[Query] What is the significance of navadurgaa devis?
1. shailaputrI – Daughter of the Mountain King – himavAn. Even though parAmbA is paramaishvaryashAlinI and jaganmAtA, she accepted to become the daughter of himavanta and the sole reason behind this was her bhaktavAtsalya. By remembering her form as shailaputrI, the intent of the upAsaka is to make himself worthy of the limitless vAtsalya of parAmbA.
2. brahmachAriNI – The one whose contemplation grants brahmasvarUpa is called brahmachAriNI. parAmbA is invoked as brahmachAriNI to attain brahmavidyA. This explanation would especially suit in the context of skandayamaLa which describes brahmachAriNI as the consort of jnAna-shiva.
3. chandraghaNTA – parAmbA is known so on account of holding in her hand a ghaNTA that is bright like the moon. It can also mean the one whose speech puts Chandra to shame in terms of beauty and AhlAda [AhlAdakAriNI devI chandraghaNTeti kIrtitA]. It is also interpreted to refer to parAmbA as the one whose lAvaNya puts Chandra to shame. Invoking ambA in this form grants one manollAsa. The phala of invoking chandraghaNTA is easily understood by observing her mantra.
4. kUShmANDA – The one who swallows the aNDa named samsAra that is filled with trividha santApa is named kUShmANDA. By meditating on this form, one is blessed with bhUmilAbha and duHkhanivrtti.
5. skandamAtA – skanda was originally sanatkumAra the greatest of brahma-jnAnis. Even such a jnAni chose to be born as skanda or ShaNmukha to attain the saubhAgya of having parAmbA as his mother. She, whose glory surpasses every known peak, be it in the realm of jnAna, bhakti or karma, is skandamAtA. This also indicates that only the jnAnis approach parAmbA to attain paripakvata and not the less fortunate.
6. kAtyAyanI – The one who appeared in the hermitage of kAtyAyana and was accepted as his daughter, is known as kAtyAyanI. She is forever kumarI and this form makes two important statements. One is her svAtantrya indicated by the lack of patyadhInatA and the second is indicative of her svarUpa which is beyond shiva and shakti or puruSha and prakRti. We have discussed elsewhere the incorrectness of assuming the equality between shakti of the shAktas and the prakrti of the sAmkhyan thought.
7. kAlarAtrikA – kAla or yama is the destroyer of all beings. At mahApralaya, even he attains laya within the rAtri named kAlarAtri and this indicates her kAlAtItasvarUpa. According to uttara kaula tantras, mahAkAla attains antarbhAva or mahArati within kAlikA during tattva-pralaya and it is kAlikA alone who remains, at which point she is called kAlarAtri or kAlasamkarShiNI. The shakti tattva here is encompassing or transcending the shiva tattva.
8. mahAgaurI – mahAgaurI indicates the transformation of kAlasamkarShiNI to kAmeshvarI or gaurI where she creates a pati for herself by attaining aruNa varNa and accepts patyadhInatA for the sake of samsAra srShTi, assuming gauravarNa.
9. siddhidAtrI – The one grants various kinds of Siddhis including mokSha to upAsakas based on their qualification.
One can refer to commentaries such as guptavatI for other generic interpretations. The navadurgA-s are also samketas for the letters of navArNa mantra, and their significance can also be grasped from the vyaShTi and samaShTi arthas of navArNa mantra discussed in brhadvArAhI tantra. By understanding the tattva conveyed by these nine forms where each form represents a peculiar transformation of parAmbA, one can also gather why praNava is not added before navAkSharI mantra. According to Paramahamsa guptAvatAra Babaji, the chief force behind the Kaula magazine chaNDI, adding any syllables to this mantra results in mantracCheda and alters the effect of the mantra drastically. He also advised upAsakas against modifications involving sampuTa, pallava, pralambana, akSharoddIpana etc. for ShoDashI, chaNDikA and dakShiNA kAlI.