art & literature

The Adaptation Of Goddess Durga's Nine Avatars

Karthika S Nair | Oct 25 2020
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Navratri is an important Indian festival celebrated every year during autumn. While many parts have a different cultural and traditional significance of the day, it is mostly observed in the honor of the divine feminine god Durga, also regarded as the epitome of woman empowerment. 

Dr. Veena, scriptwriter and filmmaker try to depict various moods of Goddess Durga and she meticulously depicts those moods in her pictures.

Pursuing her passion for filmmaking and creative work, Dr. Veena found her inspiration in Navrathri and the different stories behind each day.

With the help of her team, whom she described as persistent and patient enough to handle the heavy work, she made different images of the goddess with the help of model Rajeswari, designed by Ajith KK, photographed and edited by Midhun Lal. 

The series has been featured in

About her photo series, which saw powerful avatars backed by makeup artist Sumesh and designer Ajith's vision, Dr. Veena said that she wanted it to be about womanhood and how powerful they are. 

Speaking to the BEYOND Pink App team, Dr. Veena said that she had planned on making this series during Navrathri last year. 

A lot of atrocities against people have been reported these days, but women, especially young girls face the worst of them in the form of sexual violence, fundamentalism, discrimination, and related social repercussions. 

Added to that, women are coerced and conditioned to limit their lives to their husbands and children. Women are expected to be the epitome of sacrifice and adjustments. 

In many cases, women have to choose either family or career because of this patriarchal conditioning. 

Dr. Veena believes that women are powerful but they can't use this power due to the burden of responsibilities tied to their family and traditions that keep them in a box. 

She believes that, instead of expecting or waiting for the world to change, women should focus on being the change they want to see as they have the power to make the world accordingly.

With planning, focus, and the right drive, women can have it all; wealth, career, and family. 

Her vision of goddess Durga is intended to be different from the usual socially constructed or projected images of both Kali and Durga. 

Goddess Durga is the epitome of good who fought evil. Goddess Kali is the destroyer of evil and protector of the good, yet she is projected as an angry or unforgiving form. 

Dr. Veena said that probably the patriarchal conditioning led to the stereotyping of powerful goddesses as "angry", "rageful" or "vengeful." 

However, Dr. Veena tries to capture the fact that Durga projects every emotion as a woman with passion, desire, ambition, and intelligence. She, in fact, referred to many images, books, and other forms of media to understand more about the legend. 

She hopes that the goddess Durga's powerful presence will inspire women to become who they really want to be. 

Nine Avatars Of Goddess Durga; 

1. Day 1 or Pratipada: Shailaputri

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On pratipada or the first day of Navratri, Shailaputri is the first manifestation of Goddess Durga. Also known as Hemavati or Parvati, Ma Shailaputri is the absolute form of Mother Nature. 

She rides on a Nandi or Bull and holds a trident in her right hand and a lotus flower in the left.

Born in the house of King of Mountains “Parvat Raj Himalaya”, she is known as the daughter of the mountain. 

On this day, devotees offer ghee to please the goddess who holds the spiritual power. 

2. Day 2 or Dwitiya: Brahmacharini 

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Brahmacharini is the second aspect of the goddess Durga, worshipped on dwitiya or the second day of the festival. 

She represents a devoted female student. She holds a japa mala in her right hand and Kamandal in the other. 

She is engaged in mediation, praying to please lord Shiva, whom she desires. 

Legends tell that she was discouraged by her near and dear ones after they learn of her desire for Shiva but she pursues her goal anyway. 

She prays to the lord for five millennia and eventually gets married to Shiva. 

Her avatar signifies the need to focus on a single goal and do that hard work if need be. 

On this day, sugar is offered to the family members. 

3. Day 3 or Tritiya: Chandraghanta

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Chandraghanta is the third form of Goddess Durga, also known as  Rannchandi.

She is a ten-armed form, fierce yet charming and her vehicle is a Tiger, representing her courage. As an avatar, she is also the "strength" of Lord Shiva. 

She blesses people with her grace, bravery, and courage. People pray to her to be rid of sins, distresses, physical sufferings, mental tribulations, and ghostly hurdles.

She is offered Kheer on this day by the devotees. 

4. Day 4 or Chaturthi: Kushmanda

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Kushmanda is the fourth form of goddess Durga, worshipped on the fourth day or chaturthi by devotees who seek health, wealth, and strength. 

As someone who exhibits warmth with her charm and divinity, she is projected as a creator of the universe. She is motherly and ferocious. People pray to her to get decision abilities and improve intellectual capacities. 

She has eight hands and is also known as Ashtabhuja Devi. Each hand holds a trident, discus, sword, hook, mace, bow, arrow, and two jars of honey and blood.

5. Day 5 or Panchami: Skandamata

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Skandamata is the fifth form of goddess Durga who is worshipped on the fifth day. She is a mother figure as the name itself reflects the war god and her son Kartikeya. 

She rides on a lion and carries a lotus. She is holding her son in her hands. On this day, she is offered bananas by the devotees. 

On this day this goddess is believed to be granting her devotees the power of wisdom, salvation, power, prosperity, and treasures.

6. Day 6 or Shashti: Katyayani

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On Shashti or the sixth day of Navrathri, the form of Goddess Durga who is also the slayer of the tyrannical demon Mahishasura, Katyayani, is worshipped. In mythology, Sita, Radha, and Rukmini had prayed to this form for good husbands and marital life. 

She is associated with the fierce forms of Shakti who rides a lion and slays the fierce tyrant Mahishasura. 

She is ascribed to the sixth Ajna Chakra or the Third eye chakra, offered honey by the devotees. 

It is believed that she has been created by the combined anger of gods against the demon Mahishasura. 

7. Day 7 or Saptami: Kaalaratri 

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Kaalaratri is the seventh form of Navadurga, worshipped on Saptami or seventh day. 

As the destroyer of all demon entities, Kaalaratri is the fiercest and most destructive form of the goddess also known as Kali, Mahakali, Bhadrakali, etc. 

Her appearance invokes fear and destroys all forms of ghosts, evil spirits, and negative energies. However, she is also the reflection of horrors of war as she appears in Mahabharata after Ashwatthama kills the followers of Pandavas in their sleep. 

She has a third eye that reflects the universe and as a woman, she embraces her dark complexion. As per legends, she provides auspicious results to her devotees. 

She is offered jaggery by the devotees. 

8. Day 8 or Ashtami: Maha Gauri

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Maha Gauri is the eighth avatar or Navadurga who is worshipped on Ashtami or the eighth day. Maha Gauri rides a bull and has four arms; the pose of one hand shows fear, the right lower hand holds a trident, a tambourine in her left upper arm, and the lower one is a blessing.

The person who worships her gets relief from all sufferings and fulfills the desires of her devotees. 

She is given coconuts on the day of worship.

9. Day 9 or Mahanavami: Siddhidatri

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Siddidatri is the ninth manifestation of Navadurga on the day of completion of the festival. She holds supernatural power. She sits on a lotus or lion and has four arms holding a discus, conch shell, mace, and lotus.

She possesses the powers; Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakambya, Ishitva, and Vashitva. 

  1. Anima: reducing one's body to the size of an atom.
  2. Mahima: expanding one's body to an infinitely large size.
  3. Garima: becoming infinitely heavy.
  4. Laghima: becoming weightless.
  5. Prapti: having omnipresence.
  6. Prakambya: achieving whatever one desires.
  7. Ishitva: possessing absolute lordship.
  8. Vashitva: having the power to subjugate all.

She blessed lord Shiva by giving him all of these powers. She is offered sesame seeds by devotees.