Navaratri is one of the largest celebrated festivals in India. In Sanskrit, the word Navaratri translates to Nine Nights, each of which is marked by the worship of a Durga, the mother goddess. Throughout these nine nights and 10 days, she is worshipped through her various forms.
Navaratri is celebrated on the Suklapaksha (first half of lunar month) of Aswayuja month which falls around September to October of every year. As this Navaratri comes during Sarad Rutu, it is also known as “Sarada Navaratri” or “Saran Navaratri”. There are two more Navaratris during the year known as Vasantha Navaratri performed during March or April, depending on the year, and Ashada Navaratri during June or July of every year.
During these nine days, the Goddess Lalitha Maha Tripurasundari is worshipped mainly in three forms: Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarswati, each of which is allocated three days of worship.There is a deep spiritual meaning to this and helps worhsippers achieve pure consciousness, which is necessary when praying to Shakti (divine energy). When praying to Shakti ,the Sadhaka or seeker, has to travel from the materialistic, the known to a divine state of unknown, thus giving rise to the worship of the various forms of the Goddess.
Spiritual meaning of Devi worship:
The different stages of spiritual growth is reflected in the devi celebrations during Navaratri.
Importance of Navratri:
We can see from the above that Navaratri is important to a spiritual sadhaka as well as a person who is in worldly life. Individuals pray to Durga to remove any obstacles in their daily life, to Lakshmi to bestow prosperity in their lives, and Saraswati for knowledge and inner peace. By praying to these goddesses, one is invoking power within oneself.
The three forms of Devi – Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are further manifested in three more forms each, and these nine deities are known as “Nava Durgas”. They are:
Shailaputri: Goddess worshipped on the first day of Navratri.
Navaratri commences with the prayers to the glorious form of Shailaputri. ‘Shaila’ means mountains, ‘putri’ means daughter of the king of Mountains Himavantha. She rides a bull, Nandi, and carries a trident in one hand and a lotus in the other. She represents the Muladhara chakra of spiritual practice. The journey of a sadhaka starts at Muladhara chakra to generate energy and with patience rises up to the other chakras. Praying to Shailaputri gives strength, composure, and courage.
Brahmachirini: She is worshipped on the second day of Navaratri:
Devi Brahmacharini personifies love, knowledge, and wisdom. This Navadurga embodies tapas (penance). ‘Brahma’ means tapas (penenance) and ‘charini’ means female follower. Goddess Parvathi embarks upon serious tapas to marry Siva, thus she earned the name Brahmacharini. This form of Navadurga teaches devotion, self-restraint, and virtue. She holds a “Kumbha'' water pot and a rosary of rudraksha. She has a serene, calm, and graceful appearance. She represents the Svadhistana chakra in spiritual practices.
Chandraghanta: She is worshipped on the third day of Navaratri:
Chandraghanta’s forehead is adorned with the crescent moon (chandra) and resembles the shape of a temple bell (ghanta) hence, the name Chandra Ghanta. The Navadurga is often seen astride tiger, possesses ten arms and three eyes, and has golden complexioned skin. In each of her nine arms she holds a trident, mace, arrow, bow, sword, lotus, goad, bell and a kamamdalu (water pot); while her tenth arm is in abhayamudra (blessing). In this third form of Durga, she is known to remove suffering, distress, and the sins of the worhsippres. Like a cool breeze on a moonlit night, she bestows serenity and peace to the seeker. She is ascribed to the Manipura chakra in spiritual practices.
Kushmanda: She is worshipped on the fourth day of Navaratri:
In Sanskrit, Kushmanda means cosmic egg. In other words Ku means little and Ushma means energy (cosmic energy), “anda” means egg. She is the creator of the “Little cosmic egg” known to us as the Universe. She is also known as the smiling goddess in this form. It is believed that Kushmanda is the form of Shakti who created this Universe and was the first being in the entire universe.
She has eight arms which wield a kamandalu, bow, arrow, lotus, pot of nectar, disc, mace, and a rosary. She is seen astride a lion and is known to remove ailments, troubles, and hurdles of the devotees. She is ascribed to the Anahata chakra in spiritual practices.
Skandamata: She is worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri:
Skanda is another name for Lord Kartikeya, the son of Goddess Parvathi. This Navadurga is also known as Padmasana as she is often seen sitting on a lotus. She has four arms: two arms hold lotuses, one holds the Lord Kartikeya, and the last is in the position of the abhyamudra. When a devotee worships Skandamata, they are simultaneously praying to the lord Karitkeya, as he is seen sitting in the lap of the Goddess. Skandamata bestows knowledge, peace, and prosperity to devotees. Her worship also bestows supremely gifted children. She is ascribed to Vishudha chakra in spiritual practices.
Katyayini: She is worshipped on the sixth day of Navaratri:
Katyayini got the name as she was the daughter of Sage Katyayan. The story of her existence goes as following. A Mahishasura (demon) troubled the Gods incessantly, causing the Gods to come up with a plan to overthrow this Asura. The Gods then came together and combined the energies of Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma, forming Katyayini.
She is depicted with four, ten, or even eighteen hands with three eyes. She is worshipped as a destroyer of evil and is ascribed to the Ajna chakra in spiritual practice.
Kalaratri: She is worshipped on the seventh day of Navaratri:
Her name breaks down to Kala- time or black, in reference to primal darkness before creation, and Ratri meaning night. She is characterized by dark skin, bountiful hair, 4 arms. Two of her hands hold a cleaver and a torch, while the other two are in the abhaya mudra and varada positions. She is astride donkey and has three eyes. She is symbolized as the Navadurga who is ferocious and destroys all evil, further indicating that she destroys all the inner impurities and removes any sorrow (darkness)from a devotee. She is referred to as Shubankari one who gives auspicious results. She is ascribed to the Sahasrara chakra in spiritual practice. Awakening this chakra can lead to ultimate spiritual enlightenment.
Mahagauri: She is worshipped on the eight day of Navaratri:
Mahagauri means very white and refers to suddha sattva, transcendent purity, and untainted qualities of material nature. Worship to this Navadurga burns all the sins and impurities of a devotee. She dwells in celestial Kailash, far above the Sahasrara chakra.
She has four arms, carrying a trident in one arm, a damaru in another, varada and abhayamudras with the other two arms. She rides a white bull and is fair in complexion and wears white clothes and ornaments.
Siddhidhatri: She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri:
Siddhidhatri literally means giver of siddhis. Siddhidhatri is depicted while sitting on a lotus, holding a mace, chakra(discus), shankh(conch), and a lotus. She is the bestower of the eight siddhis:
Anima – reducing one’s body to the size of an atom,
Mahima – expanding one’s body to an infinitely large size
Garima – becoming infinitely heavy
Laghima – becoming weightless
Prapti – becoming omnipresent
Prakambya – Achieving what one desires
Ishitva – possessing lordship
Vashitva – the power to subjugate to all.
These nine manifestations of Nava Durga are worshipped with fervor during Navaratri. This is believed to uplift the divine energy in us to help us overcome vasanas (control the senses) and achieve liberation while being filled with peace and bliss All these manifestations are described in the “Devi Kavacham” of Devi Mahatmyam. It is a religious text describing the victory of Goddess Durga over the asura Mahisha. Devi Mahtmyam is also known as Durga saptasathi or Chandi parayana.