This Saturday, 17th October, is the first day of the nine-day Hindu Aryan’s festival of Navratri, a celebration and auspicious time for prayer and worship of the Divine Mother. Astrologically these are the blissful days for cosmic energy.
The Aryan’s across the world, usually immerse themselves in celebrations that mark one of our most important festivals and the beginning the festive season. Festivals in India are celebrated because they spark joy and meaning in our lives. But, for the first time in years, there will be no street celebrations, no communities coming together due to the unprecedented times we have witnessed over the last 6 months during this pandemic.
However, I believe that during this Navratri when everything around us is quieter than normal, we can take a moment to look deeper into our souls and allow ourselves to rest and reflect. Navratri, when translated into English, literally means nine nights.
During these nine nights I encourage you to take time to relax, and rejuvenate your body, mind and soul through reflection, prayer, and meditation to the divine energy of Mother.
I always say the energy of Mother is the most powerful energy on earth. Without Mother, nothing can be born, and nothing can be created. Prayer to Mother over these nine days will be very powerful and she will shower you with her love and kindness.
Mother is always kind. She knows what her children need to let go of, she knows what they need to have a happy life also, and she is our teacher, the giver of knowledge. In these three roles she is represented as Mother Kali, Mother Lakshmi, and Mother Saraswati.
I would like to share a brief version of the story of Mother Durga, so that you will understand why we do this prayer over nine days, honouring the nine aspects of Mother Durga. It is the story of a great battle between Mother Durga and the demon Mahishasura.
The Great Battle
Mahishasura was a powerful and ambitious Demon who had ambitions to rule the entire universe. He understood however that unless he became more powerful that the Gods he could not succeed. He decided to devote himself entirely to worship of Lord Brahma, and spent many, many years in prayer and meditation, without food or water, until, finally, Lord Brahma had to grant his boon.
Mahishasura said he wanted to become immortal, but Brahma told him everyone who is born must die. Thinking he was being very clever, the demon asked instead that he granted a boon that no man or god could kill him. Brahma was duty bound to give him his wish.
Feeling he was now invincible, Mahishasura created havoc on earth, and the gods began to worry, knowing they would be his next target. Lord Indra pleaded with the Divine Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, to join with the gods in battle against the fierce demon.
They agreed, and a great war soon began. The gods realised that because of the boon he had been granted they could not kill him and retreated to see what steps they should take.
They soon found the flaw in what the demon had asked for. He had referred only to man and gods, never thinking that the feminine would engage, much less, defeat him in battle.
Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came together with to create a powerful 10-armed goddess, Durga, who was an incarnation of Shakti, who could defeat Mahishasura. Together with all the gods they gifted her with special strengths and weapons.
She mounted her mighty tiger and rode to battle, slaying many demons before finally confronting the mighty demon who believed himself to be invincible. She fought him bravely for nine days before finally slaying him with her trident.
It is these nine days that are remembered during Navratri. Durga’s victory is symbolic of the triumph of our higher nature over our basic instincts. Mahishasura represents our ignorance, ego, and attachment to desires, while Durga represents truth, knowledge and transcendence.
The Nine Aspects of Durga
One of the nine aspects of Durga is represented during each of the nine days of Navratri.
Here is a brief introduction to each:
Day 1 Saturday 17th October — Devi Shailaputri
This aspect of Durga is the daughter of Lord Himalaya, and her name translates as daughter of the mountain. She is Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Shaila is the mountain peak from which divine consciousness flows, so our prayers today are that we can reach the highest state of consciousness. Shailaputri is the embodiment of the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who rides a bull, carrying a trident and a lotus flower in her hands.
Day 2 Sunday 18th October — Devi Brahmacharini
Her name means one who practices austerity with devotion. She is Parvati who meditated and practised many austerities to gain the heart of Shiva as her consort. She represents the peaceful aspect of Durga unmarried and pure, so that she is the pure form of divine energy. She showers divine grace on her devotees, bringing gifts of peace, prosperity, and happiness. In her right hand is a mala, and in her left a water pot.
Day 3 Monday 19th October — Devi Chandraghanta
She is the form Parvati assumed at the time of her marriage to Lord Shiva, at which time she started wearing a half-moon Bindi in the shape of a Ghantha (bell) on her forehead. Chandra refers to the moon, which represents our mind. Our human minds can be restless and unfocused. Ghantha is a bell, the sound of which is OM, drawing the mind to one pointedness. Our prayer today encourages us to focus the mind single pointedly on the Divine Mother. This Devi, with her ten hands holding weapons and her three eyes, is a goddess of peace, strength and courage. Her mount is the lion.
Day 4 Tuesday 20th October — Devi Kushmanda
Sometimes referred to as the Smiling Goddess, she is the aspect of Durga that is full of Prana, life-force. She is the cosmic egg; the universe was manifested through her. She has the power to reside within the sun, so she has the radiance to sustain and preserve energy. Her name is made up of three words, Ku which means little, Ushma meaning warmth or heat, and Anda which means egg. She is an eight handed Devi who also rides a lion.
Day 5 Wednesday 21st October — Devi Skandamata
This aspect of Mother Durga represents the affectionate nature of the Divine Mother. She is the mother of Skanda, also known as Lord Kartihkeya, chosen by the gods as their commander in the war against the demons. Skandamata, who has four arms and three eyes, holds him in her upper right arm while she holds a lotus in her right lower hand. She holds her upper left hand in the blessing pose, while her lower left hand holds another lotus. She bestows abundance of wisdom, wealth, prosperity and liberation on her devotees.
Day 6 Thursday 22nd October — Devi Katyayani
Devi Katyayani is the daughter of a great sage, Kata. He spent a long-time practising austerities and penance to receive the grace of the Divine Mother, that he might have a daughter who would be a goddess. She is the aspect of Durga that slayed the demon Mahishaura, a fierce and violent Devi, born from the anger of the gods. In Vedanta, righteous anger that supports dharma is acceptable. She is the anger that arises in creation to restore balance. Devotion to Katyayani will remove the inner demons, like the ego, that block our spiritual evolution.
Day 7 Friday 23rd October — Devi Kalaratri
Devi Kalaratri is a fierce aspect of Durga, black in appearance like Mother Kali. She leads us to freedom by destroying ignorance and removing darkness. She has three eyes that are bright like fire, and she breathes flames. A necklace around her neck flashes like lightning. In her hands she carries many weapons, including a dagger and an iron weapon that looks like a thorn. In her right hand is a shining sword to battle evil. This is the fierceness of Mother, who at the same time raises her right hand in the blessings pose. She is the protector from fears and worries of her devotees. She loves as fiercely as she battles.
Day 8 Saturday 24th October — Devi Mahagauri
Devi Mahagauri is the aspect of Durga that represents the beauty and serenity of nature. She spent so many years in the forest meditating and doing austerities that her complexion became dark. Lord Shiva cleaned her with Ganga water after which she regained her beauty, and became known as Maha Gauri, which means extremely white. She is the energy that gives us momentum in our lives. She rides a bull, wearing white clothes, carrying a trident in her lower right hand, while the other right hand allays fears. A small rattle drum is held in her upper left hand, while the lower hand bestows blessings. She washes away all the sins of her devotees and they are purified in all aspects of their lives.
Day 9 Sunday 25th October — Devi Siddhidaatri
Devi Siddhidaatri brings perfection to life — Siddhi means perfection. This is Mother Durga’s ultimate form. She is the bestower of the fruits of actions and makes the impossible possible. She blesses the gods, yogis, and saints. The Puranas tell us that Lord Shiva was a devotee and she blessed him with all supernatural powers.
It was through her blessing that his avatar, Ardnarishvara, whose body was one half male, and the other female, came into being. She rides a lion and is always depicted in a blissful pose.
A few days ago, one of my associates shared a rare video with me from the powerful temple of Mother Durga dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya, situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in the north eastern state of Assam in India.
Here you will see the face and the human like eyes of Kamakhya exposed and lit up during fire puja. This sacred ritual only happens every 15 years. A few years ago, I was fortunate to visit this powerful temple of Mother Durga. What an amazing experience.
Here is the link to this rare video:
Finally, I would like to share with you a mantra which in my opinion is the most powerful mantra of Mother Durga to practice during Navaratri:
Om Aim Hrim Klim Chamundaye Viche
This mantra has the seed mantras of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali.
Chamundaye Viche means the shields that protect us.
Practice of this mantra will build your self-confidence and give you great strength and inner power to achieve fulfilment in your life. Navratri is the perfect time for you to realise that you are loved and supported by the divine energy of Mother. Practice this mantra during these days, it is the most important mantra of Aryans to get bliss.