THE MAGIC TRIANGLE OF DURGA
This is the magic triangle of the Indian goddess Durga. It
is a yantra (magical diagram) that appears on numerous
postacrds, gilded prints, and posters of the
goddess, usually positioned beneath the feet of
her vehicle, a lion or tiger. It is also worn in India
in the form of a metal amulet. The example shown here comes
from a poster depicting the multi-armed, weapon-bearing
Durga riding a tiger in a flowery field; i scanned it and
eliminated the tiger's claws and a few flowers to make the
background cleaner, but other than that, i did not change
any part of it. The little squiggles in the triangle are
numbers, but for many years, i did not know which numbers
In May, 1999, working on the theory that, like most magic
squares, the design utilizes only sequential numbers (in
this case from 1 through 9) with three of the numbers doing
double-duty in two rows of sums, my partner nagasiva decided to "solve"
the Durga triangle as if it were a mathematical puzzle. He worked out
four different solutions, each of which can be rotated along
three axes, to produce a total of 12 different arrays. One
array is shown here, in which the numbers in each leg totals to 17. As it
turned out, this was NOT the array that the actual numbers
represented, but it is still a legitimate solution to the
In a side-note, it should be mentioned that our consultation
with the classic text "Magic Squares and Cubes" by W. S.
Andrews et al (Open Court Publishing Co., 1917, reprinted
by Dover Publications, 1960) reveals quite a few magic
squares with religious import from India and Asia, but NO magic
triangles of any kind, although the book contains many magic
pentagrams, hexagrams, and spheres. Furthermore,
Andrews has no examples of "crossword puzzle" style magic
diagrams such as this one, that is, arrays in which some numbers
are counted twice, due to the "acrostic" nature of the row
layouts. So, all in all, the Durga magic triangle is as
interesting mathematically as it is religiously.
Meanwhile, Seth Melchert, writing in the sacred landscape e-list, identified the
symbol in the center of my Durga triangle as the Sanskrit word
"Shreem" (alternatively spelled "Sreem" or "Shrim"), which means "power."
Sri is the name of an ancient Vedic goddess
who bestowed kingship or rulership upon people and deities.
In post-Vedic times the kingship-bestowing goddess Sri
became fused with the luck-bestowing goddess Laksmi, under
the name Sri-Laksmi, an Indian equivalent to the Roman
goddess Fortuna or the Irish-American character Lady Luck.
Sri-Laksmi, however, is no longer iconographically associated
with this magic triangle; it is now the distinct emblem of
Durga. Thus the word "Sreem" in the center of the magic
triangle probably refers to the "power" of Durga, a goddess who is conceived
by some of her devotees as the supreme Mother and Godhead
and by other worshippers as Sakti, the consort
and "energy" of Lord Siva, the supreme Godhead.
Eventually, after this web page had been online for a while,
a knowledgeable person came along who told us the actual
numbers used in the Durga triangle. His name is "gsmith" and
not only did he give me permission to copy his very pretty
red-and-white images of the Durga Triangle, he translated
the numbers as they actually appear in the diagram. In
this "official" array, each leg's numbers total to 20. Says gsmith,
"In India you can get little copper plates and medalions
with this symbol. Their meaning goes beyond simple 'luck.'
The symbol Shreem which you have in your triangle is not
uniformly present in all representations. Some have Hreem,
others have Om. These are all bija (pronounced beej) [seed]
mantras. Shreem is the sound representation of Lakshmi, the
goddess of fortune. Hreem is the sound representation of
Maya, the Matrix of the universe. Om is the primordial sound of Brahman."
Another helper, named "Laylah," prvided references to a book
by L. R. Chawdhri called "Practicals of Yantras" (Sagar
Publications, New Delhi, 1994) in which the name for the
triangle is given as "Shri
Durga Navaran Beesi Yantra"
and its purpose is said to be "to bestow wealth, good
health, and victory over enemies." The making of a yantra is
a religious act and in this case it is to be accompanied by
puja (worship) consisting of reciting the mantra (magical
chant) "Aim Hrom Klom Chamundaye Vichche" 108 times daily.
In drawing the triagle, one is instructed to start with the
outer lines, then draw inner ones, and finally fill in the
numbers from the lowest to the highest, while reciting the bija mantra "Sreem."
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