Hindu dharma holds a special place amongst the world’s major religions due to its worship of the Divine Feminine. Devi, also known as Aadi Shakti, is the feminine aspect of the supreme Godhead, of which the male aspect is Shiva, who is the Aadi Purusha. Purusha and Shakti together create the manifest and unmanifest universe.
One unique aspect of Hinduism is the way in which this feminine aspect has been described. Not only does Devi embody the qualities of maternal love, compassion and forgiveness, but also strength, valor and fierceness. Durga and Kaali are her fierce forms which she assumes to protect the world from evil forces. One such evil character was Mahishasur, a demon who challenged her. Mahishasur was the son of Rambha, another demon, and Mahishi, a water buffalo. Mahishasur could change his form to that of a buffalo at will. Through years of austere tapas (penance), he pleased Lord Brahma and obtained a boon from Him that no man or god, not even the Trinity (Shiva, Vishnu & Brahma), could kill him. Because of this boon, he became the king of asuras (demons) and conquered Swarga (heaven) as well, defeating all the gods. He then reached Kailash to challenge Shiva, but saw Devi there instead. He was immediately captivated by her divine beauty and decided to marry her. Devi was furious by his advances, and warned him to not underestimate the power of a woman. Mahishasur, who was blind with lust and arrogance over his boon, did not heed her warnings and challenged her to fight with him. He forgot that the boon only saved him from the gods, not a goddess. Devi fought a fierce battle with him for nine days. On the tenth day, she slayed him with her trishul (trident). This day is celebrated as Vijay Dashami, and the nine preceding days are celebrated as Navaratri, in which nine forms of Devi are worshiped. Durga deities worshipped during Navratri typically depict this scene.
This story is a reminder that Hindu scriptures do not show the feminine as powerless. There is a deep respect for women ingrained in the Vedic culture. The slaying of Mahishasur also symbolizes the victory over negative thought patterns. Mahishasur is the embodiment of all the incompletions which try to engulf the innate consciousness of a human being. Devi, or the cosmic divinity, always incarnates in various forms to restore balance and completion to the world by destroying all the negative patterns.