Origins and Aspects of Navaratri
By Maahika Muthunoori
This holiday celebrates the nine forms of Goddess Durga on nine different nights, as Nava means nine and ratri means night, which is how Navaratri was named. I love celebrating this festival because in dance we get to learn about all the goddesses and the female power they bring. This year I chose to represent Goddess Skandamata because she signifies motherly love, and our moms do so much for us. Please keep reading to learn more about Goddess Skandamata and the other eight Goddesses celebrated over the course of Navaratri.
1. Goddess Shailaputri or Parvati Shailaputri is worshiped on the first day of Navaratri. She is known as the “daughter of the mountain” (Shaila means mountain, and putri means daughter), because she is believed to be King Himalaya’s daughter. Shailaputri is illustrated riding a bull, with a trident in her right hand and a lotus flower in her left hand.
2. Goddess Brahmacharini is celebrated on the second day of Navaratri. She holds a string of beads called japamala in her right hand, and a water pot in her left hand.
3. On the third day of Navaratri, Goddess Chandraghanta is worshiped. She is named after the crescent moon-shaped ornament on her forehead, which resembles a bell. She is depicted riding a tiger and has ten hands, each holding a different type of weapon to symbolize her different powers.
4. The fourth day is dedicated to Goddess Kushmanda. Kushmanda comes from the words “Ku”, which means “a little”, “Ushama”, which means “warmth”, and “anda”, which means “cosmic egg.” She is believed to have created the universe by producing a small cosmic egg from which the universe emerged and is said to radiate cosmic energy. Kushmanda is often shown with eight arms holding many kinds of weapons like bows, arrows, a lotus, and japamala.
5. Goddess Skandamata, the mother of Lord Karthikeya, is worshiped on the fifth day. She is shown holding her son on her lap and riding a lion. Skandamata signifies motherly love and compassion.
6. On the sixth day of Navaratri Goddess Katyayani, the warrior goddess, is worshiped. She is often depicted with four arms, holding a sword, a lotus, and displaying a mudra (hand gesture) of fearlessness.
7. Day seven of Navaratri is dedicated to worshiping Goddess Kalaratri. Her name means ‘dark night’, and she is shown with messy hair and a fierce and confident expression. In her four hands she holds a sword, a noose, a thunderbolt, and a trident. Kalaratri is the destroyer of darkness and ignorance.
8. Goddess Gauri is celebrated on day eight. She is depicted with four arms, holding a trident and a drum in two of her hands. She symbolizes purity and grace, and is believed to provide blessings for marital harmony and happiness.
9. The ninth and final day of Navratri honors Goddess Siddidatri. She is the Goddess of supernatural powers and is often shown with four arms, with which she holds a mace, a lotus, a chakra, and a conch shell.
Vijaya Dashami is the festival celebrated on the tenth day of Navaratri. It, like Navaratri, is usually in September or October, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar (a calendar that goes by the moon). The words Vijaya Dashami can be translated to mean ‘victory on the tenth day’. It marks the day Goddess Durga defeated Mahishasura, as well as the time Rama defeated Ravana.
Backstory of Dussehra
By Navya Palaparthy
Dussehra, or Dasara, is the holiday of Rama (an avatar of Vishnu), and celebrates when Rama killed the ten-headed, evil king Ravana, who kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita. Dussehra is a Sanskrit word: dasha means ten and hara means defeat. Dasara, known as Vijaya Dashami to some people, also celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga when she defeated the evil demon Mahishasura.
Image from Hindu Deities Poster Book by Sanjay Patel Chronicle Books (August 3, 2011)