shrIdurgA sapta-satI describes parAmbA with the following epithets:
kAlarAtrirmahArAtrirmoharAtrishcha dAruNA || [1, 78]
kAlarAtri indicates the end of a cycle of creation where the measure called kAla or time ceases. mahArAtriH indicates the night of Ishvara which is also indicative of the state where brahmA, the creator ceases to exist. moharAtriH is where sleep takes over and buddhi is masked, which is indicative of the normal night experienced by humans. dAruNA rAtriH refers to the state of masking of the self due to ignorance which is compared to a night that seems unending and characterized by limitless darkness. These epithets, in addition to the metaphysical aspects, also hint at auspicious periods of time during which worship of parameshwarI yields ananta phala.
Though the set of nine nights in Ashwayuja are popularly known as navArAtras, each of the above are called navarAtras by the Tantras. Nine nights starting from mAgha kR^ishNa ShaShThI till kR^iShNa chaturdashI, are termed as the navarAtra known as kAlarAtri. The vyApti of the navarAtri named mahArAtri is from chaitra shukla pratipat to navamI tithi. moharAtri stretches from AShADha shukla ShaShTI to paurNamI. The navarAtri named dAruNA rAtri starts from bhadrapada kR^iShNa aShTamI. rAtri refers to the sharannavarAtri which extends from Ashwina pratipat to navamI tithi. Thus, the navarAtras are five in number. Of these, it is mahArAtri which is called vArShikI or lalitA navarAtri. This, along with sharannavarAtri, is of greater importance among the fine navarAtris. The word vArshikI is explained as varShAdau bhavA vArShikI or the beginning of the year which clearly means chaitra pratipat. saptashatI stresses on the importance of observance of this navarAtri, which is also called vasanta navarAtri, along with sharannavarAtri:
sharatkAle mahApUjA kriyate yA cha vArShikI ||
The devatas worshipped by upAsakas of chaNDikA during these five navarAtras are: kAlarAtri, raktadantikA, bhrAmarI, shAkambharI and durgA. Some worship chAmuNDA, vanadurgA, shUlinI durgA, shabaradurgA and kAlarAtryambA [not necessarily in this order] during the five navarAtras. Some shrIvidyopAsakas worship lalitA, mAta~NgI, vArAhI, parA and durgA during these navarAtras. Those belonging to Divyaugha shrIkula Krama with an entrance from the pashchimAmnAya worship lalitA ,chaNDikA, kubjikA, kAmakalA kAlI and bhuvaneshAnI during the five navarAtras. Some lineages, especially from Rajasthan, Gujrat and UP worship the panchapanchikAs [one per navarAtri] with elaborate mandalas and suvAsinI pUjA where the gurupatnI generally assumes the role of shrIvidyA lakShmyambA. UrdhvAmnAya tantra discusses these rAtris briefly while dealing with chatuHShShaShTi yoginI bhairava balidAna.
parAmR^itapravAhe matparakR^ityavimardini |
varade shUlinI durge mahAbhairavi pAhi mAm ||