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Navratri puja is dedicated to the worship of nine different forms of Goddess Durga for 9 days. The Chaitra Navratri puja begins in the lunar month of Chaitra, i.e. March- April. The fifth day of the puja begins with worshipping Goddess Skandamata.
Skandamata is the fifth form of Hindu Goddess Durga. Her name is derived from Skanda, which is an alternate name for war god Kartikeya (Parvati’s son and Ganesh’s brother), and Mata meaning mother. Putting the two words together, her name literally means Mother of Skanda/ Kartikeya, who is the commander-in-chief of the army of gods.
Goddess Skandamata is depicted as having four arms and three eyes, with the third located in the middle of her forehead. One of her hands is in the Abhayamudra (fear dispelling) position, while the other is used to hold the infant form of her son Skanda on her lap. Her remaining two hands are usually shown holding lotus flowers.
She has a light complexion, and as she is frequently illustrated as being seated on a lotus, she is also referred to as Padamasani.
Legend says that after Sati’s self- immolation, Shiva detached himself from worldly affairs and began practicing ascetic penance. Meanwhile, the devtas (gods) were under the attack of asuras (demons), led by Tarkasur and Surapadman. They had the boon that only Shiva’s offspring could kill them. But the gods, fearing that Shiva may never have a child, rushed to Vishnu for help.
Vishnu reprimands the gods, saying that they themselves are responsible for bringing destruction upon themselves. They attended King Daksha’s yagna without Shiva and did nothing but watch while Sati was being insulted and humiliated by her father. Sati would not have immolated herself otherwise.
Later, seeing the gods’ pitiful plight, he tells them about Parvati, who is the embodiment of Adi Parashakti and destined to be Shiva’s consort. On behalf of the gods, Rishi Narad approached Parvati and told her that if she observes extreme penance, she would get Shiva as her consort. He also informed her that Shiva was her husband in her previous birth.
After countless years of observing penance, Shiva finally relents and marries her. Their energies combine to produce a fiery seed. God Agni, the god of fire, was entrusted with carrying the seed securely to Saravana Lake till the radiance from the seed becomes Shiva’s child.
However, the heat from the seed became unbearable even for the God of fire, Agni to hold. So, he handed the seed over to Ganga who safely carried it to the lake in forest Saravana. Parvati then took the form of water body as she alone was capable of carrying her consort Shiva’s seed.
Soon, Kartikeya was born with 6 faces, and was taken care of by 6 Krittikas (mothers). Hence, he got the name Kartikeya. He grew up to be a captivatingly handsome, intelligent and powerful youth and got his name Kumar, meaning youth in Sanskrit.
He was to be taught by Brahma, but on his first day, he asked Brahma about the meaning of Om. Brahma explained the meaning in 12,000 verses, but Kartikeya was unsatisfied. He asked the question to Shiva and he explained it in 12 lakh verses. However, Kartikeya was still unsatisfied, so he himself explained the meaning in 12 crore verses.
As he was the commander-in-chief of the army of gods, he was blessed by every god with special weapons to fight the war against Tarkasur and Surapadman. Later, Kartikeya killed them in a fiercely-fought battle.
Goddess Skandamata is worshipped as the mother of an extremely gifted offspring. When a devotee worships Goddess Skandamata, they are automatically worshipping Kartikeya as he sits on his mother’s lap.
Mantra of Skandamata:
ॐ देवी स्कन्दमातायै नम:
Oṃ Devī Skandamātāyai Namaḥ
Prayer of Skandamata:
सिंहासनगता नित्यं पद्माश्रितकरद्वया.
शुभदास्तु सदा देवी स्कन्दमाता यशस्विनी.
Sinhasangata nityam padmashritkardvya,
Shubhdastu sada Devi Skandmata Yashswini
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