Goddess Durga riding her vehicle, the tiger. Bronze; 16 cm x 7 cm. Himachal Pradesh. c. mid 20th century. 84/241.
Durga literally means “the one who is difficult to reach”. She possesses many different forms such as Parvati or the consort of Shiva, Ambika, Bhadrakali, Vedagarbha, Devi. In the Mahabharata she is described as the “dark virgin, observant of the vow of chastity and giver of blessings”1. The Devimahatmya of the Markandeya Purana describes at length her noble acts of destroying the demons
Shumbha, Nishumbha and Mahisha. As the slayer of Mahisha, or the buffalo demon, she rides a tiger (or lion) who is supposed to be a form of Shiva himself. The Durgasatanama Stotra of Visvasaratantra describes her as the “mother of gods, essence of all existence and knowledge.”
In iconography Durga is usually depicted astride a tiger (or lion) with four, eight or 16 arms holding various weapons.
The goddess’s three-pronged crown, human facial expression, slender figure, powerful posture and rudimentary modelling of the image are some of the typical features of the folk bronzes of Himachal Pradesh.
1. Woodroffe, 1973, p.150
2. Ibid, pp.81-82