Mahisha, the fierce buffalo demon, was on a terrible mission: to conquer the world and rout the gods. He gored and slashed his way through battle after battle. The gods retired; the monster ruled until a stupendous sound shook the earth.
The great goddess had sprung forth full-grown, created by the energy of the gods, who knew Mahisha could only be killed by a woman. Durga roared her challenge to Mahisha; the buffalo demon was enraged!
The red-robed goddess charged into battle on her magnificent lion. Her 18 arms whirled furiously overhead, each one brandishing some weapon of the gods: a thunderbolt, a trident, a bow and arrow, a rope of snakes. The buffalo demon quickly changed shapes. He became a lion, a warrior, an elephant; Durga slew each of his demon forms. Mahisha was no match for the mighty goddess. She was beautiful, invincible, fearless. Mahisha was forced to assume his monstrous buffalo shape again. He hurled mountains at the goddess. Durga dodged his attack and then leaped up and cut off the buffalo demon's head!
Most of India's myths, like the story of Durga, are part of Hinduism, one of the world's oldest religions. Hindu beliefs and myths are driven by two very powerful forces: creation and destruction. Everything in the cosmos, even gods and goddesses, spirals through an everlasting cycle of birth, death or dissolution, and reincarnation.