Markandeya Purana is the earliest known literature on Goddess Durga and her Nine Appellations. Cumulatively she is known as Nava Durga. This Purana contains a full book known as Devi Mahatmya in which Devi is conceptualized and adored. Devi is specifically referred to as Durga in this Purana. This is a departure from the Indus valley civilization goddesses.
Maa Durga is depicted as a supremely radiant goddess with ten arms, rifing a lion or a tiger, carrying weapons and a lotus flower while maintaining a meditative smile. She practices mudras or symbolic hand gestures. Durga manifests as nine shaktis who are seen as Goddesses with different roles. They are Goddesses Shailaputri, Brahmcharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandmata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri. The Nine Goddesses are worshipped on each different day during Mothers festival called Navarathri. Goddess Kalaratri is the seventh facet. Durga also took her place in the Dasa Mahavidyas, the Wisdom Goddesses to represent feminine divinity.
KALARATRI: Nav-Durga means Scourer of Darkness; Enemy of Darkness. Kalaratri is the seventh aspect Shakti of Maa Durga worshipped on the 7th day sequence during Durga Navaratri. She is also called Kaalatri Navadurga.
Indeed she is the most violent of Durga manifestations. She appears aggressive. She can curse and bless. Her intensity induces fear. She us believed to be the destroyer of demons, thus symbolizing destruction of evil. Kalaratri means the One who is “the Death of Kaal”. Here Kaal is dedicated as time and death. Kalaratri is the one who destroys avidya, ignorance and removes ru, darkness. This is symbolic of human life having dark side that Mother nature bombards one with violence to create havoc before all ‘dirt’ is removed. Darkness also represents Tamas gunas. So symbolically Kalaratri exhorts a devotee to get rid the tamasic qualities of bad, evil and negative tendencies.
Kalaratri destroys demons, devils, daanava, daitya, asura and also the wicked. It is said that bhota, pretha nad psacha will run upon hearing Kalaratri’s name. She is also the remover of planetary evils. But Mother always appears auspicious in her effect hence she is called Shubhankari, meaning ‘doing good’. As Subhankari, she makes bhaktas fearless. They have no fear from fire, water, wild being or the enemy. They do not the darkness of the night. By revering Goddess Kalarathri in the heart, meditating on her and doing japa-nama, her bhaktas worship single mindedly. He or she observes all Yamas, Niyamas and Samyamas, that is, spiritual rules of ‘dos’ and ‘donts’ .
MYTHOLOGY: In her fights with demons, she is known as Shubhankari. In this form Goddess Kalratri killed Raktabeej. Raktabeej was a demon who could multiply from every drop of his blood which fell on the ground. The Goddess Kaalratri killed him by licking the blood before it could reach the ground and hence conquered him. She endows her devotees with calm acourage.
DEPICTIONS: Kalaratri is the manifestation of a fearful Durga. She is of the dark night complexion which colour is black.
Her thorny necklace shines like the lights from thunders. Her three eyes, the Trinetri, emanate rays like lightning also. She is clad in loose red cloth to cover her upper body and wears tiger skin below her waist. Her whole body adorns various forms of thorny garlands, anklets, waist-bands, wrist-bands and armlets
Fierce flames hiss out from her nostrils when she inhales and exhales. Her hair is bountiful but disheveled. She has four arms called Chaturbhuji. On the left side are held the cleaver and torch. The right hands depict the ‘giving and protecting’ mudras. This is a gesture of protection assuring bhaktas of freedom and fear from troubles. Sometimes she carries a sharp thorn like iron weapon and the lower hand holds a sparkling sword to battle all evil.. She has a donkey for her vahana. Devotees need not fear her as she basically symbolizes auspiciousness.
NAVARATHRI: The seventh day of Navratri pooja is dedicated to Durga Kalratri. This is the most violent form of Godess Durga. Kalaratri is the one of the fiercest forms of Durga and her appearance itself evokes fear. This seventh day worship of much importance to yogis and sadhaks. They do penance on Shahasrara Chakra on this day. For such a striver the door of all Siddhis of the universe start opening. This day the sadhaka with all his faculties is identified with the mother Kalaratri. As a result of her direct vision the devotee becomes quite fit to earn all sorts of virtues. All sins and obstacles in his way are completely destroyed. He attains the abodes which are the fruit of inexhaustible virtues. For sadhaksrs every siddhi in universe is open on this day.
Maa Kalratri created the three forms before the creation of universe at the time when Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha appeared. Kalratri is also known by the names of Mahamaya, Mahamari, Mahakali, Shudha, Trisha, Nidra, Trishna, Ekveera and Durtyaya. With her magnificent eyes, Maa has a vision of grace on her devotees.
Om Kalatriye Namah
By Yogi Ananda Saraswathi