The Devi in Sanskrit means goddess and is shakti, or the feminine spirit, manifests itself in many forms. She is symbolized as cosmic energy. Energy is the physical ultimate of all forms of matter and the sustaining force of the Spirit. The Devi assumes many aspects, according to the tasks to be performed by Her, sometimes sweet and tender, and at others terrible and devouring. It encompasses and supplements qualities such as strength, transformation, anger, beauty, compassion, fear, and power.
Feminine Tridevi goddesses play eminent roles of Creator (Maha Sarasvati), Preserver (Mahalakshmi), and Destroyer (Mahakali), with the masculine Trimurti – Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra.
Ma Sarasvati represents goddess of knowledge, music, art, speech, learning, and wisdom. The name Sarasvati came from “saras” (meaning “flow”) and “vati” (meaning “she who has …”), i.e., “she who has flow” or can mean Sara meaning “essence” and swa meaning “self.” The earliest known mention of Sarasvati as a goddess is in the Rigveda. Vasant Panchami on the fifth day of spring is celebrated as Sarasvati Puja and Sarasvati Jayanti. She is mother of Vedas.
Sarasvati emerged from Brahma and began to give him direction on creating order in the cosmos; the sun, moon, and stars all came into being. She later became the bride of Brahma.
She is generally shown to have four arms holding a book, a rosary, a water pot, and a musical instrument (Veena) respectively. The book symbolizes the Vedas representing the divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as all forms of learning. The rosary of crystals, representing the power of meditation, inner reflection, and spirituality. The pot of water represents the purifying power to separate right from wrong, the clean from the unclean, and essence from the inessential. The veena, represents all creative arts and sciences and associated with the love and feelings expressed in speech or music.
A hamsa – either a swan or a goose – is often shown near her feet. The hamsa is a sacred bird, which if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink the milk alone. It symbolizes the ability to discriminate between good and evil. The swan is also a symbolism for spiritual perfection, transcendence, and moksha.
Ma Lakshmi, also called Sri, represents goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity (both material and spiritual). Her name is derived from Sanskrit root word “Laksya” for knowing the goal and understanding the objective. Lakshmi manifests in eight sources of wealth, the Ashtalakshmi prosperity, fertility, good fortune or good luck, good health, knowledge, strength, progeny, and power.
In the holy book of Shrimad Bhagavata, it is explained that Lakshmi ji came out of the ocean during the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan). So, she is known as a daughter of the ocean. She came out of the ocean sitting on a full-bloomed lotus and having lotus flowers in both hands with two elephants by her sides holding beautiful vessels.
Lakshmi has 8 primary forms personified as Ashta Lakshmi (Ashtalakshmi) - Dhanya Lakshmi (Goddess of the Harvest), Adi Lakshmi (Mother Lakshmi resides with Lord Narayana in Vaikuntha), Dhairya Lakshmi (grants the boon of infinite courage and strength), Gaja Lakshmi (She came out of the ocean with two elephants by her sides holding beautiful vessels), Santan Lakshmi (bestowed of desirable children with good health and a long life), Vijay Lakshmi (grants victory & success everywhere, at all time, in all conditions), Dhana Lakshmi (bestower of wealth which comes in many forms: Nature, Love, Peace, Health, Prosperity, Luck, Virtues, Family, Food, Land, Water, Will Power, Intellect, Character, etc.) and Vidya Lakshmi (Grants Vidya with eighteen qualities viz. Serenity, Regularity, Absence of Vanity, Sincerity, Simplicity, Veracity, Equanimity, Fixity, Non-irritability, Adaptability Humility, Tenacity, Integrity, Nobility, Magnanimity, Charity, Generosity and Purity).
Lakshmi is depicted as a standing or siting in padmasana on a lotus throne, while holding a lotus in her hand, symbolizing fortune, self-knowledge, and spiritual liberation. Her four hands represent the four goals of human life – Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha.
Ma Durga is the creator and the protector of the universe and the destroyer of evil. In different Yugas for the destruction of the distress of the gods, she assumed different forms and features. She is usually depicted as having eight to ten arms, with just as many weapons gifted to her by various gods to destroy Mahishasura. Her mount is usually a lion.
In Sri Durga Saptashati, appearance of Ma Durga (Mahakali, Chandika, Chamunda etc.) is mentioned.
In Shiva Purana, The stories of the birth and wedding of Sati and Parvati with Shiva have been lucidly recorded.
Goddess Durga has manifested in nine forms and together called Navadurga. They are worshipped during the nine days of Navratri. Navdurga, All the nine forms of Durga Devi represent nine different qualities.
1. Shailputri (Daughter of Mountain) – She represents devi in her childhood and has two hands both holding a trident and lotus. She is seated upon the behind of a white bull.
2. Brahmacharini (Mother of devotion and penance) - She represents the phase of ascetism and has two hands, both of which carried a rosary and a water utensil.
3. Chandraghanta (Destroyer of demons) - She represents the form of shakti and has ten hands, nine of them are armed by a trident, mace, bow, arrow, lotus, sword, bell and a waterpot, while one other hand blesses her devotees. She is seated upon a fierce tiger.
4. Kushmanda (Goddess of The Cosmic Egg) - She represents the form of mahashakti and has eight hands, six of which held a discus, mace, lotus, bow, and arrow in one hand, sword, and rosary and the two other hands carried a jar of honey and waterpot. She is mounted upon the back of a lion.
5. Skandmata (Goddess of motherhood and children) – She represents stage of motherhood and has four hands, two of which held lotuses, the third holding her son, the six-headed infant Kartikeya seated on her lap, and the fourth saves her devotees. She is seated upon the back of a lion.
6. Katyayani (Goddess of Power) - She represents warrior stage and is dressed in green and pink vestments. Her four hands each carried a sword, shield, lotus and trident. She's seen seated on a fearsome lion.
7. Kaalratri (Goddess of Auspiciousness and Courage) - She represents form of destruction and has four hands all held a trident, scimitar, vajra, and a cup. She is seated upon the behind of a donkey as her vehicle.
8. Mahagauri (Goddess of Beauty) - She represents form of recovery and has four hands, three of which carried a trident, mini-drum, and a pink lotus while her one hand promised her devotees protection. She is seated upon a white ox.
9. Siddhidhatri (Goddess of Supernatural Powers or Siddhis) – She represents form of mahashakti and has four hands carried a discus, conch shell, pink lotus and a mace. She is seated upon a fully bloomed lotus.
Chausath yoginis (64) - The Saptamatrika (Brahmi, Maheshvari, Kumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda) joined by Chandika and Mahalakshmi form the nine Matrika cluster. According to Kaula Tantra, female Goddesses Shaktis emerged from the cosmic soul of the eight principal Deities and formed Kali Durga. These eight manifested each in turn into eight Divine Shakti, thus resulting in the 64 Tantric Yoginis.
Shodash Matrikas (16) – Shodash matrikas are – Gauri, Padma, Shachi, Medha, Savitri, Vijaya, Jaya, Devasena, Svadha, Svaha, Mata, Loka Mata, Hrishti, Pushti, Tushti and Kula Devata.
Dus Mahavidya (10) – Devi Bhagwat purana mentions Das Mahavidya which represents ten divine qualities of goddess and worship of these goddesses destroys respective negative tendencies. Das Mahavidya are –
Another Tantric text Mundamaala –tantra names a slightly different set of thirteen Mahavidyas (Kali, Tara, Tripura-Sundari, Bhairavi, Bhuvaneshvari, Chinnamasta, Bagala, Dhumavathi, Annapurna, Durga, Kamala, Matangi and Padmavati).
In certain other lists, some obscure goddesses: Vasali, Bala and Pratyangira are included.
Spiritual Significance of form of Ma Durga:
Ma Durga is depicted as a warrior aspect of Devi Parvati with 8 arms who rides a lion or a tiger.
Lion or a Tiger - It symbolizes unlimited power to protect virtue and destroy evil. The tiger represents power, will and determination. This suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities to get over the demon of ego.
Eight Hands holding following Objects of Symbolism - This suggests that she protects the devotees from all directions. She carries in the hands such as a mace, sword, disc, arrow, and trident. It conveys the idea that one weapon cannot destroy all different kinds of enemies. Different weapons must be used to fight enemies depending upon the circumstances. For example, selfishness must be destroyed by detachment, jealousy by desirelessness, prejudice by self-knowledge, and ego by discrimination.
Conch - The sound that emanates from a conch is the sound of the sacred syllable AUM (or Om), which is said to be the sound of creation. A conch in one of the Goddess's hands signifies the ultimate victory of virtue over evil and righteousness over unrighteousness.
Trident - The trident is a symbol associated with Shiva, and its three points symbolize the creation, protection, and destruction of the universe. 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.
Bow and Arrow - 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.
Thunderbolt - 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.
Lotus - 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 "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.
Sword - The sword that Durga holds in one of her hands symbolizes knowledge, which has the sharpness of a sword. Knowledge free from all doubts is symbolized by the shine of the sword.
Palm - One of her hands opens the palm to indicate Her blessings.
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).