Navadurga, which literally means the nine forms of Goddess Durga, constitute, according to vedic scriptures, the manifestation of Durgā in Her nine different aspects. These nine forms of manifestation are Śhailaputrī, Brahmachāriṇī, Chandrakaṇṭā, Kuṣhmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kātyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī and Siddhidātrī – together worshipped during the Navrātri Vrata (Nine Divine Nights). Each goddess has a different form and a special significance. Nava Durgā, if worshipped with religious fervour during Navaratri, it is believed, to bestow spiritual fulfilment.
Nava also means ‘nine’ – it denotes the number to which sages attach special significance. Hence, we have Nava-rātri (9 nights), Nava-patrika (9 leaves / herbs / plants), Nava-graha (9 planets), and Nava-Durgā (9 forms of Durga).
According to vedic scriptures, Goddess Durgā is a symbol of power. She is worshipped in nine different forms and is therefore termed Nava-durgā. Each of the nine manifestation of Durgā is worshipped with full devotion during Navarātri.
The following nine names have been told (Devi Mahatyam Devi Kavacham) by the Great Soul Brahma-deva Himself. Durgā is known by these names:
॥ नव-दुर्गा स्तोत्र ॥
॥ nava-durgā stotra ॥
Lord Brahma said:
प्रथमं शैलपुत्रीति द्वितीयं ब्रह्मचारिणी ।
तृतीयं चन्द्रघण्टेति कूष्माण्डेति चतुर्थकम् ॥ ३ ॥
prathamaṁ śailaputrīti dvitīyaṁ brahmacāriṇī ।
tr̥tīyaṁ candraghaṇṭeti kūṣmāṇḍeti caturthakam ॥ 3॥
“First is the Goddess of Inspiration, and second the Goddess of Sacred Study; third is the Goddess of the Delight of Practice, the Goddess of Purifying Austerity is fourth.”
पञ्चमं स्कन्दमातेति षष्ठं कात्यायनी तथा ।
सप्तमं कालरात्रिश्च महागौरीति चाष्टमम् ॥ ४ ॥
pañcamaṁ skandamāteti ṣaṣṭhaṁ kātyāyanī tathā ।
saptamaṁ kālarātriśca mahāgaurīti cāṣṭamam ॥ 4॥
“Fifth is the Goddess who Nurtures Divinity, sixth is the One Who is Ever Pure; seventh is the Goddess of the Dark Night of Overcoming Egotism, the Goddess of the Great Radiant Light is eighth.”
नवमं सिद्धिदात्री च नवदुर्गाः प्रकीर्तिताः ।
उक्तान्येतानि नामानि ब्रह्मणैव महात्मना ॥ ५ ॥
navamaṁ siddhidātrī ca navadurgāḥ prakīrtitāḥ ।
uktānyetāni nāmāni brahmaṇaiva mahātmanā ॥ 5॥
“Ninth is the Goddess who Grants Perfection, the nine Durgas, Relievers of Difficulties, have been enumerated, and these names have been revealed by the great soul of the Supreme himself.”
Shailaputri literally means the daughter (putri) of the mountains (shaila). Variously known as Sati Bhavani, Parvati or Hemavati, the daughter of Hemavana – the king of the Himalayas, she is the first among Navadurgas. Her worship takes place on the first day of Navaratri – the nine divine nights. The embodiment of the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, she rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her two hands.
She is worshipped on the second day of Navaratri and is the second form of Mother Goddess. Bharmacharini means one who practices devout austerity. She enlightens us in the magnificent embodiment of Durga with great powers and divine grace. She holds a rosary in her right hand and a water utensil in her left hand. She is blissful and endows happiness, peace, prosperity and grace upon all devotees who worship her. Filled with bliss and happiness, she is the way to emancipation – Moksha.
The third facet of Goddess Durga is ‘Chandraghanta’, who is worshipped on the third day of Navaratri, for peace, tranquility and prosperity in life. She has a ‘chandra’ or half moon in her forehead in the shape of a ‘ghanta’ or bell. That is why she is called ‘Chandraghanta’. She is charming, has a golden bright complexion and rides a lion. She has ten hands, three eyes and holds weapons in her hands. She is the apostle of bravery and possesses great strength to fight in the battle against demons.
Kushmanda is the fourth form of the mother goddess and is worshipped on the fourth day of Navaratri. The meaning of the name ‘Ku-shm-anda’ is as follows: ‘Ku’ = a little; ‘ushma’ = ‘warmth’; ‘anda’ = ‘the cosmic egg’. So she is considered the creator of the universe. The universe was no more than a void full of darkness, until her light spreads in all directions like rays from the sun. Often she is depicted as having eight or ten hands. She holds weapons, glitter, rosary, etc., in her hands, and she rides a lion.
The fifth aspect of the Mother Durga is known as ‘Skanda Mata’ – the mother of Skanda or Lord Kartikeya, who was chosen by gods as their commander in chief in the war against the demons. She is worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri. She is accompanied by the Lord Skanda in his infant form.
Skanda Mata has four arms and three eyes, holds the infant Skanda in her right upper arm and a lotus in her right hand which is slightly raised upwards. The left arm is in pose to grant boons with grace and in left lower hand which is raised also holds a lotus. She has a bright complexion and often depicted as seated on a lotus.
The sixth form of Mother Durga is known as ‘Katyayani’, who is worshipped on the six day of Navaratri. The legend behind her name goes thus: Once upon a time, there was a great sage called Kata, who had a son named Katya. Kata was very famous and renowned in the lineage of saints. He underwent long austerities and penance in order to receive the grace of the Mother Goddess. He wished to have a daughter in the form of a goddess. According to his wish and desire the Mother Goddess granted his request. Katyayani was born to Kata as an avatar of Durga.
This is the seventh form of Mother Durga and is worshipped on the seventh day of Navaratri. She has a dark complexion, disheveled hair and a fearlessness posture. A necklace flashing lightning adorns her neck. She has three eyes that shine bright and terrible flames emanate from her breath. Her vehicle is the donkey. Her raised right hand always seems to grant boons to all worshippers and all her right lower hand is in the pose of allaying fears. Her left upper hand holds a thorn-like weapon, made of iron and there is a dragger in the lower left hand. She is black like Goddess Kali and holds a sparkling sword in her right hand battle all evil. Her gesture of protection assures us of freedom from fear and troubles. So she is also known as ‘Shubhamkari’ – one who does good.
She is worshipped on the eighth day of Navaratri. Her power is unfailing and instantly fruitful. As a result of her worship, all sins of past, present and future get washed away and devotees get purified in all aspects of life. Maha Gauri is intelligent, peaceful and calm. Due to her long austerities in the deep forests of the Himalayas, she developed a dark complexion. When Lord Shiva cleaned her with the water of the Ganges, her body regained its beauty and she came to be known as Maha Gauri, which mean extremely white. She wears white clothes, has four arms, and rides on a bull. Her right hand is in the pose of allaying fear and her right lower hand holds a trident. The left upper hand holds a ‘damaru’ (a small rattle drum) and the lower one is in the pose of granting boons to her devotees.
Siddhidatri is the ninth form of Goddess. She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri. Siddhidatri has supernatural healing powers. She has four arms and she is always in a blissful happy enchanting pose. She rides on the lion as her vehicle. She blesses all Gods, saints, yogis, tantrics and all devotees as a manifestation of the Mother Goddess. In ‘Devi Bhagvata Purana’ it is mentioned that Lord Shiva worshipped her and was blessed with all Siddhis (supernatural powers). By her blessings his half body became female and other half body male in the avatar of Ardhnarishvara.