‘Navratri’ in Sanskrit translates to ‘nine nights’. Indians all across the world celebrate these nine nights with full fervor and great enthusiasm. These nine nights of festivities are marked with ritualistic fasting, poojas while adopting a calm and meditative lifestyle. This Hindu festival is dedicated to Goddess Durga and her 9 avatars. On each of these nine days, Hindus worship the nine different manifestation of Durga or Shakti. The ‘Nav Durga’ or the ‘Nine Forms of Durga’ are pleased with special offerings and prayers. The significance of Nav Durga is narrated and reiterated in every Hindu household especially during the Navratris as this is the time when Goddess Durga descends from the heaven to bless her beloved devotees.
Navratri is celebrated differently in India’s various regions. For many people it is a time of religious reflection and fasting; for others it is a time for dancing and feasting. Among fasting customs are observing a strict vegetarian diet and abstaining from alcohol and certain spices. Dances performed include Garba especially in Gujarat. Typically the festival’s nine nights are dedicated to different aspects of the divine feminine principle, or Shakti While the pattern varies somewhat by region, generally the first third of the festival focuses on aspects of the goddess Durga, the second third on the goddess Lakshmi, and the final third on the goddess Sarasvati Offerings are often made to the goddesses and their various aspects, and rituals are performed in their honour. One popular ritual is Kanya Puja, which takes place on the eighth or ninth day. In this ritual nine young girls are dressed as the nine goddess aspects celebrated during Navratri and are worshiped with ritual foot washing and given offerings such as food and clothing.
Among some followers of the goddess Durga, who are particularly predominant in Bengal and Assam, the festival is known as or coincides with the Durga Puja (“Rite of Durga”). Special images of Durga commemorating her victory over the buffalo-headed demon Mahishasura are worshiped daily, and on the 10th day (Dussehra) they are taken in jubilant processions to nearby rivers or reservoirs for immersion in water. In addition to family observances, the puja, or ritual, days are also celebrated with public concerts, recitations, plays, and fairs. In some parts of India, Dussehra is associated with the victory of the god Rama over the demon-king Ravana. In North India the Ram Lila (“Play of Rama”) is the highlight of the festival. On successive nights different episodes of the epic poem the Ramayana are dramatized by young actors elaborately costumed and masked; the pageant is always climaxed by the burning of huge effigies of the demons.
Here are the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga that are worshiped on each day of Navratri and the bhog or prasadthat is specially prepared for them to seek their blessings.
The first manifestation of Durga is Goddess Shailputri. According to scriptures, she holds a trishul and a lotus in her hands, and rides a bull called Nandi. As per Shivpurana, Goddess Shailputri in her previous birth was born to Daksha Prajapati, and was named ‘Sati’. Deeply devoted to Lord Shiva ever since her childhood, Sati meditated earnestly to beget Lord Shiva as her consort. Lord Shiva bestowed upon her the desired boon and accepted her as her consort. The union was not accepted well by Sati’s father Daksha Prajapati, who insulted Shiva by not inviting him in one of his special gatherings. Infuriated upon the humiliation meted out to her husband, Sati immolated herself and sacrificed her life in honour of her husband. In her next birth Sati was born as a daughter to Himalaya, the Lord of Mountains and thus, was called Shailputri. Sailputri is also worshiped as Parvati or Hemvati. The first day of Navratra is dedicated to worshiping Shailputri.
Mantra: वन्दे वाञ्छितलाभाय चन्द्रार्धकृतशेखराम्। वृषारुढां शूलधरां शैलपुत्रीं यशस्विनीम्॥
Vande Vanchhitlabhay Chandrardhkritshekhram. Vrisharudham Shuldharam Shailputri Yashswinim.
What to offer: Devotees offer pure ghee on the foot of Goddess Shailputri. It is believed that by offering pure ghee the devotees are blessed with a life free of diseases and illness.
The second day of Navratri bhog is dedicated to Goddess Brahmacharini. She is depicted as a monastic goddess in Hindu scriptures, two-armed, clad in white and holding a rudraksh mala and a sacred Kamandalu. Her stance is of utmost piety and devotion. Her meditative form is related to the severe penance undertaken by Sati and Parvati in their respective births to attain Lord Shiva as their beloved consort. She is also known as Tapasyacharini. It is believed that when Parvati was engaged in her deep meditation to please Lord Shiva, she was reduced to a mere skeleton. Her austere penance gained her the name of Bharahmacharini by all the devtas and Gods who were awestruck by her reverence. Worshiping this form of Shakti is known to invoke the spirit of penance, renunciation, virtue and nobility.
Mantra: दधाना करपद्माभ्यामक्षमालाकमण्डलू। देवी प्रसीदतु मयि ब्रह्मचारिण्यनुत्तमा॥
Dadhanakara Padmabhyam akshamala kamandalam, Devi prasidathu mayi rahmacharinya nuththama.
What to offer: Goddess Brahmacharini is offered sugar for the longevity of the family members.
The third manifestation of Durga is Goddess Chandraghanta. She is depicted as a fierce 10-armed Goddess, roaring in anger. Chandraghanta is worshiped on the third day of Navratri. She has a golden complexion and on her forehead she wears a crescent moon, which is why she is called Chandraghanta by her devotees. According to scriptures during a great battle between gods and the demons, the sound vibrations produced by her ghanta (bell) took the lives of many wicked enemies. She rides on a lion and is believed to destroy all evil and wicked.
Mantra: पिण्डज प्रवरारूढ़ा चण्डकोपास्त्रकैर्युता। प्रसीदम तनुते महयं चन्द्रघण्टेति विश्रुता।।
Pindaj Pravrarudha Chandkpasrkaryuta . Prasidam Tanute Mahyam Chandrghnteti Vishruta
What to offer: The ferocious goddess is pleased with Kheer. She is known to drive away all pains
On the fourth day of Navratri, Goddess Kushmanda is worshipped. The name Kushmanda is made of three other words ‘Ku’ (little), ‘Ushma’ (warmth or energy) and ‘Amnda’ (egg) which means the one who created the universe as the “Little Cosmic Egg” with energy and warmth. According to Hindu scriptures, the universe was a dark space and it was Goddess Kushmanda who produced the Cosmic Egg with her smile.
Mantra: वन्दे वांछित कामार्थे चंद्रार्घ्कृत शेखराम, सिंहरुढ़ा अष्टभुजा कुष्मांडा यशस्वनिम.
Vande Vance hit Kamarthe Chandrarghkrit Shekhram, Singhrudha Ashtbhuja Kushmanda Yashswini.
What to offer: Devotees offer Malpua to Maa Kushmanda to improve their intellect and decision-making ability.
The fifth manifestation of Durga is Skandmata who is worshiped on the fifth day of the Navratri also known as Panchami. Goddess Skandamata is depicted as a four-armed deity, who carries a lotus in two of her arms with a Kamandalu and a bell. She is also seen carrying little Kartikay on her lap. Kartikay is also known as Skanda, hence giving the goddess the name of Skandamata. Her posture is calm and serene. She is seated on a lotus, but a lion is also her vehicle. It is said to keep the devotees in good health.
Mantra: “सिंहासनगता नित्यं पद्माश्रितकरद्वया. शुभदास्तु सदा देवी स्कन्दमाता यशस्विनी.”
Sinhasangata nityam padmashritkardvya , Shubhdastu sada Devi Skandmata Yashswini.
What to offer: Bananas is the favourite fruit of Goddess Skandmata.
Worshiped on the sixth day (Shashti) of Navratris, Goddess Katyayani is a form of Shakti who is depicted as having four arms, and carrying a sword. She rides a lion, and can be pleased with true devotion and piety. She is the daughter of Sage Katyayan. Her blessings fill their lives with sweetness and help them get rid of bitter troubles.
Mantra: स्वर्णाआज्ञा चक्र स्थितां षष्टम दुर्गा त्रिनेत्राम्। वराभीत करां षगपदधरां कात्यायनसुतां भजामि॥
Swarnagya chakra sthitam shashtam Durga Trinetram. Varabhit Karam shadgpadmdharam katyayansutam Bhajami.
What to offer: Devotees offer Honey as prasad to Devi Katyayani.
Goddess Kaalratri is worshiped on the seventh day of Navratris. According to the Hindu scriptures, Goddess Kaalratri is etched as a four-armed deity who rides a donkey. She carries a sword, a trident and a noose. She is the fierce form of Durga, dark and ferocious in appearance. She possesses three eyes on her forehead that are known to contain the entire universe. She breathes fierce flames of fire, and lustrous rays emanate from her. Fierce on the outside, Kaalratri bestows her true devotees protection from evil-powers and spirits.
Mantra: करालवंदना धोरां मुक्तकेशी चतुर्भुजाम्। कालरात्रिं करालिंका दिव्यां विद्युतमाला विभूषिताम॥
Karalvadnam ghoram muktkeshi chaturbhjam. Kaal Ratrim karalikaam divyam vidyutmala vibhushitam.
What to offer: Offer Jaggery as prasad to Devi Kaalratri for relief from pains, obstacles and bring happiness. The prasad is also given to Brahmins along with Dakshina.
Durga Asthami or the eight day of Navratris is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri. As per the scriptures, Mahagauri worshiped as the four-armed deity who rides on a bull or a white elephant. She carries a trishul and a damru. When Parvati decided to go on an austere penance to beget Lord Shiva as her consort, she renounced all comforts and lived in a forest for deep meditation. Her meditation continued for several years – braving heat, cold, rain, and terrible storms. Lord Shiva, impressed by her deep penance, appeared before her and showered the holy water of the Ganga over her. The Gangajal washed off all the dirt. She regained her natural beauty, and came to be known as Mahagauri. It is widely believed that donating coconuts to the Brahmans on Ashtami, blesses a childless couple with a child.
Mantra: पूर्णन्दु निभां गौरी सोमचक्रस्थितां अष्टमं महागौरी त्रिनेत्राम्। वराभीतिकरां त्रिशूल डमरूधरां महागौरी भजेम्॥
What to offer: Goddess Mahagauri is offered coconut by devotees.
Worshiped on the ninth day, Goddess Siddhidhatri is projected as a four-armed deity sitting calmly on a lotus. She also holds a lotus, mace, discus and a book. This form of Shakti signifies the ushering of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance. Siddhi in Sanskrit translates to accomplishment. Thus, Goddess Siddhidhatri signifies perfection.
Mantra: स्वर्णावर्णा निर्वाणचक्रस्थितां नवम् दुर्गा त्रिनेत्राम्।शख, चक्र, गदा, पदम, धरां सिद्धीदात्री भजेम्॥
What to offer: Sesame Seeds are offered to Devi Siddhidatri for safety and security from unnatural events.
Dr. Dimpy Gupta
BDS, MBA(Symbiosis, Pune)
Relationship managerIndus Hospitals(Mohali, Dera Bassi, Fatehgarh Sahib,Punjab)