For the first nine days and nights of the waxing Moon this lunar cycle we celebrate Navaratri (starting October 13th in North America). Literally the “nine nights,” this is a Hindu festival dedicated to worshipping the Goddess, Devi, in her many forms, for nine days and nights. There are nine forms of Durga that are typically celebrated each day. We celebrate the power of Shakti, the sacred dynamic feminine principle of divine energy. We pray to her to help reveal and remove our shortcomings, bestow blessings, and confer wealth and knowledge. Navaratri worship can include many forms of puja (ritual prayer). These can include creating a special altar to the Goddess, and making daily offerings including flowers, food, incense, light (a flame), ghee, as well as prayer, meditation, mantras and bhajans (devotional songs). The Devi Mahatmyam (a.k.a. Chandi Path), the story of Durga, is a traditional text to read throughout this festival. Occurring in the fall-time in India and the northern hemisphere, this Navaratri also coincides with the harvest season, and is a time to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest and pray that it carries us through the winter season.
Goddess is worshipped over the nine nights in the form of nine incarnations of Durga (Navadurga). These are Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. Below are the stories of these goddesses, how to worship them, what they represent, as well as what colors and planets are associated with the nine days of Navaratri.
In many places, worship is dedicated to Goddess as Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, for three nights each. Durga helps us to destroy and remove negative tendencies in our minds and hearts, cleansing them of impurities that create obstructions in our spiritual and material pursuits. Lakshmi helps us to cultivate positive qualities, like compassion and devotion. She helps us to achieve spiritual and material prosperity. Sarasvati assists us with learning and attaining knowledge and wisdom, through the illumination of consciousness. She relates to prana, the vital breath, often associated with chi or life-force. Through our devotion, service, practice, study, and meditation, we allow prana to flow freely and enter a state of peace, bliss, and oneness. The tenth day of Navaratri is known as Vijayadashami, the day of victory, and is a time for auspicious beginnings after emerging from these nine days of worship and union with the Goddess.
May your connection to the Divine Mother and Shakti within deepen and blossom during this time. Jai Ma!
On the first day of Navaratri, On the first day of Navaratri, we honor Goddess in the form of Shailputri (a form of Durga), the “daughter of the mountains.” In the story of Shiva and Shakti, Shiva’s wife first incarnated as Sati, but Sati ended up sacrificing herself in a ceremonial fire because of her father’s (Daksha’s) disapproval of her husband. It was foretold that she would be born again to a father who respected the divine ascetic, and thus she reincarnated as Parvati, also called Hemavati (the daughter of Himavat, personification of the Himalayan mountains), or Shailputri (literally “daughter of the mountain”).
Shailputri rides a bull, Nandi, and carries a trident and a lotus in her hands. She rules the Moon (Chandra) and wears a crescent Moon on her forehead, just like her consort, Shiva. She is the mother of Kartikeya and Ganesha, and thus represents creative energy. She relates to the muladhara (root chakra), where we begin the journey of awakening the divine energy within, in the process of letting it rise into union with divine consciousness. It is good to concentrate on the root chakra today. Shailputri is a fitting goddess to worship for initiations and auspicious beginnings, and for the first day of Navaratri, as we are beginning the process of awakening Shakti. Devi’s color is red, which can be worn on all the nights of Navaratri, especially tonight.
Second Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Brahmacharini
Wednesday, October 14th
On the second day of Navaratri we worship Goddess as Brahmacharini, she who practices penance. Another form of Parvati and Durga, Brahmacharini is the form of the goddess who endured tapas or austerities (penance) to win the heart of Lord Shiva (representative of sublime consciousness). As he was an ascetic dedicated to austere meditations in solitude, the high-born Parvati forsook her father’s wealthy abode and chose the sadhu life of self-discipline and renunciation in order to attain spiritual growth. She went to live in the forest, enduring the elements, forgoing food and water, and meditating for eons. Brahmacharini is depicted in bare feet, holding a japa mala (prayer beads), and a kamandal (a simple water-pot, often carried by sadhus), and wearing rudrakshas (the bead related to Shiva and renunciation).
Although fasting is a suitable practice for all nine days of Navaratri (some fasts include milk or milk and fruit), it is especially potent to offer oneself to Goddess by fasting today. By worshipping Brahmacharini through simple offerings, prayer, and our own self-discipline, she blesses us with emotional and spiritual strength, and the ability to persevere through hardships. She represents and offers us loyalty, devotion, and spiritual growth and wisdom. She rules the planet Mars (Mangala), the planet of strength and courage, who assists us in overcoming weakness and practicing yogic discipline. The term brahmacharini also refers to female renunciates in the Hindu faith, who choose a life of tapas (austerity) and dedication to the Lord, rather than worldly life.
On the third day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess as Chandraghanta, a powerful form of Durga. She wears a half-Moon (Chandra) in the shape of a bell (ghanta) oh her forehead. Riding a lion or a tiger, she has 10 arms in which she holds many weapons, as well as a japa mala, a lotus, a kamandal, and mudras (hand-positions) offering blessings and protection. Posed as a warrioress, she is ready to destroy the obstacles and enemies of her devotees. She rules the planet Venus (Shukra), and is truly a gentle goddess. Chandraghanta is full of love and compassion, and wants to bestow happiness and prosperity on those who worship her. This form of the Divine Mother brings us courage as well as grace and beauty. Worshipping her helps to remove suffering and to grant us serenity.
Fourth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Kushmanda
Friday, October 16th
On the fourth day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess as Kushmanda, the power of Shakti that created the universe. It is said that when there was only darkness, Kushmanda smiled and the universe was illuminated. She is known as Adi Shakti, the first Shakti, creatrix of everything. She resides in the center of the Sun (Surya), and creates his bright light from her “cosmic egg.” She is radiant and glowing, and spreads warmth as well as vitality to her devotees. Kushmanda rides a lion or tiger and has 8 arms, holding many weapons, as well as a lotus, a japa mala, and a pot of honey or divine nectar.
Worshipping Kushmanda helps us to feel the spark of divine existence that radiates from the Sun to and through us all. She helps us to attain strength, good health, happiness and spiritual illumination. She is said to bestow siddhis (special powers) and thus can assist us in achieving success in many areas of life, including wealth, material comfort, and relationships. The power of the Sun enhances our positive and sattvic qualities through our worship of Kushmanda. She relates to the ahahata (heart chakra), and as such we should remember to approach her and make offerings from the purity of our hearts.
In some areas where Navaratri is dedicated to Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati for three nights each, today begins the worship of MahaLakshmi. After calling upon the energy of Durga for three days to destroy our demons (shortcomings, false beliefs, and external obstacles), we now invoke Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity. She helps us to attain both material and spiritual wealth, including virtues such as devotion and compassion. Through worshipping Lakshmi and seeking her benevolence, we call forth the benevolence from within ourselves which will bring joy and happiness as we share it with others. Similarly, the warmth and energy of Kushmanda and the Sun is meant to be shared with others from the heart, which will help us to find ourselves in a kingdom of love and light.
Fifth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Skandamata
Saturday, October 17th
On the fifth day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess in the form of Skandamata (literally the “mother of Skanda”). Skanda is a name for Kartikeya (also known as Murugun and Subramanya), the brother of Ganesha (both sons of Shiva and Parvati). We see Skandamata depicted holding her young six-headed son, as well as holding lotus flowers and keeping one hand in a blessing mudra. In worshiping her we call forth the protection and care that the Divine Mother has for all of creation, as all are her children. She blesses us with bliss, happiness, and motherly love, as well as nourishment and good health.
Kartikeya is the Lord of War, the leader of the army of devas (Gods) who fight the asuras (demons) in Hindu mythology. In the stories, the demon Tarakasura was tormenting all of humanity, and it was destined that only Lord Shiva’s son would be able to kill him and save the world. Shiva had renounced everything and was lost in meditation, however, after the death of his first wife, Sati. The Gods devised a plan and ensured that Parvati was born (a reincarnation of Sati), and followed a path that would result in Shiva’s emerging from meditation and remarrying. When they finally married, Shiva and Parvati ended up making love for millions of years while the world awaited their savior. Eventually, the fire deity, Agni, snuck into their cave in order to steal the seed that was needed. It was so hot that he could not hold it, however, and dropped it in the river Ganga (another manifestation of Goddess), who deposited the infant Skanda on her banks where he was found and nourished by six women (thus the six heads).
The demons represent the ignorance which gives rise to all human impurities and misfortune. In worshiping Skandamata we also worship Skanda and receive his blessings, including protection from harm and victory over our enemies, both internal and external. Skandamata relates to the vishuddhi (throat chakra), meaning “pure” or “undiluted,” showing that we can attain purity and realize infinite blessings through her worship. She is rules the planet Mercury (Budha), the planet and deity of communication and the intellect.
Sixth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Katyayani
Sunday, October 18th
On the sixth day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess in the form of Katyayani, the warrioress who destroyed Mahishasura (the buffalo demon). Mahishasura had been granted a boon (unbreakable wish) from Lord Brahma that determined that no man could kill him. Thus, when he was terrorizing the earth and heavens, the Gods summoned Goddess Durga to come and save them. This form of Durga is named Katyayani, for her father Katya, a devoted sage who did rigorous penance in order to have Durga take birth as his daughter. Katyayani takes a fierce form of the Divine Mother when we call upon her to destroy our demons, including both internal negativities and external obstacles to material and spiritual success. She relates to the ajna (the third-eye) chakra, where we draw our concentration during worship today.
Katyayani relates to fervent devotion, and it is told that she was also worshipped by the Gopis of Vrindavan, who called on her to help them win Lord Krishna as their husband. It is said that worshiping Katyayani will help in bringing a good relationship and marriage, as she bestows the strength to remove obstacles. She also rules Jupiter (Guru), who represents husband in a woman’s astrological chart. Jupiter brings grace, expansion, and optimism, just as Katyayani helps us to fight sorrow and fear. Katyayani is related to fragrances, and offering her incense and other aromatics is a good practice to include in worship today. Through healing scents she helps us to fight disease and improve health. She holds both a lotus and a sword in two of her hands, and holds the other two in mudras offering protection and blessings.
Seventh Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Kalaratri
Monday, October 19th
On the seventh day of Navaratri we worship Goddess as Kalaratri, a dark and fierce form of Durga. She has wild black hair, dark complexion, three red eyes, and flaming nostrils. She rides a donkey, and carries a sword and a cleaver in two hands, while her two other hands are in mudras offering blessings and protection. “Kala” refers to time, darkness, and therefore death. “Ratri” is night, and the presence of this goddess signifies a night of facing death and darkness. She reminds us that these are parts of the experience of life. By facing these aspects, and by worshipping Kalaratri, we can be freed from the pain and suffering associated with them. She is by our side bravely and compassionately as we face the morbid and terrifying aspects of existence, and helps to destroy our fears and weaknesses, giving us great strength.
She is an expression of Kali, whose fearful form was birthed from Durga’s third eye when Durga needed more strength and ferocity to fight the demon Raktabija. She is also called Shubhankari, she who does auspicious deeds, and reminds us that we have nothing to fear from her, and nothing to fear, ever. The compassionate energy of the Divine Mother is always working through all parts of creation, even in the processes of destruction. Kalaratri rules Saturn (Shani), who also represents time and ultimate death, and offers us the opportunity for expanded consciousness through meditation on these inevitabilities. By worshiping Kalaratri on the seventh day of Navaratri and meditating on her deeply, we connect with the sahasrara (crown) chakra, and the barriers between mind, body, and spirit begin to dissolve. She blesses us with happiness and courage, helping to remove sadness, pain, and fear.
In some areas, the seventh day of Navaratri begins the worship of Sarasvati. Having worshipped Durga and Lakshmi for three days and nights each, to remove obscacles and obtain spiritual wealth. Now the devotee is ready to receive knowledge, which comes from Sarasvati, the goddess of learning. In other schools of worship, such as Kalikula in Nepal, Sarasvati is celebrated for the first three nights, followed by Lakshmi, and the last three nights are dedicated to Kali.
On the eighth day of Navaratri we worship Goddess as Mahagauri, the “great white goddess.” This incarnation of Durga is fair, shining and radiant like pure light, representing her purifying shakti. She rides a bull and carries a damaru (a hand-drum) and a trisul in two hands, keeping the other two in mudras for blessing and protecting. She represents compassion, truth, and purity and bestows these on her devotees. Mahagauri is often thought of as the young form of Parvati, and thus worshipers often feed young girls sweets on this day of celebration, to honor the great white goddess.
The story is often told that while Parvati was doing penance to win Lord Shiva, her body became black and dirty. When Shiva accepted her he washed her with the water of the Ganga which made her shine resplendently and become Mahagauri. This represents her power to free us from all pain and suffering and to bless us with auspiciousness and virtues, those who bathe in the waters of the holy river Ganga are said to be blessed and purified. This includes freeing us from the painful attachments to the material world. As we worship Mahagauri only after the night of worship dedicated to Kalaratri, we can see that this detachment and reemergence into the light can come only after facing death and darkness. This goddess relates to the planetary deity Rahu (the north node of the Moon), who is actually a shadow point in the cosmos and has no physical body. Thus Mahagauri relates to parts of our soul and psyche that are beyond the physical body or chakra system. By making offerings to and meditating upon her, we can begin to go beyond our attachments to the mundane details of life and purify our connection with spirit.
Ninth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Siddhidatri
Wednesday, October 21st
The ninth day of Navaratri is of utmost importance. On this day we worship Goddess as Siddhidatri, the giver of all siddhis, special powers or perfect attainments. Siddhis are magical, spiritual, or psychic powers, attained through dedication and devoted practice. Through worship and meditation upon all the forms of Durga, culminating with that of Siddhidatri, we can attain perfection and infinite blessings from her. Through the siddhis, all desires can be fulfilled. But it is said the greatest blessing one can receive is to transcend all desires, or to have one’s only desire be to know Goddess/God. With the blessing of devotion, through her grace, we can remain peaceful and happy in all circumstances, blissfully experiencing the Divine Mother’s presence in and throughout all of creation, in every moment.
In her depiction, Siddhidatri sits on a lotus or a lion and holds a discus, a lotus, a mace, and conch shell, which she will use to sound the victory we attain through her worship. She is surrounded by and worshipped by all forms of divine beings–Gods, demons, spiritual masters and nature-spirits. It is said that even Lord Shiva received his powers from Siddhidatri. In the divine form that is half Shiva and half Shakti, he is merged with Siddhidatri and known as Ardhanarishvara. Siddhidatri relates to Ketu (the south node of the Moon), and thus she governs our deep and ancient psychic wisdom. She is a powerful goddess to worship for enhancing spiritual, psychic and energetic healing powers.
The Tenth Day of Navaratri: Vijayadashami
Thursday, October 22nd
The tenth day of Navaratri is known as Vijayadashami, the day of victory. After calling upon the Divine Mother’s presence and qualities to arise from within us for nine days and nights, we emerge victorious, basking in Her light and virtues. This is an auspicious time for beginning new ventures, especially creative and spiritual pursuits.
Jai Ma Durga!
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