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In many temples, homes and calendars, this image is prevalent. It is well known, yet many may not know the meaning behind it. This is an image of the nine forms of the goddess Durga, often called Nav Durga, with ‘nav’ being the word for nine. Together, the symbols and emblems show Nav Durga is a very significant group of goddesses for Hindus.
This image shows the goddess Durga in nine of her forms. The goddess in the middle is the main form, Durga. This is evident because she is in the center and is largest, suggesting that she is more important, or that the entire image has to do with her. It looks a lot like the image of Vishnu and his avataras. Durga, often referred to as Durga Maa (‘Maa’ meaning mother), is associated with many things. Her vehicle is a tiger, she is extremely beautiful, and she carries weapons in each of her hand except one in which she holds a lotus. The weapons and her vehicle refer to her creation. Durga was created by the Gods when they were overthrown by a demon that could not be killed by them. Since a woman could only kill this demon, the gods put their angry energies together and from each of those energies stemmed a body part of Durga. Each of the gods gave her his weapon, which is why she carries weapons such as Shiva’s trishul, Vishnu’s discus, and the lion from Himalaya. These weapons are the key symbols to look for when recognizing an image of Durga Maa, along with the tiger. The other eight forms of Durga are formed each day of her battle with this demon. Since this battle took nine days, there are nine total parts of Durga. The first form is Shailputri. ‘Shail’ comes from the Sanskrit word meaning mountain, which explains that she was incarnated from Himalaya. She is recognizable in the image as the one on the bottom left corner. Her mount is a bull. She has a trishul in one hand and a lotus in another. She is known for wearing colored apparel. The second phase is Brahmacharni. In this content, Brahma means penance. In this image, she is located right above Shailputri. She is the part of Durga that practices penance. Brahmacharni is easily recognized because she is the only form of Durga that does not have a vehicle.
In many of her representations, she is shown standing. She holds a rosary in her right hand and a Kamandalu in her left. The third form which comes forth on the third day is Chandraghanta. In this image, she is located right above Brahmacharni. She is recognizable because she has ten arms and is mounted on a lion or a tiger. She also has a half moon on her forehead that resembles a bell, which translates to ghanta. Her roaring voice sounds like a bell too, making demons tremble. Kusmanda is the fourth phase of Durga. Her name is derived from Ku+Usma+Anda, Ku meaning little, Usma meaning warmth, and Anda meaning the cosmic egg. She is to the right of Chandraghanta. Kusmanda is recognizable because she is also mounted on a tiger. She has eight arms in which she holds weapons in seven of them and a lotus in the eighth. The fifth aspect of Mother Durga is known as Skandamata. In this image, she is to the right of Kusmanda. She gets her name from being the mother of Skanda, her warrior son. In her image, she always is holding her son in his infant form in her lap with one hand. She has a total of four arms in which 2 other hands, she holds lotuses and her last hand, she holds out in a pose to grant a boon. Her vehicle is a lion. The sixth form of Durga Maa is known as Katyayani. In this image, she is to the right of Skandamata. Her vehicle is a lion and she has four arms. What makes Katyayani different from Skandamata is what she has in her hands or what she does with her hands. One hand is in a pose for granting a boon, while one is allaying all evil. In her third arm, she holds a sword and in her fourth arm, she holds a lotus. The seventh form of Durga Maa is Kaladatri. She is one of the most well known forms of Durga. In this image, she is under Katyayani. Kaladatri is often called Kaali Maa. Kala means black, referring to her dark skin. She is the easiest form of Durga to recognize because of her dark skin, wild hair, and red bloody tongue. She has three eyes, four hands and her vehicle is a donkey. One hand is posed to grant boons, one removes all fears, one holds a thorn-like weapon and the last hand holds a curved dagger. Although Kaladatri is extremely frightening to look at, she is very auspicious. The eighth phase of Durga Maa is Mahagauri. In this image, Mahagauri is at the bottom right corner. She has extremely fair skin, and usually wears white clothing, which makes her fairness more apparent. She has four arms and her vehicle is a bull. One hand is in the position of granting boons, one calms fears, one holds a trident and one holds an hourglass shaped drum, called a Damaru. The ninth form is the Durga in the middle. She has eight arms, six of which have weapons of the gods who made her, the seventh in a position to grant boons and the eighth with a lotus. She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navratri. What all the Durga phases have in common is that they all manage to relate to Shiva as a consort or an important factor. They also have the weapons or strengths or the gods that created them. These weapons are the symbols that are used to identify who is who in the image. Another common symbol that helps identify the forms in the image is the lotus, since it symbolizes fertility. The goddesses, ironically, symbolize both destruction and life, and therefore have a wider range for worship during Navratri.
This image is prevalent everywhere during the festival of Navratri. This image represents the festival of Navratri and it is one of the most important yearly festivals to many Hindus. Navratri is the celebration and devotion to Durga Maa and her other forms. Each form is respectively worshipped on each day. Murtis and statues of certain forms of the goddess are adorned and set in the middle of an area where people dance around in a circle. They also get together and pray to a certain goddess. In this puja of the first day, Yogi's keep their mind concentrated on Muladhara of Shailputri. On the second day of Navratri, it is the Brahmacharni aspect of mother Goddess Durga that is worshipped. On the third day, through worshipping Chandraghanta, we can get rid of all worldly sorrows, and attain the supreme goal spontaneously. On the fourth day, Kusmanda’s worship is to attain the best and easiest means to cross the mire of the world. On the fifth day, worshipping the goddess in the form of Skandamata, the devotee gets all his desires fulfilled and begins to experience the supreme joy in the mortal world. On the sixth day, the worshipper makes a complete surrender and offers himself to the goddess and then such a devotee very easily gets the direct vision of the mother Katyayani. On the seventh day, purification of mind, words and body is essential in Kaladatri’s worship. On the eighth day, Mahagauri removes the pains of her devotee. After having worshipped the eight Durgas in an appropriate manner, on the ninth day, devotees undertake Durga’s worship. After the completion of that worship, the devotees get their desires mundane or otherworldly fulfilled. This idea of specific devotion is why the image includes each form of the goddess. This image is often in the home as a part of the small temple that many homes have set up.
This image is not only used during Navratri. During the New Year or Diwali pujas, this image is brought forth along with Lakshmi for prosperity and wealth. When a new business is inaugurated, the puja there will have some images similar to this one to promote growth and good luck. When a baby is born, offerings are made to Durga Maa and her forms because the other forms are literally translated as the mothers. When mothers cannot produce offspring, symbols of the goddess, usually a lotus is garnished around the house to bring about a sense of fertility and is thought to help impregnate a woman. Uniting an image of Shiva with an image of Durga or uniting an image of Ganesh, Durga’s son, with Durga during a puja can also bring good luck to an entire family when performed by the newest bride. This image is the most popular image of Durga because it includes all these forms.