Nine names of Durga Mata
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sat Oct 27 00:19:55 CDT 2001
I hope all the list members had an enjoyable Navaratri (Durga Puja), the
last night of which ended today.
[Note: today was Vijaya Dashami (Dasshera) I actually wrote this
yesterday night but accidently mailed it to myself instead of the list.]
During the arati and elsewhere you will hear reference to Navadurga or the
ninefold forms of Durga Ma. what exactly are they? Today I asked the
Maharaj of our mandir and he directed me to the Kavacha stotra that is
recited before the Chandi Path. The nine names are enumerated in the
first 4 1/2 shlokas of that stotra.
First a few words about the name Durga itself. The literal meaning in
Sanskrit is "fortress." For the armies of the Asuras She was unassailable
like a fortress.
1. Shailaputri -- "Daughter of the Mountain"
Mataji was born as the daughter of Himavan or Himalaya. Thus She is also
known as Parvati. She is also called Uma because when She declared her
intention to win Shiva Bhagawan through long and terrible tapa, Her
mother exclaimed "U! ma" ("No! don't") In Chandogyopanishad Uma Haimavati
is given as the name of the teacher of Brahmavidya.
2. Brahmacharini -- "Dweller in Brahman"
Whatever names and forms She may take for the welfare of the world are
Maya only. Truly she is Brahman thus She is called Brahmacharini. It
also means a female practioner of Brahmacharya (chastity) and a doubt may
arise, how can one who is known as Jagadamba ("mother of the universe") be
a Brahmacharini? Because the apparent creation and destruction which is
the hallmark of sansara is only Maya.
3. Chandraghanta -- "Whose gait is like the Moon"
A favorite subject of poets is the serene and beautiful movement of the
Moon through the night sky. For Her Bhaktas, Matajis' movements are
similiarly entrancing. We humans can experience some measure of bliss if
we are in love but nothing compares to the bliss of Moksha which She
grants by Her favor. Even Durvasas who though a sage is usually depicted
in the shastras as being a thoroughly unpleasant sort of person, was so
moved by the beauty of Shakti, he became Her ardent devotee and is
considered an important teacher of Shrividya.
4. Kushmandi -- "Gourd"
Kushmanda in Sanskrit means gourd or pumpkin. It can be hollowed out and
used as a pot. Why is Devi being compared to a kushmanda? According to
Nagesh Bhatts' Pradip commentary on the kavacha, sansara can be compared
to the inside of the hollowed-out gourd. The outside has substance but
the inside contains nothing. She "contains" (pervades) all of sansara but
is more than it.
5. Skandamata -- "Mother of Skanda"
Skanda Bhagawan is the general of the Gods. Although he was reared by the
wifes of the Saptarshis called Krtikas (hence His name Kartikeya) they are
only the foster-mothers.
6. Katyayini -- "Daughter of Katyayana"
Mataji granted the wish of the Rshi Katyayana by being born as his
7. Kalaratri -- "Dark Night"
After the pralaya which destroys the universe and prior to the creation of
the next one there is a long period of darkness. She is the cause of that
darkness and also the one who ends it. 8. Mahagauri -- "Great Golden
9. Siddhida -- "Giver of Powers"
Through the practice of Yoga, it is possible to achieve various powers but
the wise know that they are toys for children and the only siddhi really
worth having is Mukti. That Mukti can be won by contempating the names of
that Adya Shakti who is Brahman Herself.
Any corrections will be gratefully received.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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