I was sent these two pictures by a friend today morning. Today is Ashwin Shuddha Pratipada according to our Panchang and the day marks the beginning of the Sharadiya Navaratra. Nine days of piety and devotion , dedicated across the country to the feminine Deity known across India as Durga. The nine forms of the Devi are worshipped on the nine days.
The festival has always intrigued me from my childhood.
The thought of Navaratri opened up an interesting set of thoughts, all going back to Adi Shakti or Adi Parashakti. She is considered in the Shakta way of thinking to be the Supreme Being.She is also referred to as “Parama Shakti”, Adi Shakti, “Mahashakti”, “Mahadevi”, “Mahakali”, or “Mahagauri”, “Satyam Shakti”, or even simply as “Shakti”. Parvati represents one incarnation of Adi Parashakti.
Adi Shakti appeared to King Himalaya and revealed her divine, eternal knowledge to him. She explained herself, in the Vedic syntax, as having neither beginning nor end (Anaadi and Anant) . She is the only, eternal truth. The whole universe is her creation. She is the only victor and also the manifestation of victory itself. She is the manifested, un-manifested and a transcendent form of divinity. She then displayed her scarcely seen form to him: Satyaloka located in her forehead; the universe she had created was in the form of her radiant hair; the two heavenly luminous bodies closest to us were her eyes; in her ears were the four disha, the Vedas just her words; death, affection and emotion were her teeth; and Maya represented by her smile.
Her Supreme stature in the divine pecking order is best described in the Devi Purana, where Devi talks to the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh) as follows: “I am Adi Parashakti. I am the owner of this universe. I am the Absolute Reality. I am dynamic when in the feminine form and static in masculine form. You have appeared to govern the universe through my energy. You are the masculine form of Absolute Reality, while I am the feminine form of that Reality. I am beyond form, beyond everything, and all the divine powers are contained within me. You must know that I am the Eternal limitless energy.”
She then said to Brahma, the creator: You will be generator of the universe; the Goddess Sharada will be your consort, she will be recognized as the goddess of wisdom and the primeval sound. Lord Brahma, this goddess will be with you when you create the universe. (Sharada is the same as Saraswati)
She spoke to the preserver, Vishnu: Lord Narayana ! You are formless, yet you take form. I assign you to be the preserver of the universe. You will take many different incarnations in order to save this universe’s inhabitants. Oh Narayana! You have created Lord Brahma, and Brahma will further create thirty three kinds of gods and goddesses. As Mahamaya, I will reappear from your mystic sleep. Your consort will be Lakshmi. Vishnu, this goddess will be with you when you rule/maintain the universe. When life evolves, you will take the form of Vishnu, the one who will perform the task of observing and preserving this universe.
At Last she instructed Shiv: Oh Rudra Shiv, the Great God, you are the personification of time, which is above all. You will perform the task of destroying and regenerating this universe. When you are formless, time stands still. It is due to my power that you become dynamic and are capable of bringing about the destruction and regeneration of this universe. Mahakali is myself, my full form, whereas Laxmi and Saraswati are just my cloned, partial forms but due to meditation, you will surpass all my forms. It is then that I will incarnate from your left half in my manifested form. This form will be my truest manifested form. Lord Shiva, she will perform the task of destroying evil and will be your consort. This gives rise to the Ardhanari Nateshwar form of Shiv.
I found this concept particularly attractive, as the feminine form being the origin of the Universe and also giving rise to the male forms of energy as well as assigning them their roles. It is this Adi Shakti that is celebrated during Navaratri, over the nine days.
The nine forms of Durga are referred to as :
The first day of Navaratri is dedicated to Shailputri, who is the first manifestation of Goddess Durga, literally meaning “Daughter of the Mountains”
The second day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Brahmacharini, a soft, meditative form of this goddess that symbolises Parvati when she was deep in meditation to please Shiva.
Chandraghanta : a fierce 10-armed goddess with a crescent moon on her forehead, which gives her the name. She rides on a tiger to destroy all that is evil and wicked.
Chaturthi celebrates Kushmanda ( word that is derived from three roots – ‘Ku’ (little), ‘Ushma’ (warmth or energy) and ‘Anda’ (egg), which means the creator of the universe.
Skandmata is worshipped on the fifth day (Panchami) is also known as Panchami. Skandmata has four arms, carries a lotus in two of her arms with a sacred Kamandalu and a bell in the other two. She also carries a little Kartikeya on her lap and because of this Kartikeya is also known as Skanda. She is the benevolent form and her hand is always in the blessing mode.
Shashthi is dedicated to Katyayani, a form of Shakti. Also known as the warrior goddess, Katyayani is one of the most dynamic and violent forms of Goddess Parvati. She has four arms and carries a sword. She is considered to be the daughter of Rishi Katyayan and rides a lion.
Saptami is the day of Kaalratri. Durga has adopted a dark complexion to kill demons. She is a four-armed deity who rides a donkey, carries a sword, a trishul, and a noose. She has a third eye on her forehead (akin to Shiva’s third eye) that is believed to contain the entire universe.
Durgashtami, the eighth day of the Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri, who is a four-armed deity and rides a bull or a white elephant. She carries a Trishul and a damru in her hands.
The Navami, the final day of Navaratri is devoted to a form shown as a four-armed deity sitting on a lotus, holding a Gada, Chakra, a book and a lotus in her hands. This form of Goddess Durga signifies perfection, She combines power, learning, peace.
The Nine forms of Durga celebrated during Navaratri are (starting from top left going to the right from top to bottom row); Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri.
In the Shakta belief system, Adi Parashakti is regarded as the one who can control all the nine planets (Navagraha). She divides herself to Shakti i.e. Durga who splits herself to operate nine planets to maintain cosmic order, Vidya Shakti i.e. Kali as the source for 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu and Maya Shakti, to delude the beings to illusion. As Durga Shakti She is the one who splits herself into Navadurga that govern the energy of the nine planets. (In the Hindu way of thinking the Navagraha includes the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, and the two malefic planets, Rahu and Ketu). Rahu represents materialism, mischief, fear, dissatisfaction, obsession and confusion. Rahu is also associated with politicians and the occult sciences. Like Ketu, Rahu is also a mortal enemy of the sun and moon. Rahu and Ketu in the Hindu astrology play a role in the creation of eclipses.
- Shailaputri controls the effect of the Moon, the celestial body closest to Earth. (Pratipada)
- Mangal, the provider of good/bad fortune is governed by Brahmacharini. (Dwitiya)
- Chandraghanta controls and governs Shukra. (Tritiya)
- The Sun is governed by Kushmanda . (Chaturthi)
- Skandamata governs Budha. (Panchami)
- Brahaspati, the God of learning is governed by Katyayani. (Shashthi)
- Kaalratri governs Shani. (Saptami)
- Mahagauri influences and controls Rahu. (Ashtami)
- Ketu is governed by Goddess Siddhidaatri (Navami)
I found it particularly interesting to see womanhood portrayed by Durga/ Devi as the creator, the nourisher and the destroyer, too….
Isn’t it paradoxical that with such a legacy, we continue to suppress and abuse Her Manifestations amongst us, very sadly. Give it a thought and be happy the Adi Parashakti has deemed it fit to spend time and energy creating humankind. May She guide us through the finite journey in all her wisdom so that we may, at the end be one with her supreme, divine being.
I found this journey of discovery and revisiting the Adi Shakti and the 9 relevant forms for Navaratri fascinating and educative. Please let me know your feedback and thoughts.