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The Goddess Durga and Navratra Festival

Author: Umesh G. Purswani

The story of creation of Goddess Durga is very interesting. The gods in heaven decided to create an all-powerful being to kill the demon king Mahishasur who was ready to attack them. At that very moment a stream of lighting dazzled forth from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and it turned into a beautiful, magnificent woman with ten hands. Then all of gods furnished her with their special weapons. Those weapons and armour are very artistically carved in the ancient sculptures of this Goddess. The image of Durga, the Eternal Mother destroying the demon, Mahishasur on Chamundi Hills near Mysore is symbolic of the final confrontation of the spiritual urge of man with his baser passions. This Goddess Durga as Lord Shiva’s Consort represents two forms of female energy – one mild and protective and the other fierce and destructive.

Durga (or Shakti), the female principle which activates Shiva, is the personification of Universal Energy. Durga (Invincible) is Parvati in her terrifying form, and in the same time the most powerful embodiment of Shiva’s Shakti. She is a composite Goddess who includes in herself different elements of many Gods and local Goddesses. She has eight, Sometimes thirty-two arms, and carries the weapons of almost all the Deva; She takes the Trisula from Shiva, the Chakra from Vishnu, the Vjara from Indra, the flaming arrow from Agni, the mace from Kubera, the bow from Vayu, the shinning arrow from Surya, the iron lance from Yama, the axe from Vishwakarma, the sword from Brahma, the conch-shell from Varuna and the lion Her vahana (vehicle) from Himavat. Devi-Shakti , the inner force of Gods, when issued forth assumes female forms, out of Vishnu emerge Vaishnavi; out of Brahma emerge  brahmi; out of Shiva emerge Maheshwara/ Maheshwri; out of Karttikeya emerge Kumara, out of Indra emerge Indrani; out of Varaha emerge Varahi, out of Durga emerge Chamundi. These Goddesses are nothing else but different forms of Durga, the Mother Goddess.

Goddess Durga is the mother of the universe according to Hindu belief. There are many incarnations of Durga: Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Java, Rajeswari, et al. Her Nine Appellations are Skondamata, Kusumanda, Shailaputri, Kaalratri, Brahmacharini, Maha Gauri, Katyayani, Chandraghanta, and Siddhidatri.

108 Names from the Devi Mahatmya (Chandi):

According to the scriptures, Lord Shiva called the Mother Goddess Durga in 108 names in order to please her. During Navaratri and Durga Puja, devotees utter prayers in the 108 names of the Goddess. These names appear in the Purana called ​Devi Mahatmyam or Devi Mahatmya (The Glory of the Goddess) that narrates the story of Goddess Durga’s battle and eventual victory over the demon king Mahishasura. Composed around 400–500 CE in Sanskrit by the ancient Indian sage Markandeya, this Hindu scripture is also known as the Durga Saptashat or simply the Chandi.

The founder of the Hindu Swarajya, Chatrapati Shivaji before any military expedition always invoked the blessings of Durga in the form of his goddess Bhawani. The Sikh guru Gobind Singh introduced the worship of Durga into his cult of the sword. The Navratri festival has immense mythological significance. As per Ramayan, Shri Ram did “Chandi-Puja” and invoked the blessings of Durga to kill Ravana, the ten headed king of Lanka who had abducted Sita and had charmed life. Durga divulged the secret to Ram how he could kill Ravana. As per our great epic Mahabharat, Pandavas after wandering in the forest for 12 years, hung their weapons on a Shami Tree, before entering the court of King Virat to spend the last one year in disguise. After completion of that year, on Vijayadashmi (Dassera), they brought down the weapons from the Shami Tree. The Vijayadashmi is the tenth day of the Navratra, when Shakti Durga killed the demon Mahishasur. As per Krishan Leela, Goddess Durga in the form of Yoga Maya safeguarded Krishana from his cruel uncle Kans. Yog Maya came down to Mathura from Gokul in place of Krishana. In future wars, she helped Krishana with her yogic powers and killed powerful Rakshasas like Chadoor. The revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar, who followed the ‘CULT OF THE BOMB” to free their motherland from the slavery of the British imperialism looked up to Durga Devi for success in their mission. Even today in free India, Durga’s blessings are invoked and Dassera is celebrated all over the country.

Navratra – Significance of each day:   

Navadurga-The nine goddesses worshiped in Navaratri

The festival is associated to the prominent battle that took place between Durga and demon Mahishasura and celebrates the victory of Good over Evil. These nine days are solely dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine Avatars – the Navadurga. Each day is associated to an incarnation of the goddess.

The concept of Nava-durga is extremely popular during Navratri. Navratri refers to the nine nights that lead to the celebration of Vijayadashmi. The Goddess is worshipped in nine forms. The nine forms are Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, SkandaMata, Kaatyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddharaatri. These are not nine separate goddesses. They represent the nine phases of the goddess’ life. The nine nights of Navratri are a celebration of the Goddess in her entirety.

Day 1 – Shailaputri

The Goddess is Shakti, who brings meaning to Shiva, who disembodied pure consciousness. The first stage is Shailaputri, where Shakti is the goddess of the mountains. She is born of the mountains and she decides to marry the mountain hermit, Shiva. He, however, does not want to marry. He withdraws into his mountain cave, stubbornly refusing to be with her.

Known as Pratipada, this day is associated with Shailaputri (literally “Daughter of Mountain”), an incarnation of Parvati. It is in this form that the Goddess is worshiped as the consort of Shiva; she is depicted as riding the bull, Nandi, with a trishula in her right hand and lotus in her left. Shailaputri is considered to be the direct incarnation of Mahakali. The color of the day is red, which depicts action and vigor.

Day 2 – Brahmacharini

In the second phase, Durga becomes Brahmacharini, a hermit, who performs tapasya. She mimics Shiva, who is a tapasvi himself. As she does exactly what he does, Shiva realises what would happen, if all men and women choose to become hermits. The next generation will not be created. The world will cease to exist. The rock (Shiva-Linga) becomes the plant (bilva), the object turns into an organism, as Shiva realises without Shakti, he is a dead body (Shava).

On Dwitiya, Goddess Brahmacharini, another incarnation of Parvati, is worshiped. In this form, Parvati became Sati, her unmarried self. Brahmacharini is worshiped for emancipation or moksha and endowment of peace and prosperity. Depicted as walking bare feet and holding a japamala and kamandal in her hands, she symbolizes bliss and calm. Blue is the color code of this day. Blue color depicts tranquillity yet strong energy.

Day 3 – Chandraghanta

Shiva agrees to marry Shakti and the Goddess Durga, then takes her third form, which is Chandraghanta. The Chandraghanta, or the bell-shaped Moon, represents the first day of the Waxing Moon, when only an arc of the Moon is seen. If Shiva is the Waning Moon (Destroyer), with Shakti he becomes the Waxing Moon (Creator).

Tritiya commemorates the worship of Chandraghanta – the name derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvati adorned her forehead with the ardhachandra (literary Half-Moon). She is the embodiment of Beauty and is also symbolic of Bravery. Yellow is the color of the third day, which is a vivacious color and can pep up everyone’s mood.

Day 4 – Kushmanda

Now, as Shiva’s wife, Durga enjoys the companionship of Shiva and her body is filled with warmth. This makes her Kushmunda,  gently aroused. In her fourth form, she becomes radiant like the sun, in the presence of Shiva.

Goddess Kushmanda is worshiped on Chaturthi. Believed to be the creative power of the universe, Kushmanda associated with the endowment of vegetation on earth and hence, the color of the day is Green. She is depicted as having eight arms and sits on a Tiger.

Day 5 – Skandamata

The fifth form is when Durga becomes a mother. She is Skanda’s mother. She has domesticated Shiva, who was a hermit into a householder called Shankara and also made him a father.

Skandamata, the Goddess worshiped on Panchami, is the mother of Skanda (or Kartikeya). The color of Grey is symbolic of the transforming strength of a mother when her child is confronted with danger. She is depicted riding a ferocious lion, having four arms and holding her baby.

Day 6 – Katyayani

In the sixth form of Kaatyayani, Durga becomes the outraged warrior who fights Mahishasura—who cannot be defeated by any other deva. He arrogantly declares that no man can defeat him; forgetting that a woman can defeat him.

Born to sage Katyayana, she is an incarnation of Durga and is shown to exhibit courage which is symbolized by the color Orange. Known as the warrior Goddess, she is considered one of the most violent forms of Devi. In this avatar, Kātyāyanī rides a lion and has four hands. She is a form of Maha Lakshmi

Day 7 – Kalaratri

In her seventh form, Durga becomes even more fierce as Kalaratri—Kaali who kills Chanda and Munda. She adorns her body with his entrails, limbs and head. It is the fiercest and darkest form of the goddess, after which she quickly calms downs.

Considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga, Kalaratri is revered on Saptami. It is believed that Parvati removed her fair skin to kill the demons Sumbha (Chanda) and Nisumbha (Munda). The color of the day is White. On Saptami, the Goddess appears in white color attire with a lot of rage in her fiery eyes, her skin turns black. The white color portrays prayer and peace and ensures the devotees that the Goddess will protect them from any harm.

Day 8 – Mahagauri

Durga then becomes the eighth form: Mahagauri, the homemaker. Gauri is the one who is domestic: her hair is no longer unbound.
She doesn’t run amok, naked on the battlefield. She sits at home preparing food, to feed her husband Shiva, in the form of Annapurna

Mahagauri symbolizes intelligence and peace. The color associated with this day is Pink which depicts optimism.

Day 9 – Sidhidatri

On the last day of the festival also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidhatri. Sitting on a lotus, Durga is believed to possess and bestows all types of Siddhis. Here she has four hands. Also known as Sri Lakshmi Devi. The light blue color of the day portrays an admiration towards nature’s beauty.

In the final form, Durga is Siddharaatri, the accomplished one. She has completed her work and now takes her rightful place as one half of Shiva’s body. She completes him. This is her greatest accomplishment; she has connected Shiva to worldly life, made him realise his purpose, to animate the world, and make the world realise its value and purpose. This is the ultimate role of the Goddess in Hindu mythology.

Navratra Cetebrations:

Navratra celebration may vary from one state to another state of lndia, but the worship of the Goddess Durga remains their sole reason. This festival commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over powerful demon Mahishasur. lt is the festival of worship, dance and music celebrated over a period of  nine nights, commences on the first and ends on the tenth day of Ashwin Shukle Paksha of Hindu calendar for the worship of the Goddess Durga.

ln northern lndia, the first nine days of this festival, called Navratri, commonly observed as a time rigorous fast & puja, followed by celebrations on the tenth day (Dassera). ln western India, throughout the nine days, both men and women participate in a special kind of dance around an object of worship (Garba & Dandiya). ln the south, Navratra signifies the beginning of formal education of every child aged 3-5 years while the puja goes on in the temples and the tenth day (Dassera) is celebrated with lots of fanfare, whereas, in the east people go crazy over Durga puja by the name of Kalim the symbol of Shakti. All these celebrations involve inter-Asia visits to temples like Meenakshi at Chennai, Kamakshi in Conjivaram, Annapurna at Benaras, Mumadevi and Mahalaxmi at Mumbai, signifying the triumph of good, of piety and devotion over all the forces of evil

We Sonaras (Swarankar), perform the “Devi-Sthapana” in our Durga temples, wherein, we invite the Goddess Durga and perform pooja-path and rituals for nine days/nights and eat vegetarian food once in a day, sleep on ground, adhere to Brahamcharya and do not shave. We worship and invoke nine different manifestations of Goddess Durga (Shakti Mahakali, Mahalaxmi, Yog Maya, Chamunda, Rakt Dantika, Mahasarswati, Shokumbhari, Shri Durga, Bhawani and Chandika). Teracotta Kalash is installed on small containers in which “Jau”, a kind of barley, is sown and an oil lamp is supposed to be kept lit all through the nine days/nights. Finally, on the tenth day, after performing Havan, this installation is taken for immersion in a river or lake, reiterating, rejuvenation and growth. The one basic aim of this puja is to propitiate Shakti, the Goddess in Her aspect as power, to bestow upon men all wealth, auspiciousness, prosperity, knowledge and all other potent powers. Whatever is the particular or special request that every one may put before the Goddess, whatever boon may be asked of her, the one thing behind all these is propitiation, worship and linking oneself with Her. There is no other aim. This is being affected consciously. Everyone is blessed with her loving mercy and is protected by her.

Modern Science and Navritra:

Navratra also called Navraatam, means nine nights. In Sanatan Dharma (the Hindu way of life), these nine nights are the first nine nights of the Hindu month of  Chaitra in Shukla Paksh (the bright fortnight corresponding to late March and/or early April), and the same period in the month of Ashwin (September-October), respectively. lt is also referred to as Vasant Navratra and Sharad Navratra respectively. In the first case it refers to Navratra in Spring and in the second case it refers to Navratra in Autumn. As can be seen by now, it is a seasonal occurrence. This is rather interesting for one living in a tropical country. However, even though the country might be of tropical climate, certain changes do take place.

Firstly, when a temperate country experiences Spring, the vegetation there comes alive. The trees take on new leaves and plants starts, growing again. In the tropical country, the trees shed their old leaves and also take on new ones. When it is Autumn or the Fall season in the temperate country, the days become shorter. As a result, the Sun sets earlier. This is also observed in a tropical country. The days become shorter and the nights become longer. One can see quite clearly, that even though there are no extreme temperature changes in the tropical country, the basic changes in the atmosphere does in fact take place. How does all this relate to Navratra?

When the Sun enters into the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, it causes nature to be slightly disturbed. The Sun does this at a period in time corresponding to Chaitra and Ashwin Navratra. Nature changes and not only does vegetation show physical changes but there are climatic changes too. Climatic changes affect all living beings and organisms. These changes in atmospheric temperatures, in one case from cold to warm and eventually hot and in the other case from hot to cool and eventually cold, creates and multiplies bacterial growth in the atmosphere and in our bodies. This is why we get the cold, the flu and the viruses when temperatures and seasons change.

When this happens, we need nurturing and special care. Therefore, we offer prayers to God in the form of the Divine Mother Durga or Shakti Mata for good health, strength, energy and spiritual growth.



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