Sonia Sumitra Thakar
Durga Pooja, the festival that spans nine days leading up to Dussehra, is widely celebrated as the triumph of good over evil. Each day is dedicated to a specific avatar of the goddess and each has a legend associated with the chosen form, replete with lessons for us to imbibe and values to uphold. On saptami or the seventh day of Navaratri, the powerful female energy or Shakti is venerated in her most ferocious and terrifying form, that of Devi Kaalratri.
‘Kaal’ means time and ‘ratri’ is night or death. Devi Kaalratri is the one who is the ‘Death of Kaal’—the one who overcomes time and is also the destroyer of evil forces. Symbolically, she is one who annihilates the darkness of ignorance and ego of her devotees.
Ma Kaalratri is depicted as having a dark complexion, wild untied hair, huge red eyes, flaring nostrils breathing fire, with her red tongue hanging down. She is adorned with a necklace of lightening and has four arms—two carrying her weapons of choice: an iron scimitar and a lightning bolt and the other two in mudras to protect and bless her devotees. She rides a donkey—a symbol of loyalty and sure-footedness.
Despite her fierce looking appearance, Devi Kaalratri is the one who brings auspiciousness to her bhaktas. She is therefore known as Shubhankari.
The Legend of Ma Kaalratri
According to Hindu mythology, once, two demons Shumbha and Nishumba attacked and took over the abode of the gods. After losing devaloka, Indra and the gods prayed to Parvati for help in regaining their kingdom. Legend has it that at this time Parvati was taking a bath. So, she sent another form of hers, Chandi (also known as Ambika) to assist the gods.
Shumbha and Nishumbha sent their generals, the demons Chanda and Munda, to take on the goddess in the battlefield. Taking on the form of the dark-complexioned Kali or Kaalratri, she vanquished them and earned the name Chamunda Devi. Enraged, the demon Raktabija attacked the goddess. Raktabija had a boon that every drop of his blood that fell on the ground would take the form of a clone of the demon. Due to this boon, no-one was able to defeat him.
The fired-up Devi Kaalratri kept a patra (vessel) to catch the drops of blood that fell as she attacked Raktabija. She drank the blood of each clone of Raktabija that she attacked and finally killed the wicked demon.
It is said that the goddess was so intoxicated with fury and rage that she began killing anyone in her path. Terrified, the gods begged Lord Shiva to do something. Shiva lay down on the ground and before Devi Kaalratri realised, he was underneath her feet. When she saw that she was stepping on her beloved husband, she bit her tongue out of embarrassment and calmed down, ending her spree of destruction.
Significance of worshipping Devi Kaalratri
Though Devi Kaalratri’s appearance can be quite scary, her grace is abundant. She helps devotees overcome fears and sorrows that devotees harbour, and protects her bhaktas from evil forces, expelling all negative energies from their lives. She brings them success and wisdom and is known for her benevolent nature. However, she is not so generous towards those who are evil, and they would do well to fear her wrath.
On this day, it is believed that Ma Kaalratri is appeased by offering her jaggery or sweets made from jaggery as bhog.
As the ferocious Ma Kali or Kaalratri, this manifestation of the goddess fills us with courage to face the tribulations we face in life and lead us out from the darkness of ignorance. The eighth day of Navaratri is dedicated to the pure and serene goddess, Devi Mahagauri – a complete contrast to the fierce and dusky Ma Kaalratri. You can read more about Ma Mahagauri here.
The Navadurga stotra is a powerful text that contains mantras dedicated to each of the nine avatars of Durga Ma. You can read this in the Shree Durga Nitya Aaradhana – one of fastest-selling products this season. Pick up a personalized copy today by clicking here .