Navratri — Sanskrit for nine nights — is a nine-day festival wielding immense significance in the Hindu culture and among the worshippers of Goddess Durga. Navratri is observed four times during the four seasons in a year but the most prominent Navratri celebrated are Chaitra Navratri (March-April) and Sharad Navratri (October-November). While Chaitra Navratri commemorates the seasonal shift from spring to summer, Sharad Navratri signifies the seasonal shift from autumn to winter.
According to Hindu lore, Navratri is celebrated to symbolize the conquest of good over evil. Goddess Durga battled with the demon Mahishasura over the course of 15 days and nights and triumphed on the day of Mahalaya, defeating the demon and cementing the victory of good over evil.
During these nine days, a devotee goes through fasting, prayer, meditation to connect with their inner spirituality and find in themselves love, joy and harmony. While fasting detoxifies the body, silence cleanses the speech and brings peace of mind. Meditation is the tool to connect to one’s own soul.
Thus, the festival is celebrated with incredible enthusiasm for nine days and each day is devoted to one of the nine avatars or incarnations of Goddess Durga. The nine days of Navratri hold special prominence and devotees follow different customs to pray to the nine embodiments of the female divine.
Therefore, the significance of the nine days of Navratri are:
- Day 1 – Shailaputri
Shailaputri or daughter of the mountain is the first incarnation of Goddess Parvati hence the first day or Pratipada is devoted to her. Goddess Durga, thus, is worshipped as the wife of Lord Shiva on this day. Shailaputri Devi sat atop a bull, carries a trident in one hand and a lotus flower in another.
She is also known as the Goddess of Muladhara chakra, which upon calling, one commences the journey towards spiritual awakening.
On this day, people decorate idol figurines of Shailaputri Devi with jasmine flowers and chant mantras like Om Devi Shailaputryai Namah. The colour yellow is dedicated to this day.
2. Day 2 – Brahamacharini
Another incarnation of Goddess Parvati is worshipped on the second day of Navratri or Dwitiya. This form of Goddess Durga symbolises the altruism of Parvati in her unmarried form.
She is depicted as walking on bare feet, adorned in white clothing and holding a holy rudraksha rosary in her right hand and a pot — Kamandala — in the left.
Maa Brahamacharini is worshipped for her penance and emancipation and the devotees hope to gain her ability to practice restraint and sacrifice. She is also believed to govern Lord Mangal, the provider of all fortunes and represents the Swadhisthana chakra in spirituality. The colour green is significant to this day
3. Day 3 – Chandraghanta
The third day or Tritiya is devoted to the worshipping of Chandraghanta. She is the incarnation of Goddess Parvati after she was married to Lord Shiva.
Hindu legend narrates that Lord Shiva would adorn the forehead of his wife with chandan; Goddess Parvati used to adorn her head with ardhachandra, thus gaining the form of Chandraghanta.
She is the manifestation of beauty and, with her ten arms and three eyes, symbolises bravery and courage as she is forever prepared for war. She sits atop a tiger and is known to protect her devotees, spread peace, and bestow ultimate good. She holds a Gong in one hand and is adorned with a half-moon on her head. The colour grey is symbolic of this day.
4. Day 4 – Kushmanda
Kushmanda is the fourth incarnation of Goddess Durga and is subsequently worshipped on the fourth day of Navratri — also known as Chaturthi.
Kushmanda means the one who had created the world, and the name was given to her as she was believed to be the forging power of the universe. Perched atop a lion, she has eight arms with malignant weapons held in seven hands and a holy rosary in the eighth.
She is credited to bestow the miracles of vegetation on earth and is worshipped by devotees who wish to seek foresight and mental and spiritual peace. The colour orange is associated with this day.
5. Day 5 – Skandamata
On the fifth day of Navratri or Panchami, devotees of Goddess Durga worship her incarnation Skandamata — the mother of Lord Karthiheya or Skanda.
Skandamata is depicted as sitting atop a lion while carrying her divine child Skanda and has four arms. She symbolises the endurance of motherhood and fights off any peril that comes upon her son.
She is known to be a benevolent and joyful Goddess who bestows upon her devotees peace and prosperity, fame and wealth. White colour is significant to this day.
6. Day 6 – Katyayani
Goddess Durga’s sixth avatar or incarnation is worshipped on Shashtami — the sixth day of Navratri. She is known as the warrior goddess.
According to Hindu mythology, it was the form of Katyayani that Goddess Parvati took when she battled with Mahishasura to protect Trilok. Thus, she is considered the most fierce form of Parvati.
Katyayani is depicted as sitting atop a lion and has 3 eyes and 4 arms. Her left hands carry a lotus flower and sword while her right hands are seen in Varada and Abhaya mudra. Devotees worship Katyayani to rid themselves of their sins. Red is the colour symbolic of this day.
7. Day 7 – Kaalaratri
Kaalaratri is the seventh incarnation of Goddess Durga and is worshipped on the day of Maha Saptami — the seventh day of Navratri. She is considered to be the most violent and ferocious form of Nava Durga.
It is believed that she shed her fair skin to kill the demons Sumbha and Nisumbha. She is mounted on an ass and has four arms, two of which hold a torch and a sword. The Goddess appears in red or tiger-skin attire and her eyes express her fiery and violent anger.
Because of the powers she possesses, she is also referred to as Goddess Shubhankari. She is known for destroying ignorance and removing darkness from the universe. The colour royal blue is significant to this day.
8. Day 8 – Mahagauri
Worshipped on the eighth day of Navratri or Ashtami, Mahagauri is the eighth incarnation of Goddess Durga. She is also known as Vrisharudha.
Depicted as sitting atop a bull, she has four arms. One of her hands is shown as holding a trident or Trishul while her other hand holds a Damru; two of her hands are posed in the Varada and Abhaya mudras. She is believed to govern the planet Rahu.
Devotees of Mahagauri worship her to be blessed with growth and harmony in life. It is believed that praying to her will eradicate the planetary defects and the devotee will prosper in life. The colour pink is associated with this day.
9. Day 9 – Siddhidatri
On the last day of Navratri, also known as Navami, the ninth incarnation of Goddess Durga is worshipped. She is known as Siddhidatri and is a glorious form of the goddess.
Perched on a lotus flower, Siddhidatri Devi is shown as adorning a red-coloured saree and has four arms. She holds a lotus and Shankha in her left hands, and a chakra and bludgeon in the right hands. She is also called Mahalakshmi.
According to Hindu mythology, she possesses and holds the power to bestow all 8 siddhis — Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakyamya, Inshitva, Vashitva. Devotees of Siddhidatri worship her as she has the power to fulfil all their wishes, and it is believed that those who pray to her shall be released from all their sufferings. The colour purple is symbolic of this day.