Legend of Navratri

By India Guide

Shakti, the mother goddess around whom the celebration of Durga Puja and Navratri have evolved, has many forms or roop. In song, dance and prayer, many names of the Mother Goddess are mentioned. Each name has a distinct identity and myth. The form in which Durga is worshipped in the annual festival is related to the myth of Mahishasura, the buffalo demon.

One day the demon Rambha laid eyes on a demoness named Mahismati, cursed to live out her life as a she-buffalo, and fell in love. Through their union, they gave birth to Mahishasura, who possessed the powers to transmorph between man and buffalo.

When Mahishasura grew up, he undertook a severe penance to please Shiva, the God of destruction. Impressed by the demon’s devotion, Shiva granted him powers of immortality with the exception that a woman could cause his downfall. Mahishasura arrogantly laughed at the absurd idea of a woman overpowering him and immediately began his reign of terror. He killed without mercy and after conquering the entire earth, he set his eyes upon Indraloka, the heavenly abode of the Gods.

The demon king led his army into Indraloka and defeated Indra, the King of demigods. Humiliated and defeated, the demigods sought refuge under the hands of Brahma, the God of Creation. He escorted them to the remaining members of the trinity, Vishnu and Shiva. Shiva, who has been in deep meditation and oblivious to the havoc taking place in the material world, was deeply angered by Mahishasura’s abuse of power. The trinity combined their energies and created a divine goddess, both exquisite and invincible. The other gods also helped in the creation of the Goddess by bestowing her with their best qualities. The result was astounding. The form a female deity stepped out of the light and was aptly named Shakti (Divine Energy). Her warrior form came to be known as Durga.

Vishnu granted Durga the power of ten deities symbolized by her ten arms and the weapons held in each, which included Indra’s vajra, Shiva’s trishul, Vishnu’s sudarshan chakra. She also carried  the God of Wind’s conch and the God of Fire’s spear. Yama, the God of Death, presented her with his iron rod, a sword and shield. Vishwakarma, the God of Architecture, gifted her with an axe and armor. The God of Mountains, Himavat, gifted her with jewels and a lion to ride on. The Goddess was given an abundance of enchanting gifts, new clothing, and a garland of immortal lotuses. Durga, adorned in jewels and a golden armor and armed with the terrifying weapons of the Gods, was ready to engage in battle with vicious Mahishasura.

When news of Durga’s exquisite beauty reached Mahishasura, he sent her a proposal for marriage. The Goddess replied that she would marry him only if he could defeat her in a battle first. Durga had captured the full attention of the mighty Mahishasura and his demon army.

As the battle commenced on Earth, Mahishasura`s soldiers were struck down effortlessly by Durga.  Her breath would replenish her armies, bringing back to life all of her soldiers who fell. The demons were in disorder and were easily defeated and captured.  Mahishasura was infuriated by the catastrophic events on the battlefield. He assumed the form of a demonic buffalo and charged at the divine army of Durga, killing many with his mighty tail. Durga`s lion pounced on the demon-buffalo and engaged him in a battle. While he was occupied, Durga threw her noose around his neck.

Mahishasura then took on the form of a lion and when Durga beheaded the lion, Mahishasura escaped in the form of a man. He was soon attacked by a torrent of arrows from Durga. The demon escaped once more by transforming into a huge elephant. He battered Durga`s lion with a tusk but Durga hacked the tusk into pieces with her sword.

Mahishasura turned into a wild buffalo once more and hid himself in the high mountains, from where he hurled boulders at Durga. Finally, the invincible Goddess ambushed Mahishasura, forcing him to the ground with her left leg.

She clenched his head in one hand, pierced him with her sharp trident held in another, and with another of her ten hands she exerted her sword, beheading him. At last he fell dead, and the scattered few survivors of his once indomitable army fled in horror. Thus Durga was given the name Mahishasuramardini, the slayer of Mahishasura. 

The battle went on for nine days and nights before Durga defeated Mahishasura on the tenth day. In Gujarat these nine nights are celebrated as Navratri, while the tenth day is observed as Vijayadashami or Dussera, the day that brought the triumph of good over evil.





Posted on: Oct 11, 2011


  • Willie

    Whoeevr wrote this, you know how to make a good article.

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