‘Navratri’ is a Sanskrit word for ‘nine nights’. Indians all across the world celebrate these nine nights with full fervor and great enthusiasm. These nine nights of festivities are marked with ritualistic fasting, poojas while adopting a calm and meditative lifestyle. This Hindu festival is dedicated to Goddess Durga and her 9 avatars. On each of these nine days, Hindus worship the nine different manifestation of Durga or Shakti. The significance of Nav Durga is narrated and reiterated in every Hindu household especially during the Navratris as this is the time when Goddess Durga descends from the heaven to bless her beloved devotees. Here are the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga :
1. Goddess Shailputri
The first form of Durga is Goddess Shailputri. According to scriptures, she holds a trishul and a lotus in her hands, and rides a bull called Nandi. As per Shivpurana, Goddess Shailputri in her previous birth was born to Daksha Prajapati, and was named ‘Sati’. Deeply devoted to Lord Shiva ever since her childhood, Sati meditated earnestly to beget Lord Shiva as her consort. Lord Shiva bestowed upon her the desired boon and accepted her as her consort. The union was not accepted well by Sati’s father Daksha Prajapati, who insulted Shiva by not inviting him in one of his special gatherings. Infuriated upon the humiliation meted out to her husband, Sati immolated herself and sacrificed her life in honour of her husband. In her next birth Sati was born as a daughter to Himalaya, the Lord of Mountains and thus, was called Shailputri. Sailputri is also worshiped as Parvati or Hemvati. The first day of Navratra is dedicated to worshiping Shailputri. Devotees offer pure desi ghee on the foot of Shailputri. An offering of pure ghee is said to bless the devotee with a life free of diseases and illness.
2. Goddess Brahmacharini
The second day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Brahmacharini. She is depicted as a monastic goddess in Hindu scriptures, two-armed, clad in white and holding a rudraksh mala and a sacred Kamandalu. Her stance is of utmost piety and devotion. Her meditative form is related to the severe penance undertaken by Sati and Parvati in their respective births to attain Lord Shiva as their beloved consort. She is also known as Tapasyacharini. It is believed that when Parvati was engaged in her deep meditation to please Lord Shiva, she was reduced to a mere skeleton. Her austere penance gained her the name of Bharahmacharini by all the devtas and Gods who were awestruck by her reverence. Worshiping this form of Shakti is known to invoke the spirit of penance, renunciation, virtue and nobility. Goddess Brahmacharini is a lover of simple food and offerings. Devotees serve a bhog of sugar and fruits to Goddess Brahmacharini.
3. Goddess Chandraghanta
Chandraghanta is the third form of Goddess Durga. Her name Chandra–Ghanta, means “one who has a half-moon shaped like a bell”. She is also known as Chandrakhanda, Chandika or Rannchandi. Her worship takes place on the third day of Navaratri(the nine divine nights of Navadurga). She is believed to reward people with her grace, bravery and courage. By her grace all the sins, distresses, physical sufferings, mental tribulations and ghostly hurdles of the devotees are eradicated.The ferocious Goddess is pleased by offering milk, sweets or kheer.
4. Goddess Kushmanda
Kushmanda is the fourth form of the Hindu goddess Durga. Her name signals her importance: Ku means “a little”, Ushma means “warmth” or “energy” and Anda means “cosmic egg”. She created the universe with her divine smile. Devotees worship the Goddess by observing fasts and offering Malpua as bhog.
5. Goddess Skandmata
Skandamātā is the fifth form of Hindu Goddess Durga. Her name comes from word, Skanda is another name for war god Kartikeya and Mata is the term for mother. As one of the Navadurga, Her worship takes place on the fifth day of Navaratri(the nine divine nights of Navadurga).Her posture is calm and serene. She is seated on a lotus, but a lion is also her vehicle. A bhog of bananas is offered to the goddess and it is said to keep the devotees in good health.
6. Goddess Katyayani
Worshiped on the sixth day (Shashti) of Navratris, Goddess Katyayani is a form of Shakti who is depicted as having four arms, and carrying a sword. She rides a lion, and can be pleased with true devotion and piety. She is the daughter of Sage Katyayan. Devotees offer honey as prasad to Goddess Katyayani. Her blessings fill their lives with sweetness and help them get rid of bitter troubles.
7. Goddess Kaalratri
Kaalratri (sometimes spelled Kalaratri) is the seventh form amongst the Navadurga. Goddess Kaalratri is widely regarded as one of the many destructive forms of Mother Goddess – Kali, Mahakali, Bhadrakali, Bhairavi, Mrityu, Rudrani, Chamunda, Chandi and Durga. She possesses three eyes on her forehead that are known to contain the entire universe. She breathes fierce flames of fire, and lustrous rays emanate from her. Fierce on the outside, Kaalratri bestows her true devotees protection from evil-powers and spirits. Devotees offer jaggery or sweets made with jaggery. The prasad is also given to Brahmins along with Dakshina.
8. Goddess Mahagauri
Mahagauri is the eighth manifestation of goddess Durga and amongst the Navadurgas. Mahagauri is worshipped on the eighth day of Navratri. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Mahagauri has the power to fulfill all the desires of her devotees. The one who worships the goddess gets relief from all the sufferings in life. Mahagauri has four arms. Her right arm is in the pose of allaying fear and right lower hand holds a trident in it. She holds a tambourine in her left upper arm and the lower one is in the form of a blessing. Goddess Mahagauri is offered coconut as bhog by devotees. It is widely believed that donating coconuts to the Brahmans on Ashtami, blesses a childless couple with a child.
9. Goddess Siddhidatri
Siddhidatri is the ninth form of the Goddess Durga, the meaning of her name is as follows: Siddhi means supernatural power or meditative ability, and Dhatri means giver or awarder. She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri, she fulfills all the divine aspirations and completes the mundane.
In this form Durga is seated on a lotus and is four-armed. She holds a lotus, mace, Sudarshana Chakra and shankha. In this form Durga removes ignorance and she provides the knowledge to realize that or Brahman. She is surrounded by Siddhas, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Asura (Demons) and Devata(Gods) who are worshipping her. The Siddhi that she provides is the realization that only she exists. She is the mistress of all achievements and perfections.
On the ninth day of Navrartris, devotees observe a fast and offer til or sesame seeds as bhog. This is believed to protect the devotee and his family from unfortunate mishaps