Different Forms of Durga
Goddess Durga epitomises the power of Good to ward off the Evil. The nine day period from the new moon day to the ninth day of Ashvina is considered the most auspicious time of the Hindu Calendar and is hence the most celebrated time of the year as Durga Puja. Nine different forms of the Goddess are worshiped over the nine days.
The first form of the Goddess is as a daughter of the Himalaya. Shailaputri literally means daughter(putri) of the mountain(shaila). Goddess Durga was born in the house of King of Mountains “Parvat Raj Himalaya”, so she is called “Shailaputri” meaning the daughter of mountain. According to mythology, Durga was the daughter of Daksha in her previous life and was named Sati. She was also the wife of Lord Shiva. Daksha was not appreciative of the ways of Lord Shiva and once, had insulted him critically. Sati could not tolerate this effrontery and burnt herself in the holy fire of the 'Yagna'. In her next birth, Sati was reborn as the daughter of Himalaya in the name of Parvati Hemvati and got married to Shiva.
In this form, Durga is the embodiment of the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. She rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her two hands.
The second form of Durga, Brahmacharini, is the ascetic form of Durga. In this form, the Goddess wears white clothes, holds a ‘japa mala’ (rosary) in her right hand, and a 'Kamandulu'(utensil for carrying water) in her left hand. According to different versions of her myths, maiden Parvati resolves to marry Shiva. Her parents learn of her desire, discourage her, but she pursues what she wants and followed a strict, austere life of physical and spiritual hardship to attain her desire for Shiva for about 5000 years. It is this aspect of Parvati that is deemed to be that of Goddess Brahmacharini. Her ascetic pursuit draws the attention of Shiva and awakens his interest, and Shiva finally accepts her as His wife.
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 spiritual hurdles of the devotees are eradicated.
Kushmanda is the fourth form of the Goddess Durga. Her name signals her importance: Ku means "a little", Ushma means "warmth" or "energy" and Anda means "cosmic egg". In this form, Maa Kushmanda produced the Cosmic egg with Her smile, bringing light to the universe, when the universe was non-existent and darkness prevailed everywhere. Kushmanda has the power and strength to live in the core of Sun. Her luminosity gives the Sun its brightness. She is said to give direction to the Sun God, Surya.
Kushmanda is worshiped on the fourth day of the festival of Navratri(nine nights of Navadurga) and as the consort of Shiva. She is believed to improve health and bestow wealth and strength.
Kushmanda is depicted with eight hands holding a discus, sword, hook, mace, bow, arrow and two jars of honey and blood. She rides on a tiger or lion.
The fifth name of Durga is "Skanda Mata". The daughter of Himalaya, after observing penance got married to Shiva. She had a son named "Skanda” who is a leader of the army of Gods. Skanda Mata is a deity of fire. Skanda is seated in her lap. She has three eyes and four hands. She is white and seated on a lotus.
The sixth form of Durga is Katyayani. According to ancient legends, she was born a daughter of Katyayana Rishi, born in the Katya lineage originating from Vishwamitra, thus called Katyayani, "daughter of Katyayana". Elsewhere in texts like Kalika Purana, it is mentioned that it was Rishi Kaytyayana who first worshipped her, hence she came to known as Katyayani. In either case, she is a form or apparition of the Durga and is worshipped on the sixth day of Navratri festival.
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. The myths describe her as is black like night. She wears necklaces that shine like lightening. She has three eyes which are round like universe. Thousands of flames of fire come out while she respirates. She rides on Shava (dead body). There is sharp sword in her right hand. Her lower hand is in blessing mood. The burning torch (Mashal) is in her left hand and her lower left hand is in fearless style, by which she makes her devotees fearless. Being auspicious she is called "Shubhamkari".
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 fulfil 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.
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 'Datri' means giver or awarder. She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri(nine nights of Navadurga), she fulfils 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'(conch). This avataar of Durga removes ignorance and she provides knowledge to realize the Divinity. 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.