Sixth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Katyayani

Sixth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Katyayani

Shukla shashthi, the sixth tithi (lunar phase) of the waxing Moon this month, marks the sixth day of Navaratri wherein 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.katyayaniKatyayani 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.

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Fifth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Skandamata

Fifth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Skandamata

Shukla panchami, the fifth tithi (lunar phase) of the waxing Moon this month, marks the fifth day of Navaratri wherein 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.

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Fourth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Kushmanda

Fourth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Kushmanda

Shukla chaturthi, the fourth tithi (lunar phase) of the waxing Moon this month marks the fourth day of Navaratri, wherein 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.

Worshiping 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 Maha Lakshmi. 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 worshiping 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.

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Third Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Chandraghanta

Third Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Chandraghanta

On shukla tritiya, the third tithi (lunar phase) of the waxing Moon, we mark the third day of Navaratri and celebrate Goddess as Chandraghanta, a powerful form of Durga. In the Durga-Lakshmi-Sarasvati tradition of celebrations, this marks the third and final night of Durga.

Chandraghanta 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.

chandraghanta kunal

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First Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Shailputri

First Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Shailputri

Throughout Navaratri, “the nine nights of the Goddess,” we celebrate the power of Shakti, the sacred dynamic feminine principle of divine energy. In my teacher’s tradition the first three nights are dedicated to Durga or Kali (followed by three nights to Lakshmi and three to Sarasvati).

In many places, nine different forms of Durga are worshiped throughout the nine days. In this tradition, the first day of Navaratri is dedicated 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 trisul (trident) and a lotus in her hands. She is ruled by the Moon 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 thus 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.

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