Cultures & Traditions


Durga is a form of the Hindu deity known as the Great Goddess, Devi, and is also one form of Shiva’s wife Parvati. The war-like goddess is a sensually beautiful, bejeweled figure and is also the mistress of life and death. The cult of Durga was popular from the fourth century onward and is still important today.

The most common representations of Durga depict the goddess either slaying the buffalo demon or together with her husband, Shiva, however, she is also frequently shown alone on her lion mount. The two relief sculptures of Durga at the Dallas Museum of Art depict dramatic visions of stories associated with the goddess [1982.20.A-B and 1959.159].

Durga often appears with multiple arms, each hand of which may be seen holding one of the following weapons. These various attributes were gifted to her by other gods.

  • The bell is a symbol of primal sound that is the origin of creation. In the hand of Durga, it is a weapon that inspires fear in all her enemies.

  • The bow represents female and the arrow male energy.

  • The club is a weapon that protects the wearer and also represents the power of natural laws and time, which destroy everything in their path.

  • The conch shell is used as a musical instrument, and its sound is intended to ward off demons. The clockwise spiraling of the conch is symbolic of infinite space and the balance of the laws of nature.

  • The drum symbolizes primal sound, which is the origin of all things and creates a rhythmic strength in creation.

  • The shield provides protection against enemy attacks for gods who are engaged in combat with oppositional forces.

  • The skull represents the cycle of life and death and the ephemeral nature of all things.

  • The snake symbolizes eternal life and the never-ending cycle of time.

  • The sword is a destructive force that combats ignorance and promotes wisdom.

  • The trident is a magic means to drive out demons. The three prongs represent the aspects of creator, protector, and destroyer.

  • The water jug symbolizes fertility and wealth.

  • Originally signifying the sun wheel, the wheel represents the cycle of life and death. It is also considered a weapon.

Excerpt from

  • DMA Connect, 2014.