Durga is the Mother’s power of Protection. The lion is the attribute of the Goddess Durga, the conquering and protecting aspect of the Universal Mother.
The Festival of Devi is celebrated in India to mark the victory of the great Goddess Durga over the demon King Mahisasura and his demon cohorts. Though outwardly it seems to be symbolic of the victory of Truth over falsehood which of course it is, there is much in it to help us understand the process of individual and cosmic evolution. The ancient yogis and seers saw the process of rebirth as the evolutionary journey of the human soul. The soul is the divine essence that has been buried in matter as the seed of divinity. It is like a seed that has been placed carefully in the soil so that one day it will start awakening and grow in man and arrive at the full fruition of the divine possibilities embedded within it. Until coming of man it remains dormant in the lower forms of creation much as a seed stays under the soil preparing within to one day start a new journey upwards. With man comes a point of transition because man has the ability to experience life somewhat consciously and through reflection and contemplation enter into some kind of conscious evolution. Before the coming of man evolution is an unconscious process. Something of course is happening thence too but it is more like the dissolving of the hard outer crust of the seed. With the advent of humanity, at least after a certain stage this hard crust of Ignorance, the denser thick veil begins to become slightly more amenable to dissolution. At first of course this urge for freedom from ignorance takes the form of mental education, a mental seeking to know about oneself and the world around rather than being satisfied with a life of instincts driven by hunger of various kinds, ‘a hunger that is death’, as the Upanishad say. This hunger, not only for food but for all other kinds of material things and objects and the will to acquire and possess more and more is the sign of this craving self of desire is the great badge of ignorance that all creatures wear. But a time comes when this first formulation of life no more satisfies us. Man begins to seek something greater, something higher, something that can endure the rub of change and time, something permanent and eternal. It is here that the soul in man begins to awaken and a new phase of its journey begins.
This journey begins to assume the form of a battle, a battle between the animal state out of which it must emerge and which continues to torment and assail through the various hungers now modified and made worse by the presence of a mind that is at the mercy of the desire-self. The mind adds to the animal appetites a certain perversion with its capacity to deceive and the will towards endless gains. When the powers of the mind freshly awakening in man are at the mercy of the animal appetites then we have the birth of the Rakshasa. When the mind grows into a sharper intelligence but the heart remains cold and the intellect is used consciously to satisfy the animal appetites then we have the birth of the Asura. It is only when the heart is touched by the ray of love from within and the mind is attracted by a light, however distant and remote, from Above that the proper human journey begins. By obeying the soul’s Godward impulsion the human being grows into the likeness of a god whence becoming one with the cosmic powers of light he participates an ally of the gods in the cosmic labour to help other souls and creation grow towards truth and Light and Freedom and Immortality. But this is no easy task. The Rakshasa and the Asura continue to halt his advance, and even capturing some of the fields of nature that were conquered by the growing godhead in humanity. This is the well-known devasura sangram, the battle between the gods and the titans. It is at once an individual and a cosmic battle which Sri Aurobindo points out while revealing The Doctrine of the Mystics:
The soul of man is a world full of beings, a kingdom in which armies clash to help or hinder a supreme conquest, a house where the gods are our guests and which the demons strive to possess; the fullness of its energies and wideness of its being make a seat of sacrifice spread, arranged and purified for a celestial session.
Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 16: 30