion whereas Durga is mounted on a Chariot “Ratha Marudha” Who really is Durga? We all know the story of Mahishasura, now let us look at the story of Durga.

As per the Legends in Devi Bhagavata, In the lineage of Hiranyaksha was born a demon named Ruru, who had a very powerful son named Durg. He was very ambitious and power hungry. He knew that he could not get immortality and understood well that the gods drive their strength from the recital of Vedic mantras and the Yagyas or fire sacrifice the sages and Brahmanas perform.  On the advice of Shukracharya, the son of Ruru did great austerity by slowly giving up everything and living only on air. His penance lasted for one thousand years till he appeased  Lord Brahma. The fiery lustre that his body emitted agitated the whole universe, even the gods.

Pleased by his penance when Lord Brahma appeared, Durg smartly asked Lord Brahma to give him the Vedas and let the sages and gods forget Vedas. Lord Brahma bound by his duty to grant boon granted the boon to Drug. From that day onwards daily rituals, fire sacrifices, mantra recital, and all other rites and rituals became extinct. Because gods didn’t get their sacrificial offering they started getting weaker, losing strength to fight the demons they fled from heavens. The earth was struck with great calamities such as drought, famine and the land became barren with no rains. When Yagyas have performed the offering and oblations get transformed to the sun, Indra and Varuna and rains happen. Since no offerings were made, the earth was left without even a drop of water. The wells, lakes, rivers all were dried up. This grave calamity lasted for one hundred years. There was the death of people, cattle and other living beings everywhere, the earth transformed into a graveyard.

Because of his evil deeds, Durg became known as Durgamasur. This evil demon now attacked the heavens and conquered all the three worlds. Gods unable to fight this demon took refuge in the caves of the mountain Sumeru. In their hideout Gods and sages together started worshiping the divine mother goddess Adi Shakti. The gods and sages did penance without food and water and started to glorify Maheshwari with hymns. Being pleased with the prayers Goddess Parvati appeared before them, sages and gods prayed to her to protect the earth of the condition the earth is.

Shrimad Devi Bhagwat

Goddess Parvati immediately created magnificent form having innumerable eyes within Her body that became visible. Her body was of dark blue color, like the color of space. Her were like a blue lotus that expanded, her breast was hard and round, she took two-handed form so beautiful and luminous that nobody had ever seen. The divine goddess then started to shed tears from her eyes seeing the misery of people. Her endless tears flooded the rivers, lakes, and ponds with water. As the earth was blessed with water, trees, plants, medicinal plants, sprung from the earth. The thirst of the beings on earth was quenched.  The gods and sages filled with bliss and glorified the divine ‘Sahasrakshi’ or ‘infinite eyes’ form of the goddess.

Goddess then transformed herself into another beautiful ‘Ashtabhuja’ or ‘eight handed’ form of ‘Shakambari’. In her eight hands goddess held foods like grains, cereals, vegetables, greens, fruits, and other herbs, she wore a beautiful garment. The divine goddess ‘Shakambari’ gave the people vegetables, delicious fruits and roots to eat. Goddess gave the people a sufficient quantity of food, to the cattle she gave grass, and she satisfied the hunger of the earth, until crops, fruits, and vegetables grew. She is known as Shakambari because she gave everyone vegetables and fruits.

Durgamasur now saw that that the gods and people are enjoying the fruits and vegetables given by the goddess, the earth is not tormented anymore. Unable to bear their happiness Dugamasur attacked the gods and people with all his weapons and army.

He took one thousand Aksauhini armies with him. one Aksauhini army equals large army consisting of 21,870 chariots, as many elephants, 65,610 horses, and 109,350 foot and, shooting arrows, he came quickly before Parvati. Goddess Parvati then took ferocious form, equipped with all the weapons and mounted herself on a lion.  Her lion roared thunderously giving a fright to the universe. The great battle began.

The Sun was covered with their incessant hurling of arrows, and the shooters could not shoot accurately on account of the darkness that then prevailed. Then by the collision of the arrows of both the parties, the arrows caught fire and the battlefield again became filled with light. The quarters on all aides resounded with harsh bow sounds and nothing could be heard. At this moment the Dasha Mahavidyas, Nava Durgas, and Sapta Matrikas came out of Devi’s body.

Then other Devis many of which are today worshiped as Grama or Kula Devi appeared, along with Yoginis and Yakshini appeared to join the war. All these Shaktis destroyed the one hundred Aksauhini forces of Durgamasur within ten days. There were rivers of blood flowing with the bloodshed. The whole universe was celebrating this moment by blowing conch shells and playing various musical instruments. On the eleventh day, Durgamasur dressed in red clothes on his waist, red garlands on his neck and anointing his body all over with red sandal paste, and came to fight the goddess.

Now all the Shaktis of Paravati merged into her. The divine goddess then fought the demon for two prahars that is around 6 hours. The goddess shot fifteen arrows at the demon. Her four arrows pierced His four horses, the charioteer was pierced by one arrow; his two eyes were pierced by two arrows; his arms by two arrows, his flag by one arrow and his heart was pierced by five arrows. Durgamasur thus killed by the goddess. All the gods including Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, and sages glorified the divine goddess, The slayer of Durgamasur handed over the Vedas to the sages. She is named Durga because she has killed the wicked demon Durgamasur.

– Mehul Vora