This is my first venture into the realm of Hindu festivals. What I’m about to provide will be a gross simplification, I know, an outline of its meanings at best. There is much to learn, and I’m only beginning. Well, here goes.
The Festival of Navrati is celebrated in India and all over the world over nine nights in the autumn, post monsoon season. Also known as Durga puja or Sharada Navrati–nav (nine) ratri (nights)–it comes in the Hindu calendar month of Ashum, roughly in September or October. The festival honors Goddess Durga, who defeated the buffalo-demon king Mahishasura in battle, and to honor the feminine power. The goddess rides a tiger or a lion, and each of her many arms carries a weapon–a conch, bow and arrow, a sword, javelin, a noose and a shield.
Over this holy week each day is dedicated to one of her nine avatars. The nine forms of Maa Durga are:
-Goddess Shailputri, considered the most important manifestation of Durga; she contains the aspects of unconditional love, mercy and knowledge;
-Goddess Brahmacharini signifies love, affection and fidelity, and is also a symbol of toughness. By worshipping her with pure love and devotion, she will bestow immense stamina to hold on while you fast. She is represented as one who loved to walk barefoot;
-Goddess Chandraghanta is worshipped as a goddess of peace and forgiveness, with the power to eradicate evil. While she is ready to destroy the wicked, her devotees see her as a compassionate mother;
-Goddess Kushmanda is credited with creating the universe with her divine smile. She is believed to improve health and to bestow spiritual fulfillment
-Goddess Skandamata grants knowledge and wisdom to her devotees;
-Goddess Katyayani, a warrior divinity who fulfills the wishes of those who worship her with a pure heart;
-Goddess Kaalratri destroys ignorance and spreads light. It is also possible she was a precursor of the diety Kali;
-Goddess Mahagauri fulfills the desires of her devotees. This form of Durga represents purity; and
-Goddess Siddhidatri, the final form, fulfills all the divine aspirations of Maa Durga.