9 things to know about Navaratri
1) Navaratri celebrates the Feminine Divine
A nine-night festival during the Hindu month of Ashwin, Navaratri is a celebration of the Feminine Divine.
According to the Vedas, everyone and everything originates from an absolute spiritual source referred to as Brahman (Divine), which is both the cause and maintenance of creation.
Depending on the follower, as there is a wide spectrum of understanding when it comes to the nature of Brahman, Hindus may worship the Divine in both male and female forms, as well as animal forms, or even no form at all.
The feminine aspect is known as Devi (goddess, in Sanskrit), which is a manifestation of Shakti, the creative and energetic force of the Divine. Navaratri is not only about honoring the role these various female manifestations (e.g. Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati) play in Hinduism, but also the role the loving, compassionate, and gentle, yet sometimes powerful and fierce feminine energy plays in our lives.
2) Some traditions use each night to honor a different form of the Goddess Durga
Known as the warrior form of Parvati, who is the consort of Shiva (God of Transformation), Durga is called the Mother Goddess, as she defends the oppressed with a fierce wrath, as well as looks after creation with a caring warmth.
Some traditions celebrate Navaratri by using each day to honor one of the nine forms of Durga, all of which display the following specific qualities and attributes:
Shailaputri — The first night of Navaratri is dedicated to Shailaputri, the daughter of Hemavana, who is the king of the Himalayas. Seen as the “mother of nature,” she is depicted riding a bull and holding a lotus flower (representing devotion) in one hand and a trident (representing past, present, and future) in the other.
Brahmacharini — The second night is dedicated to Brahmacharini, whose name means “one who practices austerity.” Said to bestow success and victory, she holds prayer beads in her right hand and a water pot in her left, representing the practice of penance in pursuit of an auspicious goal.
Chandraghanta — The third night is dedicated to Chandraghanta, who’s named for the half-moon shaped like a bell on her forehead, which is described as her third eye. With ten hands holding various weapons, Chandraghanta rides a tiger, establishing justice and bestowing strength and courage to devotees.
Kushmanda — The fourth night is dedicated to Kushmanda, whose name means “creator of the universe.” Usually depicted with eight arms, she rides a lion and is known for bringing energy and light to the world.
Skandamata — The fifth night is dedicated to Skandamata, who’s named for being the mother of Kartikeya, a deity of yoga and spiritual advancement who’s also popularly known as the “god of war.” Seated on a lotus, emphasizing her divine nature, she has four arms and carries an infant Kartikeya on her lap.
Katyayani — The sixth night is dedicated to Katyayani, who is known as one of Durga’s fiercest forms. With wild hair, and depicted with up to 18 arms, all holding weapons, she dispels darkness and evil, bestowing peace among her devotees.
Kalaratri — The seventh night is dedicated to Kalaratri, who is also known as Shubankari, which means “doing good” in Sanskrit, as she provides both fearlessness and auspicious results to her devotees. Dark-complexioned, with four arms and disheveled hair, she is also among Durga’s most menacing forms.
Mahagauri — The eighth night is dedicated to Mahagauri, whose name means “extremely white.” Wearing white, she is a symbol of tranquility and serenity, alleviating the suffering of her devotees.
Siddhidatri — The last night is dedicated to Siddhidatri, whose name means “giver of supernatural powers.” Seated on a lotus flower, she instills devotion into the hearts of devotees, granting them happiness and wisdom.
Through Navaratri, all of Durga’s forms, which represent the multifaceted aspects of the divine feminine energy we all experience and benefit from in life, are honored with deep reverence and gratitude.
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