Goddess Durga: The Great Mother of the Universe!

Navaratri, also called Sharadey Navaratri or Navratri, is a major Hindu festival that is celebrated by Hindus around the world and in India over a span of nine nights every year. Navratri has a different significance all over India and is celebrated in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin. Technically, it is observed for nine nights and 10 days, during which, the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped.  The festival begins on the first day of Ashwin lunar month with ghatasthapana. Kalash, which is installed during ghatasthapana, is immersed in a water body on the tenth day.
The nine nights celebrate and worship the nine forms of Durga. As such, it begins with Shailaputri puja, followed by Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Sidhidatri. Each of these goddesses — through an avatar of the goddess-supreme Durga — have their own powers and personalities.

Goddess Durga was created to combat the evil demon Mahishasura. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came together to create a powerful female form with ten arms, and when Durga emerged from the waters of the holy Ganga as a spirit, she was given a physical form by all the gods put together. Her face was created by Lord Shiva and her torso crafted by Indra. Her breasts were made by Chandra and her teeth by Brahma. The lower part of her body was made by Bhudevi, Varuna sculpted her thighs and knees, and Agni created the Goddess’s eyes. Thus she was a supreme power created with a combination of the powers of all the other gods. So was born Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’, the Great Mother of the Universe, who ensures creation, preservation and destruction of evil forces in the universe.
The word ‘Durga’ in Sanskrit means a fort or a secure and protected place. Another name for Durga is Durgatinashini which means ‘the one who eliminates suffering’. Her name thus indicates her role as the one who protects her devotees and removes evil from the world. There are numerous incarnations of Durga including Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Java, Meenakshi and Kamakshi, among others. Durga is the incarnation as the all-powerful one with the combined power of all the divine beings.
Additionally, though it is the same festival, it is celebrated differently in different parts of the country. For instance in West Bengal, the celebrations start on the sixth day, as part of the Durga Puja festivities. In Karnataka, the ninth day of Navratri is observed as Ayudha Puja.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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