The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, – ‘nava,’ means nine and ‘ratri,’ means nights. During these nine nights, nine forms of Shakti are worshiped.
The seeds of inner renewal are sown, sprouting, watched and worshiped by devotees during this festival. The last day that is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra,” showcases the victory of Shakti over Mahishasura, of Lord Rama over Ravana, and of Durga over demons like Madhu-Kaitav, Chanda-Munda and Shumbha-Nishumbha; that is victory of good over evil.
Navratri is a very important and major festival in the western states of India: Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka during which the traditional dance of Gujarat called “Garba,” is widely performed. This festival is celebrated with great zeal in North India as well, including Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and the northern state of Punjab.
Durga, the Mother Goddess and a form of Shakti, is believed to have manifested in various forms, and Navadurga Maa are believed to be the most sacred aspects of Goddess Durga.
According to a Hindu tradition, it is believed that there are three major forms in which Goddess Durga manifested herself, namely, Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali who are the active energies (Shakti) of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra respectively (without these goddesses the gods will lose all their powers).
These three forms of Durga further manifested in three more forms each, and thus emerged the nine forms of Durga, which are collectively called Navadurga or Nine Durgas:
The first is known as Shailputri – The Navratri commences with the 1st night devoted to the puja of Maa “Shailputri”. “Shail,” means mountains; Parvati, the daughter of the king of Mountains Himavan, is known as “Shailputri.” Also known as Sati, Bhavani, Parvati or Hemavati, Goddess Shailaputri is considered the absolute form of Mother Nature. In some cultures, She is also known as Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva, the mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya. The Goddess is depicted having a half-moon on Her forehead, holding a trident in Her right hand and a lotus in Her left while riding Nandi, the bull. Devi Shailaputri has been considered the embodiment of patience and upon awakening begins Her journey from Her father to Her husband from the Muladhara Chakra or the root chakra which in yogic terms is said to be the base from which the three main psychic channels emerge. Muladhara is considered the foundation of the “energy body,” or the “Shakti.”
The second is known as Brahmacharini – Who wears white clothes, holds a japa mala (rosary) in Her right hand and Kamandal, a water utensil in Her left hand. Her name is derived from two words: Brahma which means ‘tapa,’ or penance and charini which means ardent female follower. Goddess of the Swadisthana chakra, or Sacral chakra, She personifies love and loyalty and is a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Rudraksha is Her most adorned ornament.
The third, Chandraghanta – Is astride a tiger, displays a golden hue to Her skin, possesses ten hands and 3 eyes. Eight of Her hands display weapons while the remaining two are respectively in the mudras of gestures of boon giving and stopping harm. Chandra + Ghanta, means supreme bliss and knowledge, showering peace and serenity, like cool breeze in a moonlit night. Her name Chandra-Ghanta, means “one who has a half-moon shaped like a bell. Her third eye is always opened and she always ready for war against demons.” She is also known as Chandrakhanda, Chandika or Rannchandi. She is believed to reward people with Her grace, bravery and courage. By Her grace all the sins, distresses, physical sufferings, mental tribulations and ghostly hurdles of the devotees are eradicated. She is the goddess of the Manipura Chakra, located on the navel and is ruled by the Sun. She provides you with power to overcome your Self as well as to conquer your fears, so that you are forever victorious.
The fourth, Kushmanda –The 4th night begins the worship of Goddess “Kushmanda,” whose name signals Her main role: ‘Ku,’ means a little, ‘Ushma,’ means warmth or energy and ‘Anda,’ means “cosmic egg.” It is stated that She created the whole universe, which is called Brahmanda, in Sanskrit, by just flashing little bit of Her smile. She also likes Bali of white pumpkin known as Kushmanda. Due to Her association with Brahmanda and Kushmanda, She is popularly known as Goddess Kushmanda. Possessing of eight arms, holding weapons and a mala or rosary, Her mount is a tiger and She emanates a solar like aura. Goddess Kushmanda stands for all things healthy and divine. Goddess of the Heart Chakra, She eliminates all forms of mayhem and compels Her devotees to sink into unconditional love – the only energy that conquers all forms of existence in every facet of existence.
The fifth is known as Skandamata – Is the fifth form of Goddess Durga. Literally meaning Mother of Skanda, Her name comes from the word Skanda is another name for war god and Her son Kartikeya and Mata is the term for mother. Goddess Skandamata is portrayed as holding Lord Skanda in His infant form through Her left hand and a lotus in her right hand. She has four arms, three eyes and a bright complexion. She is also called as Padamasani since She is often depicted as seated on a lotus flower. She is also worshiped in the form of Parvati, Maheshwari or Mata Gauri. The left arm of the goddess is in a pose to grant boons with grace to Her devotees. Goddess of the Throat Chakra, it is believed that She awards devotees with salvation, power, prosperity and treasures.
The sixth, Katyayani – This 6th Shakti is also astride a lion with 3 eyes and 4 arms. One left-hand holds a weapon and the other a lotus. The other 2 hands respectively display defending and granting gestures. Devi Katyayani is the sister of Lord Krishna. In Shaktism, She is associated with the fierce forms of Shakti or Durga, a Warrior goddess, which also includes Bhadrakali and Chandika, and traditionally She is associated with the colour red, as with Goddess Durga, the primordial form of Shakti, a fact also mentioned in Patanjali’s Mahabhashya on Pāṇini, written in 2nd century BCE. She is one of the most worshipped forms of Durga, She is a fierce manifestation of Shakti, the divine female power. The term Durga means ‘the invincible,’ and Katyayani, the warrior Goddess, remains as one. Goddess of the Ajna (Third Eye) Chakra, She is the provider of all truth and all that is required for our highest ascension.
The seventh, Kalaratri – Black skin with bountiful hair and 4 hands, 2 clutching a cleaver and a torch, while the remaining 2 are in the mudras of “giving,” and “protecting,” She is mounted upon a Donkey. The destroyer of darkness and ignorance, Goddess Kalaratri, is the seventh form of Nav-Durga meaning scourer of darkness; enemy of darkness. Goddess Kalaratri’s famous shrine can be found in Kolkata. Indeed, She is the most violent of Durga manifestations. She appears aggressive. She can curse and bless. Her intensity induces fear. She is believed to be the destroyer of demons, thus symbolizing the destruction of evil. Kalaratri means the One who is “the Death of Kaal”. Here Kaal is dedicated as time and death. Kalaratri is the one who destroys avidya, ignorance and removes ru, darkness. This is symbolic of human life having a dark side that Mother nature bombards one with violence to create havoc before all ‘dirt’ is removed. Darkness also represents Tamas-gunas. So symbolically Kalaratri exhorts a devotee to get rid the tamasic qualities of bad, evil and negative tendencies. This seventh-day worship of much importance to yogis and sadhakas. They do penance on Shahasrara (Crown) Chakra on this day.
For such a striver, the door of all Siddhis, (mastery), of the universe start opening. This day the sadhaka with all his faculties is identified with the mother Kalaratri. As a result of her direct vision the devotee becomes quite fit to earn all sorts of virtues. All sins and obstacles in his way are completely destroyed. He attains the abodes which are the fruit of inexhaustible virtues. For sadhakas, every siddhi in universe is open on this day. It is said that Goddess Kalratri created the three forms before the creation of universe at the time when Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha appeared.
The eighth, Mahagauri – The name Mahagauri means extremely white, as she was white in colour and very beautiful. Mahagauri is usually depicted with four hands, the hands holding a trident, lotus and drum, while the fourth is in a blessing gesture. The lotus is sometimes replaced with a rosary. She rides a white bull, usually shown wearing white clothes. Peace and compassion radiate from Her being and She is often dressed in a white or green sari. She holds a drum and a trident and is often depicted riding a bull. commonly known as Ashtami. Being a symbol of purity, serenity, and tranquility, Mahagauri is said to put an end to all the suffering of her devotees. It is also believed that Mahagauri is the 16 year old unmarried form of Goddess Parvati.
And the ninth, Siddhidatri – ‘Siddhi,’ means supernatural power or meditative ability, and ‘Dhatri,’ means giver or awarder. This four-armed avatar of Devi Siddhidatri clad in a red saree is seen sitting on a lotus flower. She is also seen mounted on a lion. She is depicted holding a Gada (mace) in her upper right hand, a chakra in Her lower right hand, a lotus flower in Her lower left hand and a conch-shell in Her upper left hand. It is said that one can even see a disc of light around her golden crown. This light is believed to instill devotion in the heart of devotees towards the Supreme Power and liberation from karmic bindings. Goddess Siddhidatri bestows occult powers on her worshipers and is therefore revered by beings from all three realms i.e. heaven, hell and earth. In this form, Durga is seated on a lotus and is four-armed. She holds a lotus, mace, Sudarshana Chakra and shankha. In this form Durga removes ignorance and She provides the knowledge to realize that. The Siddhi that she provides is the realization that only she exists. She is the mistress of all achievements and perfections.
All these nine names of Goddesses are described in the “Devi Kavacha,” of the Chandipatha scripture, also known as The Devi Mahatmyam or Devi Mahatmya (“Glory of the Goddess,”), it is a Hindu religious text describing the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. As part of the Markandeya Purana, it is one of the Puranas or secondary Hindu Scriptures and was composed in Sanskrit around c. 400-500 CE, with authorship attributed to the sage (Rishi) Markandeya.
In the pursuit of all human endeavour on planet Earth, may Abhaya Shakti, (fearless strength) be bestowed upon you this Navaratri – Shubho Sharadiya, as they say in Bengal, (my motherland).
SUJATA NANDY WORLD GURUKUL