Saturday, September 27, 2014

Navaratri, Nine Nights of Durga

During this time of year the festival Navaratri is celebrated in honor of the Hindu Goddess Durga. The festival begins at the new moon near the equinox which was September 25 and it will last until October 3. Since the dates for this festival are according to the lunar calendar they are slightly different each year. The celebration lasts for nine nights and each day a different form of Durga is honored. The word "nava" means nine so "Navadurga" means "Nine Durga's" and Navaratri means "nine nights".

Navaratri is celebrated differently in different areas around India. In some parts people fast for nine days while in other areas people dress in the colors associated with each day and dance. In West Bengal, life-sized clay dolls or idols of the goddess Durga are made and then worshiped in the temples. 

Below is a list of the nine manifestations of Durga with the corresponding day for the festival.

Shailaputri - The first form of Durga honored on the first night of Navaratri. Daughter of the mountains and was born in the Himalayas. Also known as Sati Bhavani or Parvati. Shailaputri is the first form of Durga. She rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her hands. 

Brahmacharini - The second form of Durga and honored on the second night of Navaratri. She is known as "One who observes penance" and practices celibacy. She holds a pot of water in one hand and a rosary in the other. This form of Devi stands for love, loyalty and enlightenment.

Chandraghanta - Third form of Durga and honored on the third night of Navaratri. This form of Devi has a moon (Chandra) on her forehead and carries a bell (ghanta) to scare off demons. She rides a lion and stands for power and bravery.

Kushmanda - Fourth form of Durga honored on the fourth night of Navaratri. She is considered the creator of the universe and shines brightly like the light of the sun. She rides a lion and has eight hands in which she holds various weapons as well as a rosary.

Skanda Mata - Fifth form of Durga honored on the fifth night of Navaratri. She is mother of Lord Skanda who was in charge of the army for the Gods in their war against demons. She has four arms and three eyes and is often depicted sitting on a lotus flower.

Katyayani - Sixth form of Durga honored on the sixth night of Navaratri. She was daughter to the great sage Kata. It is said that Kata wished for a daughter in the form of a goddess. He underwent penance and long austerities to receive the grace of the Mother Goddess. Durga granted the sage his wish in the form of Katyayani.

Kalaratri - Seventh form of Durga and honored on the seventh day of Navaratri. She has a dark complexion and a fearless posture. She has three eyes, a necklace of lightning and she rides a donkey. Flames come from her breath and she holds a sword in her right hand.  Kalaratri represents protection.

Maha Gauri - Eighth form of Durga honored on the eighth night of Navaratri. It is said that Maha Gauri spent a long time in the forest of the Himalayas in devotion to the goddess and her complexion became dark. When Lord Shiva cleaned her with water from the Ganges she regained her original beauty and shine and her skin was pure white. She has four arms, rides a bull and wears white clothes. She represents peace, purification and intelligence.

Siddhidatri - Ninth form of Durga honored on the ninth night of Navaratri. She is known for her supernatural healing powers and blesses all Gods, saints, yogi's and other devotees of the Mother. She is depicted with four arms and riding a lion. She is seen as being blissful and happy.

Navaratri blessings!

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