The most colorful and fun time of the year is here. Navratri – the longest dance festival of the year, the festival of the Divine Goddess, the festival when staying out late is officially allowed by parents (not now with the Coronavirus and all, but usually), the festival of fasting for the Goddess, the festival of colorful chaniya cholis and kediyas. It is a celebration of the Adi Shakti, the Divine Goddess. All these nine days are considered to be immensely auspicious. The festivities culminate on the tenth day, the day of Dussehra. The entire festival stands for the victory of Good over Evil. All in all, it is a time to celebrate, pray, and be merry.
Navratri literally means ‘Nine Nights’ and is the celebration of the Adi Shakti, with each of the nine days dedicated to one of the forms of the Goddess. There are specific offerings for each Goddess. There is also a specific color associated with each Goddess, but we’ll discuss that in another blog.
Want to know who are these nine Divine Goddesses?
Day 1 – Goddess Shailputri
The first day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Shailputri. She holds a Trishul in one hands and a lotus in the other. She rides a bull. Goddess Parvati was born as the daughter of the Himalayas, and she is also referred to as Shailputri. ‘Shail’ means ‘Mountains’ and ‘Putri’ means ‘Daughter’, so ‘Shailputri’ means ‘Daughter of the Mountains’. Goddess Shailputri is offered ghee by pouring ghee at the Goddess’ feet. It is believed that by offering ghee to the Goddess, the devotees would be blessed with a life free from diseases and sickness.
Day 2 – Goddess Brahmacharini
The second day of Navratri is dedicated to the Goddess Brahmacharini. Goddess Brahmacharini holds a rudraksh mala in one hand and a sacred Kamandalu in the other hand. The Goddess holds a meditative form, and she symbolizes Goddess Parvati engaged in deep meditation, embodying ‘tapa’ or ‘penance’. The name ‘Brahmacharini’ is formed of two words – ‘Brahma’ meaning ‘Lord Brahma’ and ‘Charini’ meaning ‘ardent follower’, implying the ardent follower of Lord Brahma. When a young Lord Parvati was told by Sage Narada that she could get her husband from previous birth – Lord Shiva in this birth as well if she sat in tapa for a long time, without food and water. Finally, Lord Brahma pleased with her devotion blessed Goddess Parvati to have Lord Shiva as her husband in this birth. Goddess Brahmacharini is offered sugar and is believed to grant longevity to the family and loved ones of the devotees.
Day 3 – Goddess Chandraghanta
The third day of Navratri is dedicated to the Goddess Chandraghanta. Goddess Chandraghanta is a fierce ten-armed Goddess with a crescent moon on her forehead, which gives her the name – Chandraghanta. She rides a tiger. When Lord Shiva agrees to marry Goddess Parvati, and he arrives at King Himavan’s palace in his usual form – with ash smeared with ash, snakes around his neck and his matted locks, accompanied by a wedding procession of ghosts, ascetics, sages, goblins, ghouls, and aghoris, Parvati’s family was left shell-shocked. Seeing this, Goddess Parvati took a terrorizing form herself to prevent any embarrassment to her family to be there by Lord Shiva’s side. This fierce form is Goddess Chandraghanta. Like Lord Shiva, she too has a crescent moon on her forehead. The Goddess is offered kheer, and it is believed the Goddess drives all pain from her devotees’ lives.
Day 4 – Goddess Kushmanda
The fourth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Kushmanda. The name ‘Kushmanda’ is derived from three words – ‘Ku’ meaning ‘little’, ‘Ushma’ meaning ‘warmth or energy’, and ‘Amnda’ meaning ‘egg’. Thus, Goddess Kushmanda’s name means ‘the creator of the little cosmic egg or in other words, the Universe’. This is a happy manifestation of the Divine Goddess. It is believed that Goddess Kushmanda is the source of all energy in the Universe. It is also believed that the Goddess lives in the core of the Sun and provides energy to all beings. It is also said that Goddess Kushmanda provides direction to the Sun God – Lord Surya. The Goddess is offered Malpuas and she improves the intellect and decision-making abilities of her devotees.
Day 5 – Goddess Skandamata
The fifth day or Panchami of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Skandamata. Skandamata Devi is a four-armed Goddess who carries a lotus flower in two of her arms, the sacred Kamandalu in one arm, and a bell in the fourth arm. She carries a young Karthikeya in her lap. Karthikeya is also referred to as ‘Skanda’, and hence, the Goddess gets her name ‘Skandamata’ or the Mother of Skanda. The Goddess is seated on a Lotus flower. Down South, Karthikeya is also referred to as Lord Murugan and is considered to be the chief commander of the army of Gods. Worshipping the Goddess Skandamata leads to peace, prosperity, and salvation. As Karthikeya sits in the Goddess’ lap, when one worships the Goddess, it is considered that Karthikeya gets worshipped along with as well. The Goddess is offered bananas as it is considered to be her favorite fruit.
Day 6 – Goddess Katyayani
The sixth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani. She is the Warrior Goddess and is considered to be the most violent forms of Adi Shakti. She has four arms, and carries a sword in one, lotus in two, and blesses with one. She is the daughter of Sage Katyayan. She rides a lion. The Goddess is offered honey. She was created by the Holy Trinity – Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, and Lord Shiva to fight the demon Mahishasur. She was born out of flames as the daughter of Sage Katyayan as a result of the latter’s austere penance and prayers.
Day 7 – Goddess Kaalratri
The seventh day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Kaalratri. ‘Kaal’ means ‘time’ or ‘death’, and ‘raatri’ means ‘night’, but also implies ‘darkness’ or ‘ignorance’. Thus, Goddess Kaalraatri is the one who causes the death of darkness and ignorance. Commonly, Goddess Kaalratri is referred to as Goddess Kaali. Legend says that the Goddess sacrificed her skin complexion to be able to kill demons. She carries a sword, a trident, and a noose in her hands. She also has a third eye on her forehead in which she contains the entire universe. She is also referred to as Devi Chamunda for having killed the demons Chanda and Munda. The Goddess is offered jaggery and she is said to bring happiness and relieve the devotees from pain and destroy obstacles.
Day 8 – Goddess Mahagauri
The eighth day of Navratri – Ashtami, or Durgashtami is considered to be the most special and most auspicious day of Navratri. This day is dedicated to Mahagauri Devi. She is a four-armed Goddess who rides a bull, though sometimes she is also shown riding a white elephant. She carries a trishul in one hand, a damru in two hands, and blesses with the fourth hand. ‘Maha’ means ‘extremely’ and ‘gauri’ means ‘white’. Devotees pray to this Goddess seeking loyalty in relationships and to create & maintain lifelong bonds. It is believed that after killing all the demons as Kaalratri, the Goddess was teased by her husband – Lord Shiva as ‘Kaali’ or the ‘dark-skinned one’. Agitated by this, Goddess Parvati prayed to Lord Brahma to help her get her gain her original skin complexion back. She undertook a severe penance for the same that lasted many days. Pleased with her penance, Lord Brahma asked Goddess Parvati to take a dip in the Mansarovar river in the Himalayas. There are also versions of this story that say it was River Ganges instead of River Mansarovar. As she bathes in the river, her skin separates from her and takes a female form. This form is Goddess Kaushiki, who goes on to slay the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. There is also another popular story, according to which Goddess Parvati had undertaken severe penance to beget Lord Shiva as her husband in this birth. During this penance, she gives up on all comforts and food, and braves heat, cold, rain, storms, etc. for many years. Her body was soon covered with dirt, soil, insects, dry leaves, etc. Pleased by her devotion, Lord Shiva eventually acquiesces and bathes her in the water of the Holy Ganges that flows out of his locks. After that, Goddess Parvati emerges in the form of Devi Mahagauri – white as a jasmine flower, clothed all in white. The Goddess is offered coconuts by the devotees.
Day 9 – Goddess Siddhidhatri
The ninth day of Navratri is the last day of festivities. This day is dedicated to Goddess Siddhidhatri. She is a four-armed Goddess holding mace in one hand, a discus in the second, a book in the third, and a lotus in the fourth. The Goddess is seated on a lotus flower. ‘Siddhi’ means ‘supernatural power or meditative ability’ and ‘dhatri’ means ‘a giver or awarder’. So, Goddess Siddhidatri is considered to be the giver of supernatural powers & meditative abilities and fulfills divine aspirations. According to legends, Lord Shiva worshipped this Goddess to obtain all his siddhis. It is also believed that one half of Lord Shiva’s body is Goddess Siddhidhatri. She possesses eight supernatural powers – Anima (reducing’s one’s body size to that of an atom), Mahima (Expanding one’s body size to infinitely larger), Garima (Becoming infinitely heavy), Laghima (Becoming weightless), Prapti (Being omnipresent), Prakambya (Achieving whatever one desires), Ishitva (Possessing absolute Lordship), and Vashitva (Being able to subjugate all). Lord Shiva was blessed with all these eight powers by Goddess Siddhidatri. The Goddess is offered sesame seeds and devotees seek the blessings of safety and security from this Goddess.
These are the nine forms of Ma Durga that are worshipped during the nine days of Navratri. Do you have any interesting tales and stories from your household from Navratri? Would love to hear your stories, so please share them with me.
Wishing you all a very Happy Navratri! May the Goddess bless you with happiness, prosperity, and health.