Sonia Sumitra Thakar
During the nine days of Navaratri leading up to the Hindu festival of Dussehra, Ma Durga is worshipped in nine different forms of the Divine Shakti. Each aspect has an associated story and knowing the legends behind these incarnations of Devi and their unique divine attributes helps to channel our concentration towards their name and form when we worship them.
During these nine potent days we celebrate Shakti or the feminine energy in the universe in her varied manifestations.
The first day of Navaratri is dedicated to Ma Shailaputri. Literally, ‘Shailaputri’ means daughter of the mountains. This avatar is the daughter born to the Mountain King Himavat. She is also known as Parvati, Hemavati, Sati, or Bhavani and is the consort of Lord Shiva. Mother Shailaputri is depicted as riding on a bull (Nandi), with a trident in her right hand and a lotus in her left. She has a crescent moon adorning her forehead.
Legend of Devi Shailaputri
In her previous incarnation, Shailaputri was Devi Sati, daughter of the great king, Daksha Prajapati, who is believed to be one of the sons of Lord Brahma. King Daksha did not want his daughter to marry Lord Shiva, whom he considered an ascetic and unworthy of their noble family. But Sati defied the wishes of her father, married Shiva and moved to Kailash Parvat to live with her husband.
Once, King Daksha was performing a grand yagna. He invited all the gods and goddesses to attend but did not extend an invitation to his daughter Sati and her husband, Shiva. When Sati got to know about the yagna, she insisted on wanting to attend it. Shiva tried to reason with his wife that she hadn’t been invited. She refused to understand, stating that a daughter didn’t need special invitation to her own father’s house. Sati went to attend the ceremony alone but to her dismay she wasn’t welcomed there by either her father or her relatives. In front of everyone, King Daksha insulted Shiva. Unable to bear the humiliation and grief of hearing her own father insult her beloved husband, Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire and immolated herself.
Significance of Shailaputri pooja
Devi Shailaputri is one of the most powerful forms of Durga and therefore the first day of Navaratri is dedicated to her. She is said to be the goddess of the Muladhara Chakra in the human body, and, thus, worshipping her, helps to release our inherent spiritual energy. She is the embodiment of patience, love, mercy and compassion.
Worshipping Ma Shailaputri on the first day of Navaratri brings auspiciousness to the festivities and, in addition, as the mother of nature, restores equilibrium in the universe. It is said that worshipping this form of Mother Durga helps to overcome the negative effects of the moon. Pure ghee is the bhog or offering presented to the goddess on the first day.
A bright vibrant red is the colour associated with this avatar of Devi Shailaputri as it symbolizes passion, auspiciousness, and also action and vigour to imbue the subsequent days of the festival with devout zeal and religious fervour.
You can find the mantra associated with Ma Shailaputri in the Navadurga Stotra which is part of our Shree Durga Nitya Aaradhana—a compilation of the most powerful mantras dedicated to Shakti.
To read about Devi Brahmacharini – the avatar worshipped on the second day of Navaratri, click here.