The 9 Avatars Of Durga That You Need To Know More About
So, Navratri is done and you are tired of all the dressing up and going to the garba-dandiya sessions, and now you are getting ready to celebrate Diwali, but how many of you, especially those who belong to the younger generation, actually know the importance of Navratri. The word Navratri is made of two words – nav, which means the number nine and ratri which means night. But did you know that each night of these nine days is meant to celebrate the nine avatars of Durga?
If you were to delve deep into the annals of Indian, more importantly Hindu mythology, you would get to see that each day of the Navratri is meant to celebrate one avatar of Durga; the embodiment of the female cosmic power. Each day, a different form of her is invoked – each form different, each one varied and each signifying something different. Most people know that the nine days are meant to signify and celebrate the victory of good over evil, removal of all negativity and adharma and creating a sense of holiness; but very few would know that each day signifies a particular avatar of the female power and her specific characteristics.
So, what are the 9 avatars of Durga, one might ask – well here are the names of the avatars and what they symbolise:
- SHAILAPUTRI – On the very first day, the form of devi that is celebrated in the form of Shailaputri or the daughter of Shaila, the mountain. Although she is known by several other names such as Sati, Parvati and Bhawani, she is worshipped most commonly as Shailaputri. She is considered the embodiment of the combined powers of the trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. It is interesting to note that she carries something that each one of these gods is associated with; so, she rides on Nandi and has a crescent moon on her forehead, but she also carries a lotus flower and a trident in her hands. The colour associated with day is orange, because it is meant to represent success, joy and a sense of enthusiasm!
- BRAHMACHARINI – The 2nd avatar of Durga is the goddess of austerity and she is the representation of the women who chooses to renounce the pleasures of the world and live a life of simplicity. Brahmacharini is the female version of the brahmachari – one who remains celibate. In this form, the goddess walks bare feet with a kamandala in one hand and a string of prayer beads or a japmala in her other hand. Aptly symbolised by the colour white, she is the virgin who embodies inner peace, a sense of purity and those who pray to her are blessed with peace, prosperity and immense bliss.
- CHANDRAGHANTA – Moving onto the 3rd avatar of Durga – known as Chandraghanta; as the name suggests, this avatar of the devi has a bell shaped like a half moon on her forehead – so Chandra meaning moon and ghanta meaning bell. It is said that she started adorning the moon, once she got married to Lord Shiva. She is prayed to attain a sense of prosperity and tranquillity in life, and even though she sits atop a tiger and has ten hands and three eyes, she is still prayed to by women. In her hands, she not only carries weapons like trishul, gada and sword, but also the lotus, japmala and kamandala. The fierce red signifies her courage, sexuality and passion and that is what she blesses her devotees with.
- KUSHMANDA – If you ever look at the image of the 4th avatar of Durga, named Kushmanda, you will see a body that is as luminous as the sun and a smile that has the ability to illuminate the entire world. For those who pray to her, there is an abundance of strength and well being to be earned. She is often portrayed with eight hands, which is why she is also known as Ashtabhuja Devi; however, you might see variations, wherein she has ten hands. The objects that are most commonly seen in her hands include sword, trident, bow and arrow, honey and blood! And even though she arrives riding on a tiger, her one hand is always in Abhay mudra, in order to bless those who come to her. The colour royal blue is often associated with her, because she is meant to depict elegance and a sense of the regal.
- SKANDAMATA – The fifth of Durga avatar names happens to be Skandamata, who is also the mother of the god of war, Skanda or Kartikeya. Given that she is the mother of the god of war, she too has a ferocious ride, a tiger and legend has it that she was the commander in chief during an epic battle against a demon, while carrying an infant Skanda in her lap. She is also known as the goddess of fire, which is probably why, the colour yellow is associated with her. The iconography shows her with four hands, in which she carries lotus flowers, a skanda and one hand in Abhay mudra, blessing those who bow to her.
- KATYAYANI – Moving onto Durga avatar number six – known most commonly as Katyayani and also as Mahalakshmi, she was given form to kill the demon Mahishasura. And even though she is recognised as Mahalakshmi, her form is one of anger, vengeance and the final victory of good over evil. She is shown sitting on a resplendent lion and has not only a sword, but also a lotus in her hands. Those who pray to her are blessed with boons and she is associated with the colour green, encompassing growth and fertility.
- KALARATRI – A fearless posture, an uncompromising soul and a complexion that is as dark as the night – that is how the iconography of Maa Kalaratri or Kaali Maa is always shown. Every time you see an image of this Durga devi avatar, you will see weapons in her hands, blood red tongue sticking out, hair all scattered and flying away and her fiery eyes. On her day, people choose to wear the colour grey, which is meant to balance out the energies and keep people grounded.
- MAHAGAURI – Perhaps one of the most graceful forms of Maa Durga, Mahagauri is the eighth avatar and beauty is known to be pure and pristine. She is the goddess of cleanliness, peace and purity and those to pray to her can have all their mistakes burnt away. Her colour is purple, because it epitomizes a sense of regal and symbolises extravagance and power. Her hands are poised to alleviate sufferings and provide blessing to all those who pray to her.
- SIDDHIDHARTI – The final of the 9 avatars of Durga is Siddhidharti; the one who possesses naturally the powers to heal. As she sits happily on a lotus or tiger, she also carries a gada, chakram, lotus and conch shell. People who choose to wear green on this day are blessed with integrity and grace.
Now that you know more than just the nine names of maa Durga, the next time around, it might just bring a little more reverence and fervour to your prayer and celebration!