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Navratri -The nine-day festival dedicated to Mother Goddess Durga.

Navadurga or navadugga , are nine manifestations of the goddess Durga in Hinduism, especially worshipped during the festival of Navratri where each of the nine manifested forms are venerated respectively forch night. The nine forms of Goddess Parvati are: Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidhatri.

1)Shailputri

As per the Mythology, it is said that Shailputri in her earlier birth was the daughter born to, Daksh Prajapati. She was named as ‘Sati’ and was married to Lord Shiva. In a sacrificial ceremony planned by Daksh Prajapati, he offended Lord Shiva as he was not in favor of this marriage. In this unendurable situation, Sati sacrificed her body and jumped into a yogic fire.

In her next birth she incarnated as Goddess Parvati, the daughter of Parvatraj Himalaya. Like her previous birth in this life also, she got married to Lord Shiva. Among all the nine forms of Goddess Durga, she has been referred to as Shailputri or Himavati. Hence, on the first day of Navratra, she is worshiped with great devotion and zeal.

2)Brahmacharini

Brahamacharini is the Sanskrit term which means: Brahma, the absolute reality, the supreme consciousness + Charini, the female version of ‘Charya’, which means the one who behaves or conducts.Ma Brahmacharini is the goddess who is worshiped on the second day of Navratri.As per the mythology, Goddess Parvati had this desire to marry Lord Shiva. When her parents got to know about this, they tried to discourage her. However, it didn’t work and she approached Lord Kama, the God of erotic activities and attraction, to help her. In this pursuit, Kama shot an arrow of pleasure and desire into Shiva. Being in meditative state, Shiva got disturbed and really angry. So, he burnt him into ashes.

The story didn’t end here. She, then, started living the way Shiva does. The Goddess went to mountains and lived the life of an ascetic for many years. Hence, she got the name Brahmacharini. Due to this, she drew the attention of Lord Shiva. So, he went to her in disguise and told all the negative traits of Shiva. But, the Goddess paid no heed to such things rather she resisted to hear all that. Shiva finally accepted her and they got married.

3)Chandraghanta

On the third day of Navratri, the third Power (Shakti) of Goddess Durga is worshipped. This avatar of Goddess Durga is known and worshipped as Ma Chandraghanta . Her forehead is bedecked with the crescent moon resembling the shape of a temple bell. In the previous incarnation as the wife of Lord Shiva Devi Sati self-immolates herself in the sacrificial fire meant for a grand yagna. In her next incarnation, Ma Adi Shakti takes birth as Parvati. In this birth, her parents are King of the Mountains, Himavan and Mena.Upon the insistence of Sage Narada, Parvati observed austere penance to get Lord Shiva as her consort. Shiva, after losing Sati, had become detached from worldly affairs and had retired into the mountains in deep meditation, isolation and austerity.

But after seeing Parvati’s resolve to get him, Shiva relents and agrees for the marriage. On the day of marriage, Shiva reaches King’s Himavan’s palace in a most terrorizing form along with the strangest marriage procession. His body was smeared with ash with snakes around his neck and in the matted locks of his unkempt hair.His marriage procession consisted of ghosts, ascetics, sages, goblins, ganas, ghouls and aghoris. Upon seeing such a terrorizing form of Lord Shiva and his strange marriage procession, Parvati’s mother and other relatives are left in a state of shock. Most of them faint purely out of terror.

To avoid any embarrassment to her family and to Lord Shiva, Parvati transforms herself into a terrorizing form – Chandraghanta.In this form, her complexion was golden and she possessed ten arms. In nine of her arms she wielded the following weapons – a trident, mace, arrow, bow, sword, lotus, goad, bell and a kamandalu (water pot), while with the tenth hand, she blessed her devotees. Her vehicle is a lion. This from depicts that Adi Shakti can be terrible and malevolent towards her enemies while being compassionate and motherly towards her devotees.

In the form of Chandraghanta, she prayed and persuaded Shiva to take the form of a handsome prince and also turn his marriage procession nobler. Shiva thus reappeared as a charming prince bedecked with many jewels. Shiva and Parvati’s marriage was solemnized as per rituals. The day of their marriage is celebrated as Maha Shivratri every year.

By the grace of Ma Chandraghanta all the sins, distresses, physical sufferings, mental tribulations and ghostly hurdles of the devotees are eradicated. Riding on the lion, she exudes fearlessness in her devotees. She also embodies serenity. The devotees who adore and worship her with their deeds, mind and speech, develop an aura of divine splendor around themselves. It is said that they can easily achieve success in every walk of life. Ma Chandraghantaa is ever ready to destroy the wicked being but to a devotee she always appears as the kind and compassionate mother showering love, peace and prosperity.

4)Kushmanda

Also referred to as the “Smiling Goddess”, Maa Kushmanda is worshipped on the fourth day of Navratri. This is day signifies passion, anger and auspiciousness.Maa Kushamanda’s story begins at a time when there was nothing. The entire Universe was empty, there was no sign of life and darkness prevailed everywhere. Suddenly, a ray of divine light appeared and slowly illuminated everything.

Initially, this divine light was formless and had no particular shape. However, soon it started taking a clear size and finally it took the form of a Lady. This divine lady, the first being of the Universe, was Maa Kushmanda.

It is believed that Maa Kushmanda was able to create this Universe with her silent smile. She produced this “little cosmic egg” and her smile took over the darkness. Maa Kushmanda replaced it with light and gave new life to this Universe.

Soon, she created the Sun, the planets, the stars and the galaxies that fill our night sky. She seated herself at the centre of the Sun and is now believed to be the source of all energy in our Universe. She provides life to all living beings through the sun rays and is therefore, also known as Shakti.After this, Maa Kushmanda created three divine goddesses, who were also the first beings of our Universe. She used the central eye on her forehead to create a terrorizing form – “Mahalakshmi”. The second form was created from her left eye and was named “Mahakali”. Finally, she used her right eye to create “Mahasaraswati”, a smiling and gracious form.

Later, the body of Mahakali gave birth to a male and a female. The male was named Shiva and the female was named Saraswati. Similarly, Mahalakshmi also gave birth to a male – Bramha – and female – Lakshmi.Maa Kushmanda then glanced at Mahasaraswati, who then gave birth to a male and female as well. The male was named Vishnu and the female was named Shakti. After this, Maa Kushmanda offered Sarwaswati to Bramha, Lakshmi to Vishnu and Shakti to Shiva as companions.

Later, Maa Kushmanda absorbed the three divine goddesses within herself and then entered Shakti as an object of divine, powerful and unending energy.

5)Skandamata

Ma Skandamata is the fifth avatar of Durga and is worshipped on the fifth day of Navratri. Skanda is another name for Lord Kartikeya (Ma Parvati’s son and Lord Ganesha’s brother). Mata means mother and thus Skandamata means mother of Skanda or Kartikeya. As is clear from the name, she is another form of Ma Parvati.

In this form, Durga has four arms. She holds Kartikeya (Skanda) in one hand, holds a lotus in the second and the third hand and blesses her devotees with the fourth hand. She rides a lion and sits on a lotus (due to which she is also called Padmasana). Kartikeya is also known as Lord Murugan in South India. He is the commander-in-chief of the of the army of gods.The birth of Kartikeya is an interesting story. After Sati immolated herself, Shiva became detached from the worldly affairs and started practicing austere penance as an ascetic. At the same time, the gods (devas) were under an attack from demons (asuras) who were being led by Surapadman and Tarakasura.They had a boon that only Shiva or his offspring could kill them. Fearing that Shiva may never have an offspring, the gods rush to Lord Vishnu for help but Vishnu tells that the gods themselves are responsible for the situation. Had they not attended Daksha Prajapati’s yagna without Lord Shiva, Sati would have never immolated herself. He then tells them about Parvati, who is an incarnation of Adi Shakti and destined to be Shiva’s consort.

On behalf of gods, Rishi Narada approaches Parvati and tells her that if she observes extreme penance, she would get Lord Shiva as her consort, who was also her husband in the previous birth. After thousands of years of observing penance, Shiva relents and marries Parvati.Shiva and Parvati’s energy combines and produces a fiery seed. Lord Agni is entrusted with carrying the seed safely to Saravana Lake till the radiance from the seed becomes Shiva’s offspring. The heat from the seed becomes unbearable even for Agni to hold and he hands over the seed to Ganga who safely carries it to the lake in forest Saravana. Goddess Parvati then took the form of the water body as she alone was capable of carrying the seed of her consort, Shiva. Later, six-faced Kartikeya takes birth and is taken care of by six Krittikas (mothers). He thus gets the name Kartikeya. He grew up to be a handsome, intelligent and powerful youth and thus got his name Kumara.Kartikeya was to be taught by Brahma but on the first day he asked Brahma the meaning of Om. Brahma explained him the meaning in twelve thousand verses, but he was not satisfied. He asked the same question to Shiva who explained him the meaning in twelve lakh verses. Still unsatisfied, he himself explained the meaning of Om in twelve crore verses.As the commander-in-chief of the army of gods, he is blessed by all the gods and given special weapons for the war against Tarakasura and Surapadman. He, later, kills Tarakasura in a fiercely fought battle.

Thus, Ma Skandamata is worshipped as the mother of a supremely gifted child. When a devotee worships Skandamata, Lord Kartikeya is automatically worshipped as he is sitting in her mother’s lap. Her worship leads to peace, prosperity and salvation.

6)Katyayni

The sixth day of Navratri is dedicated to the worship of Maa Katyayani and signifies cheerfulness and joy. Believed to be the destroyer of all evil, she is seen as a warrior goddess who was able to bring peace to the world.

Maa Katyayani is one of the fiercest forms of Goddess Durga. She is also known as Mahishasurmardini (Killer of Mahishasura), as she was able to defeat and kill the evil demon Mahishasura. It is told that long ago there was a sage by the name of Katyayana. He was a huge devotee of Goddess Shakti and spent days and nights in prayer. Sage Katyayana always wished for Goddess Shakti be born as his daughter.

During this period, an evil demon named Mahishasura was creating great trouble for the Gods. As the days went by, he gained more power and the Gods were increasingly worried about him. They prayed to Goddess Shakti and asked her to save them from the wrath of Mahishasura.Goddess Shakti decided to take birth on Earth and end the reign of Mahishasura. She granted the wish of Sage Katyayana and was born on Earth as his daughter. She grew up to be a strong, beautiful fighter and came to be known as Katyayani, the daughter of Katyayana.

One day, two messengers of Mahishasura – Chandha and Mundha – saw Katyayani and were mesmerized by her beauty. They went back to their master and told him all about Katyayani Upon hearing this, Mahishasura got very happy and immediately asked another of his messenger – Dundubhi – to go and talk to Katyayani.Dundubhi met Katyayani and told her all about Mahishasura. He told her about his greatness and boasted about how Mahishasura was the now the ruler of all three worlds. He told Katyayani that she should marry Mahishasura as they would make a great couple.

Katyayani smiled and told Dundubhi that according to her family tradition, Mahishasura must first defeat her in battle. Only then can they both get married. Dundubhi went back to Mahishaura and told him about this challenge. Mahishasura agreed and soon the preparations began.A fierce battle took place between Katyayani and Mahishasura. She managed to defeat his demon soldiers and even killed most of them. When Katyayani and Mahishasura came face to face, he transformed himself into a buffalo. This proved to be a real challenge for Katyayani as she struggled to fight him.

However, Katyayani tricked Mahishasura and climbed onto his back. He was surprised by this move and tried very hard to shake her off, but failed. Katyayani then placed her foot on the back of Mahishasura’s neck, pierced him with her Trishul (trident) and cut his head off.This is how Maa Katyayani killed the evil and powerful demon Mahishasura. In doing so, she saved the Gods from his menace and brought peace back into this world

7) Kaalratri

Maa Kaalratri is one of the terrifying forms of Goddess Durga and is also referred to as Maa Kaali. The word Kaal usually refers to time or death and the word Ratri means night. Hence, she is also known as the Goddess who brings an end to darkness.Once upon a time, there were two wicked demons by the name of Shumbha and Nishumbha. Their brother, Namuchi was killed by the God of Heaven – Indra Deva. They both were devasted by this news and decided to take revenge upon the Gods.Soon, they launched a fierce attack on the Gods and managed to defeat them. They were helped in this attack by Chandha, Mundha and Raktabeej. These three were old friends of the demon Mahishasura, before he was killed by Maa Katyayani. Together, all of them began to rule over the three worlds.

Indra and the other Gods went to the Himalayas and prayed to Goddess Parvati. She understood their fears and created another goddess – Chandi – to help them. Goddess Chandi was able to kill most of the demons sent by Shumbha and Nishumbha.

However, demons like Chandha, Mundha and Raktabeej were too powerful and she was unable to kill them. So, Goddess Chandi created another goddess from her forehead, who came to be known as Kaalratri or Kaali.

Maa Kaalratri fought Chandha and Mundha and eventually killed them. Hence, she is also known as Chamunda. After this, Goddess Chandi and Goddess Kaalratri went on to fight the powerful demon Raktabeej.Raktabeej possessed a special boon from Lord Bramha that if any drop of his blood fell to the ground, another lookalike of him would be created from that drop. So, as Maa Kaalratri fought and injured Raktabeej, several clones of him were being created.

Looking at this, Maa Kaalratri got immensely furious and started drinking the blood of every clone of Raktabeej. This prevented his blood from falling to the ground and eventually he was killed by Maa Kaalratri. Later, she also killed Shumbha and Nishumbha and brought peace back to the three worlds.

8)Mahagauri

Mahagauri is the Goddess worshiped on the eighth day of the 9-day long festival of Navratri in India. Maha means extremely and gauri means white. She is worshiped by devotees to attain loyalty in. The story of Mahagauri has many versions. The most popular one goes like this. After killing all demons in the form of Kaalratri, Parvati was left with skin as dark as night. This made her husband Mahadev tease her with the nickname ‘Kali’ (dark-skinned). Agitated, Parvati applied to Brahma by undergoing a severe penance lasting many days, to regain her fair skin. Pleased, Brahma advises her to take a bath in the Mansarovar River in the Himalayas.Acting on Brahma’s advice, she takes a bath in the river. As she bathes, her dark skin separates from her and takes the form of a female. This female is Kaushiki who goes on to slay the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. Shumbha and Nishmbha had gained a boon from Brahma, according to which they could not be slayed by a man, demon, God or deity. Parvati regains her white complexion and beauty, and comes to be known by the name Mahagauri, which means “extremely fair”.

In another story, Parvati wishes to beget Lord Shiva as her husband and as per Rishi Narad’s advise, she undergoes a severe penance deep in the forest to please Shiva. She forgoes all comforts, even food, and braves heat, cold, rain and storms for many years.

Her body is soon covered with dirt, soil, insects and dry leaves. Pleased by her devotion, Lord Shiva acquiesces and bathes her in the water of the Ganges that flows from his locks. She emerges in the form of Mahagauri, as white as a jasmine flower and clothed in white.Acting on Brahma’s advice, she takes a bath in the river. As she bathes, her dark skin separates from her and takes the form of a female. This female is Kaushiki who goes on to slay the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. Shumbha and Nishmbha had gained a boon from Brahma, according to which they could not be slayed by a man, demon, God or deity. Parvati regains her white complexion and beauty, and comes to be known by the name Mahagauri, which means “extremely fair”.

In another story, Parvati wishes to beget Lord Shiva as her husband and as per Rishi Narad’s advise, she undergoes a severe penance deep in the forest to please Shiva. She forgoes all comforts, even food, and braves heat, cold, rain and storms for many years.

Her body is soon covered with dirt, soil, insects and dry leaves. Pleased by her devotion, Lord Shiva acquiesces and bathes her in the water of the Ganges that flows from his locks. She emerges in the form of Mahagauri, as white as a jasmine flower and clothed in white.

9) Siddhidhatri

Maa Siddhidatri is the ninth manifestation of Durga and is worshipped on the ninth day of Ashwin’s month Shuklapaksha.She is represented with four arms sitting on lotus flower. Her arms hold Gada (bludgeon), Chakra, Shankh (scallop shell) and lotus flower. Her appearance glows in red saree. Her vehicle is Lion.  When the Universal mother was gripped with the idea of projecting creation, She, first of all, created Lord Shiva who prayed to Her to endow him with perfections.  For this purpose, the universal mother (Durga) produced Goddess Siddhidatri from Her own person.  As the behest of the universal mother, Goddess Siddhidatri bestowed eighteen kinds of rare perfections and powers and potentialities (Siddhis) on Lord Shiva.  By virtue of these siddhis, Lord Shiva happened to develop a divine splendor. Having acquired the siddhis from Goddess Siddhidatri, Lord Shiva created Lord Vishnu who in turn created Lord Brahma who was entrusted with the task of the Creation whereas Lord Vishnu got the task of Protection and Lord Shiva that of Destruction. Lord Brahma felt a great difficulty in his task of the Creation in the absence of man and woman.  Thereupon he remembered Mother Siddhidatri.  When she appeared before him, Lord Brahma said to her, “Oh Great Mother!  I cannot carry on with the task of the Creation in the absence of man and woman.  You kindly solve this problem of mine through your supernatural attainments (siddhis).”

Having heard Lord Brahma, Mother Siddidaatri converted half the person of Lord Shiva into a woman.  Thus Lord Shiva became half-male and half-female.  Thus, the problem of Lord Brahma was resolved and the task of the Creation went on smoothly. Lord Shiva obtained all Siddhis by blessings of Siddhidatri. This culminated in him becoming ‘Ardha Narishwar’. Worshipping Maa Siddhidatri solely with prescribed customs and rituals certainly endows all Siddhis and blessings to devotees.

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