Durga: goddess as libido symbol

Durga Confronts the Buffalo Demon Mahisha: Scene from the Devi Mahatmya- ca. 1780 from the Metropolitan Musem.
Durga Confronts the Buffalo Demon Mahisha: Scene from the Devi Mahatmya- ca. 1780 from the Metropolitan Musem. US public domain via wikimedia
Carl Jung says that “the goddesses… are libido-symbols.” He adds: “The libido expresses itself in images of sun, light, fire, sex, fertility, and growth” (para 324).

The image above beautifully expresses the powerful feminine form of Durga as libido, or the creative force. Durga, दुर्गा means “the inaccessible”(wikipedia). She is a form of the Goddess Shakti. In this image she rides a lion to battle a buffalo possessed by a demon. Her four arms are armed with weapons. I see a conch, a bow and arrows, a sword, a lasso, and a lotus, each holding symbiotic significance. The Hindu Society of Berbice offers an interpretation of the symbols:

• (Shankha): 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.
• (Dhanush / Baan): 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.
• (Vajra / Gadaa): 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.
• (Kamal pushpa): 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.
• (Sudarshan-Chakra): the 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.
• (Khadag / Talvaar): 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.
• (Trishul): the trident 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.

The demons can be seen as representing the potential danger of possession by dark/ demonic forces such ignorance and falsehood. Durga’s primary purpose is to combat such dark demons who threaten the cosmos. A description from Education about Asia discusses the goddess:

“Durga was born from the energies of the divinities when the gods became impotent in the long, drawn-out battle with asuras (demons). She needs no male to legitimize her power, nor is she dependent on the need to conciliate any male divinity. In her Mahakali roop (destructive manifestation of the great goddess), she is awesome, ruthless and completely uncontrollable. Her battle represents a universal war between knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood, the oppressor and the oppressed. But she also promises that as Sakambhari she will nourish the world in time of need with the vegetation grown from her own body, and that in her terrible form she will deliver her worshippers from their enemies” (Education about Asia p.27)

Durga, then, can be seen as not only as a representation of the create force, but also as a protectress of the eternal Truth of the Self.


  1. Carl Jung, Cw 5, Symbols of Transformation (in US Pubic Domain, first published 1912)
  2. Education about Asia, Volumes 6-7 Association for Asian Studies, 2001