Celebrating nine forms of energy
The festival fervor is in the air. After welcoming the advent of goddess Durga on Mahalaya, it’s now time to worship the nine avatars of the goddess of power. To mark the blissful presence of goddess Durga, the festival of Navratri is celebrated across the country. This year Navratri is beginning on 5 October.
The festival of Navratri (Nav means nine and Ratri means nights) lasts for nine days. During the nine days of Navratri, feasting and fasting take precedence over daily chores. Evenings are marked with performance of music and dance.
The festival of nine nights begins on the first day of Ashwina of the Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight). The legend has it that Mahishasura, the mighty demon, worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained the power of eternity. Soon, he started killing and harassing innocent people and set out to win the universe. The gods in Swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva, to find a way to get rid of the demon. To protect the world from the atrocities of Mahishasura, the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine warrior, known as Goddess Durga. Mahishasura got mesmerised after adoring the divine beauty of Goddess Durga.
So fascinated was Mahishasura by goddess Durga’s beauty that he approached her with the intention of marriage. The goddess agreed to marry him, but put forth a condition – Mahishasura would have to win her over in a battle. Mahishasura, proud as he was, immediately agreed. The battle continued for nine nights and at the end of the ninth night, goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. The nine nights came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijayadashami, the day that brought about the triumph of good over evil.
On the day of Mahanavmi, Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young unmarried girls representing the nine forms of Durga are worshipped. With the worship of nine forms of goddess Durga in the form of Kanya Puja, the festival of Navratri culminates on Mahanavami.
Forms of Durga
The first form of goddess Durga is known as Shailputri (daughter of Mountain): Shail means mountains, Putri means daughter. Parvati, the daughter of Himavan, the king of the mountains, is called Shailputri. The first among nine Durgas and first night of Navratras is devoted to the worship of Shailputri.
The second Durga Shakti is Brahmacharini. The idol of this goddess is very beautiful. One hand holds a Kumbha (water pot) and the other holds a rosary. She personifies love and loyalty. Brahmacharini is the store house of knowledge and wisdom. The name of third Shakti avatar is Chandraghanta. There is a half-circular moon in her forehead. Chandra and Ghanta which mean supreme bliss and knowledge, showering peace and serenity. This form of Goddess Durga is mainly worshipped in Tamil Nadu. The fourth night begins with the worship of Kushmanda. Kumbh Bhand means to witness the cosmic dance in the form of Pindi, the knowledge of cosmic intricacies in the human race. Fifth name of Durga is Skanda Mata. Riding a lion as her chosen vehicle, she holds her son Skanda on her lap.
Katyayini is the sixth amongst the nine forms of Navadurga, worshipped during the Navratri celebrations. She is first mentioned in the Taittiriya Aranyaka part of the Krishna Yajurveda. Skanda Purana mentions her as being created spontaneously out of the anger of gods, which eventually leads to slaying of the demon, Mahishasura.
The destroyer of darkness and ignorance, Kaalratri is the seventh form of Durga. Kaalratri means scourge of darkness or enemy of darkness. Black (or blue) skin with bountiful hair and four hands, two clutching a cleaver and a torch, while the remaining two are in the mudras of giving and protecting. Her vehicle is faithful donkey.
The eighth Durga is Mahagauri. With four arms and the fairest complexion of all the Durgas Shaktis, Mahagauri radiates peace and compassion.
Last but not the least, the ninth form of Durga is Siddhidatri, worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri. She has four arms and is always in a blissful happy enchanting pose. She rides on the lion as her vehicle. She blesses all Gods, saints, yogis, tantrics and all devotees as a manifestation of the Mother Goddess.