Sonia Sumitra Thakar
On the fifth day (Panchami) of Navaratri, Mother Durga is worshipped as Devi Skandamata. On this day, the mother of the warrior god, Skanda (also known as Lord Kartikeya), is the presiding deity. She is worshipped as the embodiment of purity and endurance. This four-armed manifestation of the Navadurga is depicted as having the six-faced baby Kartikeya in her lap. In two hands she holds lotuses, with a third hand she holds the infant and the fourth hand is always in Abhaya mudra, blessing devotees. She is seated upon a lotus flower and hence also bears the name Padmasana Devi. Her vehicle is a lion, a symbol of her fearlessness and power.
The story behind the birth of Lord Kartikeya, the commander-in-chief of the army of gods, is an interesting one.
The Legend of Lord Skanda and Devi Skandamata
Once, the gods were under attack from the demons led by their powerful and deadly leader, Tarakasura. Tarakasura had undertaken austere penance to please Lord Brahma but he was denied the boon of immortality. Knowing that Lord Shiva had given up worldly life, he asked for and was granted the boon to be killed only at the hands of Shiva’s son. The gods saw through this deceitful ploy and rushed to Lord Vishnu for help. He told them that it was their own fault as they had attended King Daksha’s yagna, knowing that Shiva and Sati were not invited. It was at this yagna that Devi Sati immolated herself, after which Lord Shiva immersed himself in meditation and had taken on the role of an ascetic, renouncing material affairs. However, he assured them that Sati had incarnated as Parvati, the daughter of the Mountain King and was destined to marry Lord Shiva.
On the advice of Narad Muni, Parvati undertook thousands of years of severe penance to win over Shiva and with the help of Kamadeva, the union of Shiva and Parvati happened. Their son Kartikeya was born who grew up to be a powerful, strong, and brave warrior. So great was his intellectual capacity that he refused to accept the explanation of Om as told to him by Brahma in 12,000 verses. Neither was he satisfied by the 12 lakh verses given by his father, Lord Shiva. Eventually, he explained the meaning of Om in 12 crore verses himself!
Brahma appointed Lord Kartikeya as the commander-in-chief of the army of the gods and he earned the named ‘Skanda’ meaning the one who attacks. After engaging in battle with Tarakasura for years, Lord Skanda finally defeated and killed him. Parvati, the mother of such a valiant, intelligent and supremely gifted son is worshipped and honoured in the form of Devi Skandamata during Navaratri.
Significance behind the worship of Devi Skandamata
Devi Skandamata is the embodiment of peace and tranquility. Worshipping her during Navaratri has immense significance. She radiates divine luster, her countenance is depicted to be pure white – symbolic of purity and auspiciousness. Those who pray to Devi Skandamata on Panchami invoke the blessings of a peaceful life, pure thoughts and divine contentment.
In fact, as she holds Lord Skanda in her lap, praying to this form of Ma Durga is doubly beneficial as both son and mother confer bountiful blessings on those who worship Skandamata.
Bananas are believed to be the favourite fruit of this goddess and are offered to her as bhog on the fifth day of Navaratri.
Goddess Skandamata brings peace, prosperity, and ultimately salvation to her bhaktas. On the sixth day of Navaratri, Durga Ma is worshipped in the form of Devi Katyayani. To read more about this manifestation of the Navadurga, click here