Other forms: Sometimes Seated on a lion, sometimes shown as kali
Significance: Durga literally means formidable of inaccessible. As kali she represents the fierce and terrifying aspect of the divine which is terrifying to only those who are evil doers or anti-divine. As parvati or amba she is a loving mother to those who are pious and to devotees. Durga is that spiritual energy in ourselves, when invoked, swiftly and thoroughly uproots negative tendencies/sanskaras in us. This energy works with a decisive force.
Durga is Shown sitting on a lion or tiger with eight (sometimes ten or eighteen) hands, with weapons. The trident, Sword, bow and arrow, mace (gadaa), discus (Chakra) all are weapons of different kinds and used in different situation. They represent various power and capabilities, hidden within us, to overcome negativity and allow positive to blossom.
The Lion/Tiger symbolize uncontrolled animalistic tendencies in us (such as anger, arrogance, vanity, greed, prejudice, jealousy, desire to harm others etc.), when allowed to go unchecked, such tendencies will bring harm and even total ruin to one’s own self. These tendencies need to be first controlled, with firm and determined efforts (force), and then turned into positive qualities. Durga’s various weapons represent determined and forceful strategies and action to control one’s harmful tendencies, which are then replaced by joyous and beneficial tendencies, mind, as tamed lion/tiger, is a wonderful thing.
Conch (Shankha): it is trumpeted to announce to the devotees not to be afraid of the terrible aspects of durga and also to cast fear in the hearts of the evil doers. In our lives, this assurance comes in the form a guru, a good book, or just a deep down self-conviction.
The blessing hand is an assurance of victory in the battle against evil tendencies. In other words, one’s self confidence/faith in the victory of good over evil is symbolically represented by this gesture.
A lotus in one hand represent purity and fullness. Though outwardly she looks terrifying, there is no animosity in her. She is dispassionately doing her work of “cleaning” her children as mother would do. So, if we do our work as dispassionately, the lotus symbolically assures us that we also will fully develop our potential.
Durga is one form of shakti (Power) of the supreme Lord I His Shiva aspect. She is not separate from Shiva. Similarly our powers are part of us and come from within. There are other powers of the Lord, such as Lakshmi, Saraswati, Maheshwari and many more. Since atman (our true self) in essence is the same as the Lord, these powers are also of Atman. By proper control and training of ourselves, by various well developed systematic methods such as yoga, and by guidance we can invoke these powers and become better beings.