Durga represents Shakti as the ultimate principle of life that is both feminine and powerful. Durga is the power to the nth degree, a formidable fortress unto herself. And she can be to you as well.
Navaratri means nine nights, an auspicious time of the year to invoke Durga through sadhana, a “goal-oriented spiritual practice that requires both love and discipline. A good starting point is the mantra om duṁ durgāya namaḥ. This mantra develops the absolute reality formula as OM, the seed syllable of Durga (duṁ); the devotion to this aspect of the Shakti (durgāya); and Namaha the veneration we are offering.
You can use this mantra for each of the nine aspects of Durga explained below, choosing one aspect for each day…
During Navaratri, you might want to become aware of nine aspects of the Shakti venerated on each of the nine days.
ŚAILAPUTRĪ: This is invoking daughter as a daughter of the mountains. Riding Shiva’s bull, a symbol of undying dedication, she holds Shiva’s trident in her hand, a symbol of transformative power. The other hand has a lotus, symbolizing spiritual awareness’s flowering out of spiritual delusion ambiguity. Invoke her for strength and power.
BRAHMACĀRINĪ: This is an austere Shakti holding the Rudrakṣa Māla (mantra beads to invoke Lord Shiva) in one hand, while the other carries the traditional pot (kamandalu) for pujas and worship. She walks unadorned and barefoot. Invoke her for purification.
CANDRAGHANṬHA: This is the formidable form of Durga that we often encounter in imagery like shown in the graphic for this blog. She has ten arms sporting various weapons and rides a tiger. She is out to destroy ignorance in all its forms. Invoke her for protection.
KUṢMANḌA: We might translate this name as “happy egg,” but don’t let your typical image of an egg come to mind. The egg here is the universe. Invoke this aspect of the Shakti for softness and warmth. Let’s get cozy with Durga here, shall we?
SKANDAMĀTĀ: This aspect is the mother of the warrior god Skanda, a child of Shiva and Shakti. Ganesha is the other child. Skanda is to be quick, quick in battle particularly. Here, the power is somewhat stepped down with four instead of ten arms that do not hold any weapons. A bell, the water pitcher for puja, and a lotus is what we see. Invoke her for soft power.
KĀTYĀYANĪ: This is one of the most potent forms of Durga. We invoke her through the Durga Gayatri mantra as the daughter of the sage Katyana. She appears when the male gods are unable to shift the balance between good and evil. Invoke her for the most challenging of circumstances.
KĀLRĀTRI: This aspect is rather complicated and might be compared somewhat to the goddess Kali. In this aspect, the third eye is rather prominent, a symbol of omniscience. In an odd combination, she is riding a donkey, symbolic of the unenlightened soul. A distinctive feature is the symbol of a noose, often associated with the ultimate feminine principle that she uses to draw us into her power. Invoke her for the transformation of shadow.
MAHĀGAURI: This aspect is a shining of presence astride a white elephant. In her hands are the trident of spiritual powers and a drum of creative energies. Invoke this aspect for prosperity as she is somewhat akin to Lakshmi, although she is the Shakti of Shiva rather than Vishnu in this instance.
SIDDHIDĀTRĪ: Invoke this aspect for the bestowal of psychic powers. The ability to be large or small, or any extra-sensory perception that one desires, maybe invoked through this aspect of the Shakti. Her distinctive symbols are a mace and discuss, symbols of Lord Vishnu, that are symbols of power and the ability to cut through anything. We might interpret these symbols to bear upon aspects of ourselves in need of transformation.
In our Yogic Mystery School, we study Invoking The Power And Protection Of Durga through what we call Transformed By Fire. The word “Durga,” by the way, has several meanings, one of which is a holy fire by that name. To see if this course is a fit for you, click here.
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