Navaratri – Honour the Goddess Energy Within
This is a powerful week, we have had the Autumn Equinox and the New Moon, and today begins Navaratri, a nine night/ten day celebration of the goddess energy of Durga. The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. This is a major celebration time in the Hindu calendar especially in Gujarat, the state where my family is from.
The Gujarati Navaratri festival is marked by nine nights of Garba, an amazing dance celebration where everyone dresses in bright colours and enjoys wonderful performances and dancing together. The dance is a traditional Gujarati folk dance called Dandiya Raas which is incredible fun and involves dancing with dandiya, these beautiful sticks and lots of spinning around.
Navaratri is the most auspicious and unique period of devotion of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) of the Divine that conceptualised as the Mother Goddess Durga, the Warrior Goddess of protection and inner strength. The nine forms of the goddess that are honoured over this time, are nine different forms of this energy that we each have in us, man and woman. Navaratri is a festival where we all connect to our sacred feminine energy. Each night a different manifestation of the Goddess Durga is celebrated to lift the divine spirit in us and fill us with renewed happiness. The names of the nine Goddesses are shared in the ‘Devi Kavacha’ of the ‘Chandipatha’ scripture. There are variations in different traditions where some celebrate only the three most well known goddesses but for three days each. Here are all nine goddesses with the colours that connect to them. The tenth day is called Dussehra and Diwali is then celebrated 20 days later.
Maa Shailaputri – Goddess Worshipped on the first day of Navaratri
Shailaputri literally means the daughter (putri) of the mountains (shaila). She is also known as Parvati or Hemavati. Shailaputri is believed to be the rebirth of Sati, the daughter of Daksha and the wife of Lord Shiva. In her second birth she is Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya and later she became the consort of Shiva. This is one of the very first forms of Shakti and is closely associated with Lord Shiva. The embodiment of the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, she rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her two hands. The colour to wear on the first day for devotees is Yellow.
Maa Brahmacharini – Goddess Worshipped on the second day of Navaratri
Here Brahma means ‘one who constantly meditates on the Supreme Being’. Brahmacharini is highly pious and is a peaceful form or is in meditation. She is also known as Tapashcharini, Aparna and Uma. 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. The colour of the day for devotees to wear on this auspicious day is Green.
Maa Chandraghanta – Goddess Worshipped on the third day of Navaratri
‘Chandraghanta’, is the goddess for peace, tranquility, prosperity and bravery in one’s 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. Grey is the colour of the day for devotees.
Maa Kushmanda – Goddess Worshipped on the fourth day of Navaratri
Kushmanda signifies the cosmic egg. 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, and more in her hands, and she rides a lion. The colour for the fourth day is Orange.
Maa Skanda Mata – Goddess Worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri
Skanda Mata is 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 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. On this day devotees wear White.
Maa Katyayani – Goddess Worshipped on the sixth day of Navaratri
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. Devotees wear Red on this day.
Maa Kalaratri – Goddess Worshipped on the seventh day of Navaratri
Goddess Kalaratri has a dark complexion, disheveled hair and a fearlessness posture. She destroys ignorance and removes darkness, creating freedom. She wears a necklace flashing lightning adorns her neck. She has three eyes that shine bright and terrible flames emanate from her breath. Her vehicle is the donkey. Her raised right hand always seems to grant boons to all worshippers and all her right lower hand is in the pose of allaying fears. Her left upper hand holds a thorn-like weapon, made of iron and there is a dragger in the lower left hand. She is black like Goddess Kali and holds a sparkling sword in her right hand 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. Devotees wear Blue on this day.
Maa Mahagauri – Goddess Worshipped on the eighth day of Navaratri
Maha Gauri’s 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. She wears white clothes, has four arms, and rides on a bull. Her right hand is in the pose of allaying fear and her right lower hand holds a trident. The left upper hand holds a ‘damaru’ (a small rattle drum) and the lower one is in the pose of granting boons to her devotees, who wear Pink on this day.
Maa Siddhidatri – Goddess 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). By her blessings his half body became female and other half body male in the avatar of Ardhnarishvara. Devotees wear Purple on this day.
References and images from india.com, hindu-blog.com, hinduism.about.com
/// My candlelit yoga class on Wednesday 1st October will be themed on celebrating Navaratri and the Goddess Durga. Info – here.