The festival of Navaratri is celebrated to cherish the victory of dharma over Adharma. These nine days are associated with the battle that was fought between goddess Durga and the demon king Mahishasura. Throughout these nine days, the nine avatars of the goddess known as Navadurga is worshiped each day dedicated to one incarnation.
1. Shailaputri Avatar
Let us find out the story behind each avatar Shailaputri. Shailaputri, meaning the daughter of the mountains was born to mountain king Himavan. She is also commonly known as Parvati and is the first of the nine Navadurga. She is depicted having two hands holding a trident in her right hand and a lotus on her left being the wife of Lord Shiva. She writes about his bull named Nandi. In her previous birth, the goddess was born as Sati, the daughter of Prajapati Daksha to eventually marry Shiva and fulfill her role as the universal mother to nourish all beings.
Despite her father’s disapproval, Sati married Shiva, when Daksha organized the Yagya, he invited all gods except Shiva and Parvati. Parvati unaware of her father’s arrogance and hateful motives reached there without an invitation upon which Daksha began insulting Shiva, Sati being a devoted wife could not tolerate this and sacrificed herself to the Yagya fire to fulfill the superior motive of universal welfare. Shakti had to take birth again in the form of Parvati, to marry Shiva again and bring him out of his ascetic’s life into the life of a Grihastha.
2. Brahmacharini Avatar
In the second avatar holding a rosary in her right hand and a Kamandala in her left. Brahmacharini signifies Tapasya or penance. After the death of Sati, Shiva abstained from all material desires and went into a state of meditation that lasted for millions of years.
When Parvati grew up, Sage Narada told her that the only way for her to attain Shiva was to perform severe penance that would exceed her husband, who determined to marry Shiva in this birth as well. She began her Tapasya, giving up on food, water, and air.
Her penance lasted for thousands of years. In the end, Brahma appeared in front of Parvati and said that no one had ever observed Tapa the way she did following this Parvati came to be known as Ma Brahmacharini later Shiva accepted her as his wife. This avatar of Ma Durga teaches penance, devotion, restraint, and solitude.
3. Chandraghanta Avatar
Upon seeing Parvati’s strong resolve to attain him, Shiva gives in and accepts to marry Parvati. On the day of the wedding, Shiva reached king Heemavan’s palace in the most terrorizing form, his body was smeared in ash, with snakes all over his body and in the matted locks of his unkempt hair. He bought with himself the strangest wedding procession, also known as Baraat consisting of ghosts, Agoris, sages, ascetics, and every being unimaginable. Upon seeing this sight, Parvati's, mother and relatives were left in shock, mostly out of terror, to avoid any embarrassment to her family or Shiva, Parvati transformed herself into a terrifying form, Chandraghanta in this form, her complexion is golden.
She came riding a lion and possessed ten arms. Nine of her arms carried weapons, while the tenth hand was raised to bless her devotees. She married Shiva in this form and the day of their marriage is celebrated as Mahashivratri.
4. Kushmanda Avatar
Ma Kushmanda is worshiped on the fourth day of Navratri, it is believed that Kushmanda is the ultimate source of life when the universe was non-existent and darkness was everywhere. She created the universe with her smile. The universe then filled with light and she began to live in the core of the sun.
The gods she created then went on to create other universes and living beings. Kushmanda possesses eight arms and rides a line that evokes fearlessness in her devotees. She bestows all pleasures and her worship brings prosperity, power, and salvation. to Skandamata.
5. Skandamata Avatar
The fifth avatar Skandamata means the mother of Skanda. Skanda is another name of lord Karthikeyan, often known as Murugan in the south, she rides a lion and has four arms. Two of her arms carry lotus. One is raised in blessing while the fourth holds her son Karthikeyan when Shiva became detached from worldly affairs upon the death of Sati, the demon Tarakasura had wreaked havoc on the gods.
The demon had a boon that only the son of Shiva could kill him fearing that Shiva may never have a child. The gods rushed to Vishnu for help. Vishnu assured that Parvati is destined to be the wife of Shiva upon the severe penance of Parvati when Shiva agrees to marry her, they combine their energies to produce a fiery seed Agni, the god of fire, was given the responsibility to carry the seed to lake Saravana.
But Agni could not bear the heat of the seed Durga, taking the form of water carries the seed to the lake in the Sarana forest later, the sixth faced Karthikeyan takes birth and grows up to be the commander-in-chief of the army of gods, killing Targkasura in the Battle.
6. Katyayani Avatar
Being one of the most worshipped forms of Durga Ma Katyayani is worshiped on the sixth day of Navratri. This is the form that is often referred to as Ma Durga. She took birth as the daughter of the sage, Katyayan, and hence came to be known as Katyayani. When the demon Mahishasura was creating trouble for the gods, the trinity Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, along with other gods, combined their powers and weapons and summoned Katyayani. Thus, the armed Katyayani proceeded towards the Vindhya mountains where Mahishasura lived and killed him. She is also known as Mahishasuramardini, the one who killed Mahishasur.
7. Kaalratri Avatar
Kaal refers to death and Ratri means night. Hence, Ma Kaalratri is the one who brings an end or death to anything that is associated with evil or darkness. She is more commonly referred to as Kali and is worshipped on the seventh day. Kaalratri is the most terrorizing form of Durga.
The most common form shows Kali as black, naked, with angry red sunken eyes: wearing skulls around her neck as jewelry and limbs around her waist. Raktabeej was a demon or asura who had been given a boon by Lord Brahma that every time a drop of his blood fell on the ground, a new version of his own would be created. Having received this boon, he made the life of people and gods miserable, hence the gods reached out to goddess Durga or Shakti for help.
Armed with all the weapons, the goddess charged at the demon, but as soon as she wounded him with her squad and his blood fell on earth, the demon multiplied with more attempts at killing Raktabeej, the demon kept on multiplying huge armies of Raktabeej were formed by the drops of blood which fell on earth enraged by this, the Devi took the infuriating form of Kali. She went on to slay each demon with a sword in her hand and collected their blood in her bowel and drank it immediately. Soon she finished the whole army off the Raktabeej and only the real Raktabeej was left.
Then she slew him down and drank his blood till he fell lifeless. It is said that, just a century ago, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa was blessed to see the real form of Kali.
8. Mahagauri Avatar
Worshiped on the eighth day, the story of Mahagauri has many versions. Maha means great and Gauri means white or fair. In the first version upon killing Raktabeej, Parvati was left with skin as dark as night. That lasted a long time. Parvati went through penance to attain her old form of feminine beauty and was advised by Brahma to take bath in the Mansarovar river in the Himalayas when she did so. She shed her dark skin, and this skin took up a female form named Kaushiki that went on to kill the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. Parvati regained her beauty this time with a complexion so fair that led to everyone referring to her as Mahagauri.
In the second version as a result of Parvati's severe penance for thousands of years that led to Shiva marrying her, her body was covered with dirt, mud, and insects and she was down to being a skeleton with no flesh. Pleased by her devotion, Shiva bathes, her in the holiest Ganga that Flew from the locks of his matted hair that nourished her body, and she emerged as Mahagauri as white as the Jasmine flower.
9. Siddhidatri Avatar
Siddhidatri worshiped on the last day, is the Adi Shakti avatar of Durga. She existed as pure energy and had no physical form, lord Rudra and the avatar of Shiva worshiped, her for creating the universe and she appeared from the left half of Shiva. That is why she and Shiva represent the duality of the universe in the form of masculine and feminine energies. They unite to form Ardhanarishwara, Devi Siddhidatri sits on a lotus and rides a lion.