Goddess as Shakti: the male gods contribute their strength and vigor to the goddess, who epitomizes power, action and strength in the battle with demons. Durga is action and power personified and as such is a fitting representation of the idea of Shakti.
Maya, the Delusion, is the power that deludes an individual into thinking oneself to be the center of the world, the power that prevents an individual from experiencing the ultimate truth. It impels individuals into self-centered, egotistical actions and thus hides the underlying unity of reality and masks one’s essential identity with Brahman. Maya can be as either a positive or a negative energy.
Goddess as Maya : In the battle with Madhu and Kaitabha, she deludes the demons so that Vishnu can slay them. In the battle with Mahishasura, she enters into the battle more of leela (divine play), fighting with the demons because it pleases her, not out of sense of compulsion.
Prakriti is the physical world as well as the inherent rhythms within this world that impel nature to gratify and provide itself in its manifold species. She is both primordial matter, from which all material things come, and the living instincts and patterns, that imbue the material world with its proclivities to sustain and recreate itself in individual beings.
Goddess as Prakriti: In Devi Mahatmaya – a Hindu text on goddess Durga – it is stated that Durga is the world, and as the earth itself, she conveys cosmic stability. She is Sakambhari (she who provides the world with food from her own body). She is the foundation of all creatures and that, which nourishes all creatures. In her role as the cosmic queen, warrior goddess and demon slayer, Durga in effect protects herself in her aspect as the earth itself.
Hindu religious texts also talk about the existence of the Ten Great Feminine Cosmic Powers (Dasha Mahavidyas) which basically can be thought to be the ten fundamental aspects of the Supreme Cosmic Mother’s personality. Nevertheless, each Goddess has a specific cosmic function in the universal harmony. The traditional sequence of the ten Goddesses is:
Kali : The Power of Time and The Night of Eternity
Tara : The Power of Void and The Night of Anger
Tripura Sundari : The Power of Absolute Splendor
Bhuvaneshwari : The Power of Space and The Night of Perfect Realization
Tripura Bhairavi : The Power of Death and The Night of Destiny
Chhinnamasta : The Power of Sacrifice and The Night of Courage
Dhumavati : The Power of Deprivation and The Night of Frustration
Bagalamukhi : The Power of Instantaneous Stopping
Matangi : The Power of Domination and The Night of Illusion
Kamalatmika : The Power of Perfect Happiness and The Night of Paradise
Another such classification of the mother Goddess based on the various functions in protecting the cosmos and keeping the divine cosmic cycle running is the basis of the Nava Durga or the Nine Durgas. These nine goddesses, who actually are forms of Goddess Durga are propitiated on each day of a popular Hindu festival called the Navaratri.
Shailputri: As daughter (putri) of the Himalaya mountains (Shail), Parvati or Hemvati represents the first of the nine Durgas. She is depicted as holding a trident and a lotus in each of her two hands and is shown mounted on a bull.
Brahmacharini: The name indicates the phase of Parvati’s life when she was indulging in severe austerities to appease Lord Shiva into marrying her. She had pledged that she would remain unmarried (Brahmacharini) till Lord Shiva gives his consent to marrying Parvati. She is shown as holding a water pot (Kumbha) in one hand and a rosary in the other. She is considered as a holder of knowledge and wisdom. Rudrakhsa (rosary beads) form her favorite ornamentation.
Chandraghanta: As Chadraghanta, the goddess is depicted as having golden skin and with a moon-crescent near her forehead. She is shown as having three eyes and ten hands, eight of which carry weapons and two of which form gestures of giving boons and stopping harms. She is shown as sitting on a tiger. She is usually associated with the giver of knowledge, bliss and serenity.
Kushmanda: The fourth Durga is known as Kushmanda. She is depicted as emanating a cosmic aura and is depicted as having eight hands, seven of which carry weapons while the eighth carries a rosary.
Skanda Mata: Skanda Mata literally means the mother of Skanda. Skanda was the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati and was the leader of the army of gods.The goddess is shown as having four hands, two of which carry lotuses while two are in defending and granting gestures. She is shown sitting on a lion with her son Skanda in her lap.
Katyayani: Katyaynai is so named because of her stay at the hermitage of sage Katyayan for the purpose of penance. She is sometimes also said to be the daughter of sage Katyayan. She also is shown astride a lion and has three eyes and four arms. In one hand she holds a lotus and in another a weapon. The third and fourth hands show defending and granting gestures. Kaalratri: The seventh Durga, Kaalratri, is depicted as having black skin with bountiful hair, four arms and astride a donkey. In one hand she holds a cleaver and in another a burning torch. With the other two hands she forms gestures of granting and defending. She represents the enemy of darkness and ignorance.
Maha Gauri: Maha Gauri is depicted as the fairest of the nine Durgas and is often dressed in white or green. She emanates peace and compassion and is shown with three eyes and as riding a bull. She also has four arms, one of which carries a tambourine and another a trident. The other two form defending and granting gestures. It is said that when Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, became dirty while observing penance, Lord Shiva bathed her with the holy waters of river Ganga. Parvati’s body turned lightning bright and thus she came to be known as Maha Gauri (Gauri means fair).
Siddhidatri: Siddhidatri means the giver of siddhis (magical or spiritual powers for the control of self, others and the forces of nature). It is said in Devipuran that the Supreme God, Lord Shiva received all of these powers by propitiating the Maha Shakti. The Goddess is sometimes shown atop a lion and sometimes atop a lotus. She is shown as having four arms, which hold a club, a conch shell and a lotus. The fourth hand forms a gesture of granting. Siddhidatri is considered to be the most powerful of all the nine forms of Durga.