Today Megz continues her explanation of the Hindu festival of Navratri, or “nine nights,” in which a different form of the Mother Goddess is worshipped on each different day.
As discussed in post 2 of this series, The Devi [Sanskrit word for Goddess] theme, once it becomes a part of the Brahmanical pantheon around the 5th century A.D., almost explodes the entire body of Puranic literature [religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography], with each Purana text coming out with one of The Devi’s aspects or the other.
In Puranic literature, religious conventions, anthropomorphic iconography and ritual practices, the Mother Goddess has been diversely conceived and variedly named. The origin of the Nine Appellations of Goddess Durga can be traced to this period with specific reference to Markandeya Purana, which contains a full book, known as the Devi Mahatmya, conceptualizing and adoring Devi. She has been identified in Markandeya Purana primarily as Durga. It is a departure from the iconic manifestation of the passive Indus Mother Goddess to the operative personified representation of the Divine Mother who abounds with myths of Her origin and exploits.
Also referred to earlier, during Navratris, a different form of the Mother Goddess is worshiped on each different day. Read on to know more about each here:
Day 1 – Goddess Shailputri
Shail means mountains & putri means daughter. Also more popularly knows as Uma – Parvati in Hindu mythology, she is a daughter of Himalaya and first among nine Durgas. In previous birth she was the daughter of Daksha. Her name was Sati – Bhavani. i.e. the wife of Lord Shiva. Once Daksha had organized a big Yagna and did not invite Shiva. But Sati being obstinate, reached there. Thereupon Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati could not tolerate the insult of husband and burnt herself in the fire of Yagna. In her next birth she became the daughter of Himalaya in the name of Parvati – Hemvati and got married with Shiva.
As per Upnishad she had torn the egotism of all Devtas. Being ashamed they bowed and prayed that,
“In fact, thou are Shakti,we all – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv are capable by getting Shakti from you.”
Day 2 – Goddess Brahmcharini
Bharmacharini means one who practices devout austerity. She enlightens us in the magnificent embodiment of Durga with great powers and divine grace. She holds a rosary in her right hand and a water utensil in her left hand. She is blissful and endows happiness, peace, prosperity and grace upon all devotees who worship her. Filled with bliss and happiness, she is the way to emancipation – Moksha.
Day 3 – Goddess Chandraghanta
The third facet of Goddess Durga is ‘Chandraghanta’, who is worshipped on the third day of Navaratri, for peace, tranquility and prosperity in life. She has a ‘chandra’ or half moon in her forehead in the shape of a ‘ghanta’ or bell. That is why she is called ‘Chandraghanta’. She is charming, has a golden bright complexion and rides a lion. She has ten hands, three eyes and holds weapons in her hands. She is the apostle of bravery and possesses great strength to fight in the battle against demons.
Day 4 – Goddess Kushmanda
Kushmanda is the fourth form of the mother goddess and is worshipped on the fourth day of Navaratri. The meaning of the name ‘Ku-shm-anda’ is as follows: ‘Ku’ = a little; ‘ushma’ = ‘warmth’; ‘anda’ = ‘the cosmic egg’. So she is considered the creator of the universe. The universe was no more than a void full of darkness, until her light spreads in all directions like rays from the sun. Often she is depicted as having eight or ten hands. She holds weapons, glitter, rosary, etc., in her hands, and she rides a lion.
Day 5 – Goddess Skandmata
The fifth aspect of the Mother Durga is known as ‘Skanda Mata’ – the mother of Skanda or Lord Kartikeya, who was chosen by gods as their commander in chief in the war against the demons. She is worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri. She is accompanied by the Lord Skanda in his infant form. Skanda Mata has four arms and three eyes, holds the infant Skanda in her right upper arm and a lotus in her right hand which is slightly raised upwards. The left arm is in pose to grant boons with grace and in left lower hand which is raised also holds a lotus. She has a bright complexion and often depicted as seated on a lotus.
Day 6 – Goddess Katyayani
The sixth form of Mother Durga is known as ‘Katyayani’, who is worshipped on the six day of Navaratri. The legend behind her name goes thus: Once upon a time, there was a great sage called Kata, who had a son named Katya. Kata was very famous and renowned in the lineage of saints. He underwent long austerities and penance in order to receive the grace of the Mother Goddess. He wished to have a daughter in the form of a goddess. According to his wish and desire the Mother Goddess granted his request. Katyayani was born to Kata as an avatar of Durga.
Day 7 – Goddess Kalratri
Kaalratri is the seventh form of Nav-Durga meaning scourer of darkness; enemy of darkness. Black skin with bountiful hair and 4 hands, 2 clutching a cleaver and a torch, while the remaining 2 are in the mudras of “giving” and “protecting”. Her vehicle is the donkey. She holds a sparkling sword in her right hand to battle all evil. Her gesture of protection assures us of freedom from fear and troubles. So she is also known as ‘Shubhamkari’ – one who does good.
Day 8 – Goddess Maha Gauri
She is worshipped on the eighth day of Navaratri. Her power is unfailing and instantly fruitful. As a result of her worship, all sins of past, present and future get washed away and devotees get purified in all aspects of life. Maha Gauri is intelligent, peaceful and calm. Due to her long austerities in the deep forests of the Himalayas, she developed a dark complexion. When Lord Shiva cleaned her with the water of the Ganges, her body regained its beauty and she came to be known as Maha Gauri, which mean extremely white.
Day 9 – Goddess Siddhidatri
Siddhidatri is the ninth form of Goddess. She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri. Siddhidatri has supernatural healing powers. She has four arms and she 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. In ‘Devi Bhagvata Purana’ it is mentioned that Lord Shiva worshipped her and was blessed with all Siddhis (supernatural powers).
On the other hand, finding their origin in Tantric school of religion are Dasha (Ten) Mahavidyas (Great Wisdoms) are a group of ten aspects of the Divine Mother. The name Mahavidyas comes from the Sanskrit roots, with maha meaning ‘great’ and vidya meaning, ‘revelation, manifestation, knowledge, or wisdom.
The Ten Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the ravishingly beautiful at the other.
The development of Mahvidyas represents an important turning point in the history of Shaktism as it marks the rise of Bhakti aspect in Shaktism, which reached its zenith in 1700 CE. First sprung forth in the post-Puranic age, around 6th century C.E., it was a new theistic movement in which the supreme being was envisioned as female.
Shaktas believe, “the one Truth is sensed in ten different facets; the Divine Mother is adored and approached as ten cosmic personalities,” the Dasa-Mahavidya (“ten-Mahavidyas”). The Mahavidyas are considered Tantric in nature, and are usually identified as:
- Kali: The ultimate form of Brahman, “Devourer of Time” (Supreme Deity of Kalikula systems)
- Tara: The Goddess as Guide and Protector, or Who Saves.Who offers the ultimate knowledge which gives salvation (also known as Neel Saraswati).
- Lalita-Tripurasundari (Shodashi): The Goddess Who is “Beautiful in the Three Worlds” (Supreme Deity of Srikula systems); the “Tantric Parvati” or the “Moksha Mukuta”.
- Bhuvaneshvari: The Goddess as World Mother, or Whose Body is the Cosmos
- Bhairavi: The Fierce Goddess
- Chhinnamasta: The Self-Decapitated Goddess
- Dhumavati: The Widow Goddess,or the Goddess of death.
- Bagalamukhi: The Goddess Who Paralyzes Enemies
- Matangi: the “Tantric Saraswati”
- Kamala: The Lotus Goddess.