There are nine forms of Durga, which describe different aspects of the Goddess. This is a description of the nine forms of Durga:
The first form of Devi Durga is Shailaputri. She is the daughter of the King of Mountains – Himalaya. King Himalaya and his wife Menaka perfomed many austerities and Divine Mother was pleased with them and came down to Earth as their daughter – Shaila means mountain and putri is daughter. So Divine Mother took birth as the daughter of the Mountain. Her vehicle is the Bull and in Her right hand She holds a Trishul (Trident) and in Her left hand a Lotus flower.
In Daksha’s yagya, Divine Mother in the form of Sati gave up Her body. After that, She took the form of Shailaputri, and once again joined Lord Shiva as His Divine consort. Shailaputri is the first of the nine Durgas and She is the Goddess of Inspiration.
We are living with Shailaputri today!
The meaning of the word “Brahma” is tapasya (austerities). In this form, Mother holds a japa mala in Her right hand and a kamandalu (water pot) in Her left hand. To obtain Lord Shiva, Goddess Brahmacharini did tapasya following the advice of Narada Muni. Divine Mother is Maha Shakti (Divine Energy). To obtain liberation, a seeker worships Divine Mother (Shakti) in the form of Brahmacharini, and She grants him Brahma Gyaan (knowledge of Brahman). Therefore, Her name is Brahmacharini and Her work is to give knowledge of the Supreme to devotees. Brahmacharini is the Goddess of Sacred Study.
The third form of Mother is Chandraganta. Chandra means moon and in this form Mother is cool like a moonbeam. She provides the highest peace (param shaanti) and supreme welfare (kalyaan kaari). Her form is like gold and Her vehicle is the lion (dharma). She has ten hands and holds various weapons such as kadga (sword of wisdom), baan (sharp arrows), trishul (Trident), and padma (Lotus of Peace).
Her worship blesses the seeker with removal of all confusion (paap) and obstacles. Chandraganta is the Goddess of the Delight of Practice.
The fourth form of Goddess Durga is Kushmanda. At the beginning when there was no creation, there was darkness everywhere. Kushmanda gave rise to creation and She lives in the realm of the sun (Surya Loka). The energy in all of creation is Kushmanda. This form of Mother has eight hands and therefore She is often called Ashtabhuja Devi. Her vehicle is a lion (dharma) and in Her hands Mother holds a water pot (kamandalu), arrows, the revolving discus (chakra), club, lotus flower of peace, a pot filled with immortal nectar and a japa maala. If you worship Mother Kushmanda, She destroys disease and sorrow and bestows the boons of long life, fame, strength and good health. Kushmanda is the Goddess of Purifying Austerity.
The fifth form of Goddess Durga is Skandamata. Mother Durga married Lord Shiva for the purpose of blessing the Devas with a commander-in-chief. In the war between the forces of duality (asuras) and unity (devas), the devas (forces of unity) needed a leader. Shiva and Parvati’s son Kartik who is also called Skanda is the commander of those Divine armies. As Skandamaata, Durga Devi is seen as the Mother of Skanda and She holds him in Her lap as She sits on a lion. She has four arms. The upper hands hold a lotus in each and with one of the lower hands She grants boons and with the other holds Kartik in Her lap. When a devotee does puja to Skandamata, She fulfills all desires. Skandamata is the Goddess who Nurtures Divinity.
Mother Katyayani is the sixth form of Durga. Maharishi Katyayana was a great Seer who performed strong tapasya in his ashram. One day Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswar came to his ashram to enlist his help for the purpose of killing Mahishasura. All the Gods came and from their bodies, their own energies and pure lights united to give rise to a beautiful form of Goddess Durga. This happened on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin. Maharishi Katyayana was the first to worship this Goddess Durga, and therefore She was named Katyayani. He worshipped Her on the 7th, 8th and 9th days of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashwin (Fall Navaratri). On the tenth day (the day of Victory), Goddess Katyayani vanquished Mahishasura.
Katayayani means the Goddess who is Ever Pure. Mother Katyayani has four hands. In her upper-right hand she displays the mudra that grants freedom from fear and in her lower-right hand she displays the mudra bestowing boons. In her upper-left hand she holds a sword and a lotus flower in her lower-left hand.
Devotees who worship Mother Katyayani with a pure attitude from their heart are blessed with the fulfillment of their needs for artha (wealth), dharma (ideal of perfection), kama (desires) and moksha (liberation). All disease, sorrow and suffering is destroyed by Mother.
Mother Kalaraatri is the seventh form of Durga. The reason she is called Kalaraatri is that she is the destroyer of that kaal (time) who destroys everything. Kalaraatri means the Dark Night (surrendering the ego). Her color is dark and her hair is unbound and flies wildly in all directions. She wears a garland of lightning and from her body emanates a light that is strong like a fire.
Her vehicle is a donkey. In her upper right hand she holds a mudra to grant boons and in her lower right hand she grants fearlessness. In her upper left hand she holds a club and an iron knife in her lower left hand.
She is fearful to look at but she grants very auspicious fruit to devotees. Another name for her is “Bhayankari” (this literally means “Fearful”). When devotees see her, they should not have fear. If they do her puja, she will grant freedom from fear of ghosts, spirits, snakes, fire, floods, and dangerous animals.
The eighth form of Mother is Mahagauri. Devi Parvati was dark colored and Mahadev used to call her “Kaalike”. She did tapasya and Mahadev was pleased with her tapasya. He showered Ganga water upon her and she became “white”. Therefore, her name is Mahagauri.
Her vehicle is a bull. In her upper right hand she shows the mudra bestowing boons and in her lower right hand she holds a trishul. In her upper left hand she holds a drum (damaru) and in her lower left hand is the mudra bestowing boons.
If we do puja to Mahagauri all confusion will be destroyed. Sorrow, confusion, suffering, poverty cannot touch one who worships Mahagauri. Mahagauri means Great Radiant Light.
Siddhidaatri is the ninth form of Durga and Mother is given this name because she grants perfection (siddhi daan) to devotees and spiritual aspirants. It was with Siddhidaatri’s Grace (anukampa) that Lord Shiva got the Ardhanarishwara form. Her vehicle is a lion and Her asana is a lotus flower. In her upper-right hand Mother holds a club and in her lower-right hand is a discus. In her upper-left hand she holds a lotus and in her lower-left hand is a conch. For all spiritual aspirants and devotees, worship of Mother Siddhidaatri grants all desires both in this world and the other world. Siddhidaatri means Grantor of perfection.