The great goddess: Uma, Durga, Kali
Standing Durga Standing Durga, c. 970, bronze, height 57.2 x 20 cm. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Georgia and Michael de Havenon in memory of William H. Wolff 1992.142 Standing Durga, c. 970, bronze, height 57.2 x 20 cm. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Georgia and Michael de Havenon in memory of William H. Wolff 1992.142The great goddess is addressed by a host of names. In her active form as destroyer of demons she is frequently hailed as the warrior goddess Durga or, when shown with fangs in her mouth, as Bhadrakali – Auspicious Kali. Indeed, when Durga-Bhadrakali is engaged in feats of cosmic destruction, she herself frequently wields the trident. Durga, the Impassable-One, is invoked for protection and for this reason is often placed at the entrance of palaces, forts and temples.
In her passive, gentle aspect she is the goddess Uma, consort of Shiva, lord of the trident.
Uma is a figure of vital importance: without her constant presence no temple ritual is considered complete, since it is she who ensures that Shiva’s beneficence is directed towards the devotee. Shiva and Uma have two sons, the elephant-headed god Ganesha and the youthful warrior god Skanda. In Tamil Nadu, Uma is believed to be the sister of god Vishnu and is often shown with his attributes of discus and conch shell. Thus, while images of Durga are found more often in the context of a Shiva temple, she is also at home in a Vaishnava context.