“And what colour Dress/Sari we have to wear tomorrow?”
Isn’t that one of the prime questions floating around in air during the Navratri days? Going beyond that, if someone asks you “Why 9 nights?” Who is Durga or is it Kali we worship? Can you really answer the basics?
Read on….to know about Goddess Durga and significance of each day of Navratri!! Very fascinating legends indeed….
Goddess Durga, in Hindu mythology is wife of Shiva and daughter of Himavat (the Himalayas). She has many names and many characters. According to Skanda Purana, goddess Parvati accounted the name “Durga” after she killed the demon Mahishasura. She has 2 sons – Kartikeya (Skanda) and Ganesh, which we know of. She is also identified as Adi Parashakti, Shakti, Bhavani, Parvati, Amba, Yogmaya and by numerous other names.
Durga is a warrior goddess, whose mythology centers around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good.
Navratri thus is dedicated to this Goddess Durga and her 9 manifestations (avatars).Each manifestation has a legend attached of its own.
The goddess is different in every avatar, possessing different number of eyes, number of hands, what weapons she holds in each hand, sometimes mounting a tiger, a lion and yes, a donkey in one form and seated on lotus in few of her manifestations.
The nine manifested forms of Goddess Durga worshipped each day in Navratri are:
The puja begins with Ghatasthapana, a ritual that symbolises Women Power
DAY 01 Ma Shailaputri – The first day of Navratri is dedicated to worshiping Shailaputri. Shailaputri literally means the daughter (putri) of the mountain (shaila). In one hand she holds the Trident (Trishul) and lotus in another. She mounts Nandi (bull). An offering of pure ghee is said to bless the devotee with a life free of diseases and illness
Day 02 Ma Brahmacharini – The word brahmacharini in Vedic texts means a female who pursues the sacred religious knowledge. In this form, the goddess Durga practiced penance to please Lord Shiva. She personifies love and loyalty and also is store house of knowledge and wisdom. She has kamandalu (Water pot) in one hand and holds a Japa mala (rosary) in another. Prasad is typically of sugar on this day and sugar is also donated. This form of goddess is prayed for long life.
Day 03 Ma Chandra-Ghanta – Chandraghanta is the form of Goddess Durga worshipped on third day of Navratri. Her name Chandra Ghanta, means “one who has a half-moon, shaped like a bell. Her third eye is always open 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. Her weapons are Trishul, Lotus, gada, kamandal, Sword, Bow, Arrow, Japa maala. She mounts a lion who represents Bravery. She is offered milk, kheer or sweets as bhog.
Day 04 Ma Kushmanda – This avatar of Adi Shakti is also known as “smiling goddess”. Her name is made of 3 distinct words Ku-means little, Ushma- means warmth or energy and anda – means egg. When the universe was non-existent and darkness prevailed everywhere, Maa Kushmanda produced the Cosmic egg bringing light to the universe. Kushmanda has the power and strength to live in the core of Sun. Her luminosity gives the Sun its brightness. She is said to give directions to the Sun God. She is mounted on a tiger. She is offered Malpua as bhog. She is believed to improve health and bestow wealth and strength.
Day 05 Ma Skandamata – Mother of Skanda (Kartikeya), Skandamata is clear form of Parvati. Skandamātā possesses four arms out of which two often hold the lotus flowers. One of her hands is always in the boon-conferring gesture and with the other she holds her son Skanda in her lap. Her complexion is white and she is seated on the lotus. So, she is also called Goddess with a lotus-seat (Padmāsana). The lion is her vehicle. She is offered bhog of bananas.
Day 06 Ma Katyayini – Ma Katyayani is worshipped on 6th day of Navratri and is one of the most worshipped forms of Durga. According to ancient legends, demon Mahishasur was creating lot of trouble for the gods and hence on Vishnu’s behest, Shiva and Brahma joined him and then the trinity emitted flames which took the form of Katyayani. A manifestation of Durga she then took birth as daughter of Sage Katyayana which eventually led to slaying the demon, Mahishasur, mounted on the lion. This occasion is celebrated during the annual Durga Puja festival in most parts of India. She is also named as Mahishasurmardini, the one who killed Mahishasur.
Day 07 Ma Kaalaratri – Kaal refers to time, as well as death in Hindi, whereas Ratri is night, or darkness & ignorance. Kaalaratri is considered the fiercest form of the Mother Goddess, her appearance itself invoking fear. Legends related to destruction of two demons Shumbha and Nishumbha as well the killing of Rakta-beej is part of this avatar. In this form of Durga, she is believed to be the destroyer of all demon entities, ghosts, spirits and negative energies, who flee upon knowing of her arrival. She is also associated with the crown chakra thereby giving the invoker, siddhis and niddhis (particularly, knowledge, power and wealth). She has blue skin and bountiful hair, 4 hands and 3 eyes. She rides a donkey. She is offered jaggery or sweets made of jaggery as bhog.
Day 08 Ma Mahagouri – Durga Asthami or the eight day of Navratris is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri. As per the scriptures, Mahagauri holds a trident and a damru in her hand. Her vehicle is a vrishabh or a white elephant. When Parvati wanted Lord Shiva as her husband she decided to do severe penance. She gave up all comforts and went to the forest where she stayed for years in deep meditation. Nor the scroching heat, biting cold, heavy rains or storms could deter her and hence Shiva was pleased and appeared before her. He sprinkled the holy water of the Ganga over her which cleared all the dirt that had accumulated because of years of penance. Parvati gained her natural beauty and was then became known as Mahagauri. Goddess Mahagauri is offered coconut as bhog by devotees. It is widely believed that donating coconuts to the Brahmans on Ashtami, blesses a childless couple with a child.
Day 09 Ma Siddidhatri – This ninth form of Durga is a giver of the Siddhi, which translates to meditative ability and fulfills all divine aspirations. She is believed to be sitting on a full bloomed lotus and has four arms. Siddhi in Sanskrit also means accomplishment. Worshiped on the ninth day, this form of Shakti signifies the ushering of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance.It thus projects perfection. Devotees do observe a fast and offer til or sesame seeds as bhog as it is believed to offer protection to them from unfortunate mishaps.
At end of the nine nights, Dussehra also known as Vijayadashmi is celebrated every year. In the south, east and northeastern states of India, Vijayadashami announces end of Durga Puja celebrating goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasura. In the north and west states, the festival also called as Dasara, Dashahara is last day of Ramlila and remembers end of Ravana by Lord Ram. It is also a legend that Arjuna alone defeated entire Kaurava army consisting of 100,000s of soldiers, thereby reemphasizing victory of Good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma).
The festival also announces the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, which is celebrated twenty days after the Vijayadashami.
So next time when someone asks about Navratri there will be so much more to add and express about one of the most loved festival of our times….Isn’t it!!
Season’s Greetings to all Readers!!
About the Author –
Sharmila Kulkarni – The author of this article is travel professional, alongside being an avid writer. She has penned several blogs on various topics ranging from women insights, lifestyle living, travelogues, short stories and others through her blogpost mumbailady.wordpress.com
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