Thursday, 24 October 2013

How many arms does maa Durga have and why?

Question: Durga ke kitne hath(hands) hai or kyu?Mohammad Shahnawaz, Muzaffarnagar
A: Before coming to the question, let me explain some basics. 
According to Sanatan Dharma, Durga(Shakthi) is known as the Mother of the Cosmos with infinite power to protect her devotees from all kinds of destructive forces. Actually, Shiva and Shakti are one and the same - both are manifestations of the all-in-one divine consciousness. SHIVA symbolises consciousness. SHAKTI symbolizes the activating power and energy.
Shiva - Shakthi
Whenever a power becomes active, and wherever energy exists, Shakti is working. Other terms for these primal principles are PURUSHA and PRAKRITI; Purusha is consciousness and Prakriti is nature. Īshwara is the omnipresent, eternal, formless divine principle; Purusha is the Ātmā and Prakriti is the manifestation, nature. 
Analogy:An electric light can be used to explain their relationship. The electric current, which is the source of the light, is Īshwara; the light is Purusha, and the object that is illuminated is Prakriti.
Maa Durga has many names like Sati, Parvati, Gauri, Ambika, Amba, Shakti, Bhavani, Bhadrakali and Kalika and symbolises  Mahamaya, Maha meaning Great and Maya meaning 'that which is not absolute truth'.  The Cosmic manifestation is interpreted as Maya or illusion of the entire universe or all that is created and that is not easily understood by mortals. The combined creative energies of Consciousness (Shiva) with the supreme truth praised as Shakti (Power) Devi Durga, in Sanatan Dharma, have been given a feminine attribute due to its creative aspect and is extended to it and hence the power or energy is worshipped in a female form, a Mother who is responsible for the entire Srishthi or Cosmic creation.

The Meaning of "Durga"

The word "Durga" in Sanskrit means "Durgatinashini," 'She who is the remover of all Tamasic tendencies & one who destroys all evils & is invincible' & therefore Goddess Durga is popularly known as Mahishasura Mardini, the destroyer of Mahish Asura the Buffalo Demon(buffalo being symbol of Tamas).

Durga's Many Arms

Durga is shown with multiple arms to carry multiple weapons. See their meaning below:

Durga's Many Weapons

  • The conch shell in Durga's hand symbolizes the 'Pranava' or the mystic word 'Om', which indicates her holding on to God in the form of sound.
  • The bow and arrows represent energy. By holding both the bow and arrows in one hand "Mother Durga" is indicating her control over both aspects of energy - potential and kinetic.
  • The thunderbolt signifies firmness. The devotee of Durga must be firm like thunderbolt in one's convictions. Like the thunderbolt that can break anything against which it strikes, without being affected itself, the devotee needs to attack a challenge without losing his confidence.
  • The lotus in Durga's hand is not in fully bloomed, It symbolizing certainty of success but not finality. The lotus in Sanskrit is called "pankaja" which means born of mud. Thus, lotus stands for the continuous evolution of the spiritual quality of devotees amidst the worldly mud of lust and greed.
  • The "Sudarshan-Chakra" or beautiful discus, which spins around the index finger of the Goddess, while not touching it, signifies that the entire world is subservient to the will of Durga and is at her command. She uses this unfailing weapon to destroy evil and produce an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness.
  • The sword that Durga holds in one of her hands symbolizes knowledge, which has the sharpness of a sword. Knowledge which is free from all doubts, is symbolized by the shine of the sword.
  • Durga's trident or "trishul" is a symbol of three qualities - Satwa (inactivity), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (non-activity) - and she is remover of all the three types of miseries - physical, mental and spiritual.
Devi Durga stands on a lion in a fearless pose of "Abhay Mudra", signifying assurance of freedom from fear. The universal mother seems to be saying to all her devotees: "Surrender all actions and duties onto me and I shall release thee from all fears".
Durga's Three Eyes
Like Shiva, Mother Durga is also referred to as "Triyambake" meaning the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).

Durga's Vehicle - the Lion

The lion represents power, will and determination. Mother Durga riding the lion symbolises her mastery over all these qualities. This suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities to get over the demon of ego.


  1. Hi.... thank you for explaining each weapon & its significance...... but my question is particularly, how many hands/limbs actually does Durga/Kaali has? I've heard different numbers, like 4, 6, 8, etc..... hence asking.

    1. Some times two , some times four , eight,10, 18 ....
      It depends on the situation and imagination of devotee