The Tiger – Devi Durga’s vahana
See part 1
In Hinduism, Devi Durga is the supreme Warrior Goddess, the complete embodiment of Shakti (creative cosmic energy) and the Mother of all the beings in this world and beyond. She is the wife of Lord Shiva and the mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya. Durga is depicted with ten arms, each holding a weapon, riding a lion or tiger. Though an aspect of Parvati Herself, Durga is considered fiercer and much more powerful than the calm and serene Parvati.
Durga is said to be extremely beautiful and radiant, her form filled with stunningly brilliant aura. She manifested in order to kill the most terrible demon, Mahishasura. Each God gives Her their weapon in order to enhance Her strength and powers. Shiva gives Her His trident; Vishnu, his discus; Indra, his thunderbolt, Brahma, the kamandalu; Kubera, his mace and so on.
The story of Parvati
Parvati, who was King Daksha’s daughter, Sati, in her previous birth, killed herself by jumping into the sacrificial fire at her father’s Yagna (fire sacrifice). Her father disapproved of Shiva and insulted both her and her husband when she arrived at the Yagna. Feeling hurt and humiliated, she immediately jumped into the sacred fire and ended her life.
Shiva was furious when he came to know of it, took her body away and took penance in a deep, cold cave in the Himalayas. Later, Sati took birth as Parvati, Mount Himavan’s daughter and, after severe penance, finally wedded Shiva and lived with him yet again.
Durga’s mount, the lion
Being mount Himavan’s child, Himalaya gifts her a ferocious white lion. Seated on her vahana, the lion, She proceeds to attack Mahishasura, the half-buffalo, half-human asura, who had got a boon that no God, man or animal could ever kill him. Drunk with his power, he ruled the earth and the heavens and tortured and tormented both the Devas and the Suras (earthlings). Not able to defend themselves, the hapless Devas approached Parvati, who readily decided to help. Since no man could vanquish the demon, only a woman could and that is how Durga came into being.
Devi Durga undertook a severe penance before she came face to face with the asura. On the beginning of the 9th day of the waxing moon, the demons Chanda and Munda came to fight Her. The Devi turned blue with rage and the Goddess Chamunda sprang forth from Her third eye. This powerful entity killed the demons with Her sword.
Finally on the 10th day of waging a terrible battle against Mahisha, She finally vanquishes him. Her powerful lion climbs on top of the asura, paralysing him completely, digging its sharp fangs into him. The Devi then kills him with Her trident. This day of victory is marked by the Vijaya Dashami, the tenth and final day of the major Hindu festival Navratri.
The Durga Puja is held with much religious fervor by people from West Bengal. This is celebrated in a big way, erecting gigantic pandals, installing impressive, larger-than-life Durga idols and organising several bhajan (prayer group), music, dance and other entertainment programs.
Durga is revered as the most powerful among Goddesses, all over the length and breadth of India. She is always shown with the lion or tiger by her side. As Santoshi Mata, she appears standing along with her tiger. She is sometimes also worshipped in Her peaceful attitude, rightly referred to as Shanta Durga.
The lion or the tiger’s presence as Parvati’s vahana reflects her own ferocity and agression at the time of battle with asuras such as Chanda, Munda and Mahisha. At the same time, one sees Devi Santoshi Mata as a smiling, benevolent figure, standing by her vahana, the tiger. This indicates how she keeps undue aggression and arrogance under her control, without allowing it to become her own true nature.
Next Vahana: Owl