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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 they were.

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 "puzzle."

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 Durga 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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