The Nine Devis of Navratri

By Shefali Mathur, Siliconindia   |   Friday, 12 October 2018, 12:37 Hrs
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Knowing the Divine Devis

The charged atmosphere of Indian festivals is a sight behold and often been the subject and inspirations for several international documentaries that try to unearth the rich Indian tradition layer by layer. However, festivals here are not merely about celebrations but traditions carried down by generations in form of customs and stories that  serve the higher purpose of bringing people together under moral messages of good, love, brotherhood and truth. Navaratri – born from the terms ‘Nava’ – means nine and ‘Ratri’ - means night, devoted to Goddess Durga bears a similar backdrop of mythology. Though the festival widely celebrates the victory of the Devi (good) over the buffalo demon Mahishasur (evil),  the legend goes a bit more beyond these nine days of battle.  These nine days also mark the significance of each incarnation of the Devis who with their actions teach us virtues and values one must uphold. These incarnations are Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidhatri.



Maa Shailaputri was the daughter of mighty Himalaya (Shaila: Mountains, Putri: Daughter)  has her story linked to Sati, daughter of King Daksha and wife of God Shiva, who immolated herself in the family Yagna when being insulted by her father for marrying Shiva, whom he considered of lower social class. Shailputri or Parvati or Hemvati is the subsequent form of Durga who is known for her endless tales of glories, rides a bull, Nandi, and carries a trident in one hand and a lotus in the other.



Worshipped on the second day of Navratri, Bramacharnin is associated with the virtue of steadfastness and determination in times of distress. When Parvati grew up, sage Narada told her about her chance to marry her husband from her previous birth, Lord Shiva but would have to undergo penance for thousands of years to get the chance. For a thousand years, she survived merely on fruits and flowers, then for a next century she ate only vegetables and for the subsequent thousand years, consumed a diet of fallen leaves. Her will to tapa granted her wish to marry Lord Shiva by God Brahma and her path to the ‘tapa’ led her to her name, Brahmacharini: Brahma: tapa and Charini: an ardent female follower.



When Brahmacharini’s ‘tapa’ melted Lord Shiva’s resolve of austerity, he agreed to marry Devi Parvati. However, his attire of the leopard skin, ashen body, snake around his neck and a marriage procession of ghosts, ghouls and many others terrified Parvati’s family. The Devi, in order to avoid further embarrassment to Lord Shiva and her family, took a terrorizing form of Chandrghanta.  With nine arms wielding weapons and tenth arm blessing her devotees, Devi Chandraghanta is depicted as malevolent towards enemies and bad deeds but compassionate and motherly towards her ‘bhakts’.



Worshipped on the fourth day of the festival, Devi Kushmanda is revered as the source of all the energy in the universe. Producer of the ku: little, Ushma: energy, anda: egg, the little cosmic egg, Kushmanda devi filled the universe with light and also resides at the core of the sun, giving energy to all beings in existence.



When Devas were under attack by the Asuras, it was prophesised that only Lord Shiva or his offspring can hail victory over the villains. While Lord Shiva could not be approached, Brahmacharini’s penance helped her marriage to Shiva and with their energies combined, gives birth to Lord Karthikeya who led Devas to their victory. Skandamata; Skanda means Karthikeya and Mata meaning mother, is worshipped as the mother of a highly gifted child and offers her devotees with peace, prosperity and salvation..



Worshipped on the sixth day of the festival , Devi Katyayani, offspring of sage Katya, and manifestation of the Trinity’s (Bhrama, Vishnu, Mahesh) energy, is the slayer of all evil and fought the legendary battle with Mahishasur to restore balance and peace in the otherwise terrorized world. With eighteen hands, each carrying a weapon gifted by the gods, Devi Katyayani is one the most formidable but loving goddess in the Hindu mythology. 



Worshipped on the seventh day of Navaratri, Devi Kaalratri, also known as Kali entails death of darkness or the one who ends ignorance. The most terrorizing form of Durga, her dark skin, unruly hair and four hands is the protector of her devotees. The slayer of demons, Kali has killed demons like Raktabeej (by drinking his blood), Shumbha-Nishumbha and others. She is also the form of Adi Shakti that destroys evil but is extremely benevolent towards her bhakts, removing all the sorrows from their lives.



Devi Mahagauri, the goddess with extremely fair complexion, is worshipped on the eighth day of the nine day long festival. Teased for her dark complexion by Lord Shiva, Parvati undergoes a penance for Lord Bhrahma who grants her the boon and asks her to bathe in the Mansarovar. During the bath, her white skin separates from the dark skin and takes form of Mahagauri who goes on to slay demons Shumbha-Nishumbha. She is worshipped by devotees to achieve loyalty in relationships and create bonds for a life-time.



Goddess of intelligence, Siddhidhatri is worshipped by men, women, asuras and celestial beings for her knowledge and the power to grant wisdom and bestow happiness upon her devotees.

While all the Devis have a different story to tell, the main message of love, power and intelligence is imparted by all these goddesses who help us follow the path virtue.

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