In many ways Durga resembles Kali, and the two forms of Devi and Shiva’s wife are sometimes treated as a single being. Durga is immensely popular and worshipped widely. She is the goddess of cosmic illusion and mystery who comes to the world to kill evil in its many forms. Some say she was born of the wax in Vishnu’s ear. As a combatant against evil, Durga is herself, like Kali, bloody and terrifying. Her most important feat was the slaying of the frightful Mahisha-asura, the demon who could not be killed by a male. It is said that Mahisha had expelled even Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva from heaven. In desperation, the gods combined their powers to form a beautiful goddess, Durga, who announced that she would marry anyone who could beat her in combat. Mahisha took the bait, and when he assumed the form of the buffalo demon, Durga cut off his head, thus rescuing heaven for the gods and so restoring cosmic order. Some say that Kali was born of Durga’s head.
Arjuna, seen here meeting Krishna, is one of a number of Hindu heroes of mythology.