After the slaying of Mahishasura by Maa Katyayani, peace was restored in all the worlds. For several yugas and kalpas, harmony prevailed – until powerful demons rose again to disrupt all the harmony. The Durga Saptashati describes the captivating tale of the war between the mighty demons Shumbha and Nishumbha, and the Divine Mother.
Shumbha and Nishumbha were two powerful demon brothers who embarked on a quest for power and domination. They amassed a formidable army and launched an assault on Devaloka, the heavenly realm of the Gods. With their sheer strength and ferocity, the demons defeated the Gods, usurped their thrones, and seized control of Devaloka.
Devastated by the loss of their position, power and even abodes, the Gods turned to the great ruler of the Gods, Indra, for guidance. Recognizing the need for divine intervention, Indra led the Gods to the sacred Himalayas to seek the assistance of Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati.
Arriving at the abode of Lord Shiva, the Gods fervently prayed for deliverance. Their heartfelt pleas resonated with Ma Parvati, who was bathing at the time. In response to their prayers, Devi Parvati decided to intervene and protect the universe from the tyrannical rule of the demons. Goddess Parvati, in her divine wisdom, created a magnificent form known as Ambika. Devi Ambika was a radiant and awe-inspiring goddess, adorned with celestial weapons and surrounded by divine beings. She was bestowed with immense power and strength to confront the malevolent demons and restore peace to Devaloka.
As the divine army led by Devi Ambika marched towards the battlefield, Shumbha and Nishumbha sent their most formidable generals, Chanda and Munda, to counter the impending threat. The demons believed that their generals were invincible and would effortlessly defeat any adversary. Here was merely a tender woman.
However, Devi Ambika’s divine prowess was unmatched. She summoned a fierce and terrifying form known as Kali( also called Kalaratri) to aid her in battle. Kali was a dark and formidable goddess, radiating immense power and ferocity. With her help, Devi Ambika swiftly annihilated Chanda and Munda, leaving the demon army stunned and disheartened, earning the name, ‘Chamunda.’
Undeterred by the loss of their generals, Shumbha and Nishumbha unleashed their full power upon Chamunda. The battle between the demons and the goddess raged on, with the heavens bearing witness to the clash of cosmic forces.
In a desperate bid to overcome Devi Chandi and Devi Kalaratri, Shumbha and Nishumbha now summoned their most formidable warrior, Raktabeeja. Raktabeeja possessed a unique power that allowed him to multiply himself from each drop of his blood that fell to the ground. This made him virtually indestructible, as every drop of his blood that fell on ground, only spawned his countless clones.
Devi Kalaratri, with her immense strength and determination, fought valiantly against Raktabija. However, with every drop of his blood that touched the ground, Raktabeeja’s clones multiplied, overwhelming the Gods who stood witness to this battle.
In a moment of divine inspiration, Devi Kalaratri extended her long tongue and consumed the drops of blood, preventing them from reaching the ground, thus neutralising Raktabeeja’s power. She slayed him and vanquished his clones. The victory over Raktabeeja marked a turning point in the battle, with the demons realising the futility of their resistance.
However, Devi Kalaratri’s ferocity and destructive nature led her to continue killing anyone who stood in Her way. Witnessing the destructive rampage of Kalaratri, the Gods beseeched Lord Shiva for help. To calm her fury, Lord Shiva positioned himself beneath her feet. Upon realising that she had inadvertently stepped on her beloved husband, Kalaratri bit her tongue in remorse, as depicted in her various forms. This act of contrition allowed Shiva to rise and, in turn, pacify the fierce Goddess.
Finally, the invincible Goddess Chandi engaged Shumbha and Nishumbha directly in a fierce and relentless battle, overpowering them with Her divine strength and strategy.
As per Srimad Devi Bhagavatam, after Goddess Ambika (also known as Kaushiki and Chandika) comes forth from the body of Goddess Parvati, Ma Parvati’s skin turns extremely dark (almost black, like the hue of dark clouds). Therefore Ma Parvati is given the names ‘Kalika’ and ‘Kalaratri’. She’s described as having two arms, holding a scimitar and half broken skull (that acts as a bowl to collect blood), and she eventually kills the demon king, Shumbha.
In Varaha Purana, the name Raudri is used to reference Devi Kalaratri who kills the demon, Ruru.
These demons exist within us. The hurdle called Mahishasur annihilated by Devi Katyayani was a sign of lust and rage. They are there trying to knock down any seeker. To tackle them, you need to channelize your whole energy and that’s why Devi comes there. She’s a sign of energy, Shakti. You cannot kill them. You have to transform them and then you go further. You cross Mahishasur. Sound and taste don’t bother you at this stage, and you have learned to harness your energy. Anger is a massive surge of energy. So now you have learned to harness your energy, like the tamed horse.
And then you get to the next level. Shumbh Nishumbh. But before you meet Shumbh Nishumbh, you see another demon – Dhoomralochan.
Who is Dhoomralochan or rather What is Dhoomralochan?
Dhoomra means smoke. Lochan means sight. You need to purify your sight because you are constantly gathering information through your eyes. You have to be mindful. How do I rise above this illusion, and how do I not get distracted? That is the next step by any seeker. No matter how profound you are, no matter how smart you are, regardless of how intellectual you are, you will go through stages similar to these if you are a true seeker.
There are six main chakras in the body, and the seventh is Sahasrara. There are six sets of asuras in Durga Saptashati, and the seventh is Surat and Samadhi. Once you cross Dhoomralochan, you are at the stage where sounds don’t bother you, and taste does not affect you. You have harnessed your energy, and your view of the world is the right one. You are at peace.
Then you get to the next one. And the next one – Chanda-Munda. The word ‘Chand’ in Sanskrit means passion. It also means cruelty and violence. And ‘Mund’ implies the head, intelligence and inner conflicts. So when you are going on the trajectory of spiritual evolution, you may not be angry anymore. You may not be full of lust and rage. You may have harnessed your energy, but you still need to channelize the energy somewhere. If you are passionate about anything, you will just end up putting everything in that passion. It could even be a cause – good or bad. And that also is a distraction for a seeker. And this is where some of the greatest preachers stopped being attracted by wealth, world, and attention. Before seeing the end, they start preaching.
Gur jaka Andhala, Chela hai Jai Chand, Andha Andha Theliya, Donon Koop Padant.
The Guru is blind. The disciple is blind. Blind is leading the blind. All end up in the well.
Two journeys are always made in complete solitude – the one to your self-realisation and the one to death. Nobody can join you there. So, a sincere seeker has to go beyond his passions.
And then the next hurdle is internal conflicts. When you are serious about the ultimate truth, you will go through a whole heap of conflicts in your mind. Did I take the right step or not? You will go through repentance, regret, guilt. Many emotions will come. You will find them rising to the brim. And then you need to settle down at that moment because they will pass.
And once you cross Chandmund, then you encounter the most powerful one, Raktbeej.
So who’s Raktbeej?
In Durga Saptashati, Raktbeej was a demon who had a special boon. For every drop of blood that would spill on the battlefield, countless more will spring up identical to him with the same power, and they too will have the same boon.
So how do you fight a demon like that? Every time one would get killed, blood would spill, and so many more would come up posing a big challenge. Raktbeej is your desire. You fulfil one, and you deliver one; countless more will spring up and will keep on going on and on and on and on and on and on. It won’t stop. At that moment, you need aggression in the form of discipline. So you can drink it. There is no good or bad Raktbeej. There is no good or bad desire. Desires are just that, desires. No matter how great your desire is, you fulfil one and more will come up. So now you are unaffected by what people say to you, sounds. What you are offered, taste. You’ve learned to harness your energy. You’ve risen above lust and rage. You are having a correct view. You’ve conquered Dhumralochan. You have gone past your passions and internal conflicts, and you have gone beyond Chandmund. You have even understood the nature of your desires, but you are still one step away, and that is Shumbh Nishumbh.
Shumbh Nishumbh is nothing but judgements and duality – ‘Shubh-Ashubh’, pleasant and unpleasant, morality-immorality, good-bad, right-wrong, religious-sacrilege or irreligious. These thoughts will never leave you until you break free of the conditioning until you set yourself free. You will constantly be weighing excellent or bad based on somebody else’s criteria- right and wrong based on somebody else’s mental framework. When you can break that, you will no longer have regret, guilt, fear or any of the other negative emotions. You will become an embodiment of compassion, of love because of your intrinsic and true nature. So you go beyond Shumbh Nishumbh. Now you are ready for the ultimate reward.
Ma Kalaratri is a powerful and formidable Goddess who represents the triumph of divine light over darkness of ignorance. Her worship is a reminder of the transformative power that lies within each individual and the necessity of confronting and transcending fear to attain spiritual liberation. She is associated with the dissolution of time and the liberation of the soul. Her blessings bring spiritual transformation, liberation from worldly attachments, and the fulfilment of desires that are good for your ultimate good.
Devi Kālarātri is the Goddess of the dark-night. The dark unknown causes our mind to fill itself with fears. Fear is relative to the thoughts we have in our mind and how we relate to them. There are many small fears, but the fear of death is one of the largest, most frightful of them all.
She personifies the acceptance of fears, as they are. You can have a fear of something and know that it is there, accept it to transcend it and not have it run your life.
In the epic Mahabharata (Sauptika Parva 10.8.64-65), a textual reference to Devi Kālarātri is found. She is seen on the battlefield where men are killing each other, limbs and heads being hacked off in battle; rivers of blood flowing. In this destruction, it states:
“The warriors in the Pandava camp beheld the embodied form of Kālarātri- a black image, of bloody mouth and bloody eyes, wearing crimson garlands and smeared with crimson unguents, attired in a single piece of red cloth, with a noose in hand, and resembling an elderly lady, employed in chanting a dismal note and standing full before their eyes, and about to lead away men and horses and elephants all tied in a stout cord.”
Another reference to Devi Kalaratri in the Mahabharata (Karna Parva 8.34), states,
“Each part of Śhiva is described as composed of the various Gods and Goddesses. Śhiva’s bow is made of the cycle of the year and decorated by the seasons. And Rudra’s own shadow, which is the Kālarātri, is the indestructible string of his bow.”
Devi Kālarātri represents our dark inner shadow nature. She is symbolically God’s shadow- the darker side of life, the darker power of being. This intense dark energy lives in all humans. It is a power that is a part of who we are, and so we must acknowledge and accept it.
To avoid looking at this darkness is to give it power over you. To take the appropriate time to look deeply at yourself, contemplate and acknowledge these darker forces of consciousness pacifies these forces.
This is why Kālarātri is worshipped – not to bring darkness, but rather to acknowledge that it exists so that we can be at peace with it and work towards transcending it with the light of knowledge. By not avoiding it, we heal ourselves.
Kālarātri is the destructive part of who we are. In the Mahabharata (Śalya Parva 9.11), she can be likened to the energy of Bhīma on the battlefield. He was infuriated with rage and had a mace (resembling the bludgeon of death) that is compared to Kālaratri – exceedingly destructive, fierce as a female snake, hard as thunder, smeared with marrow, fat and blood, resembling the tongue of the God of Death, producing shrill sounds like the thunder of the King of Heaven.
Devi Kālarātri‘s energy presides over the heavy, dark, painful, force of suffering that exists in the universe. Worshipping Her pacifies this energy; it removes poverty, sadness, grief and sickness. It heals and brings auspiciousness.
We all have tough times in our life. It is the tough times that build our character, that make us appreciate all we have, and that makes us grow. Those who haven’t had times of suffering, live in a fluffy superficial bubble of illusion, less in touch with the deeper nature of the universe.
All glories to that form of Mother Divine who sees us through challenging times in life to make us more mature, to make us appreciate life more deeply, and who helps us come out stronger on the other side of any ordeal.
Chapter 1 of the Durga Saptashati, verse 75, references the destructive force personified by Goddess Kalaratri as:
prakṛtistvaṃca sarvasya guṇatraya vibhāvinī
You are the primordial cause of everything, Bringing into force the three qualities (sattva, rajas and tamas). You are the dark night of periodic dissolution, You are the great night of final dissolution and the terrible night of delusion.
Inevitably on the spiritual path we become mindfully aware of our egoistic tendencies.
We witness the ideas of “me, mine, and I,” which are so conditioned in our thought process that we blindly, yet ambitiously, go through life, trying to accumulate more and more for ourselves.
Unfortunately, unless we get help, these thoughts are an endless succession in a perpetual cycle. What do we do?
To the rescue is the seventh form of Nav Durga, Kalaratri Devi, the fiercest form of Ma Durga worshipped on the seventh night of Navratri.
Rātri means night. Kāla means time, death, black or dark. So Kalaratri is She who is beyond time, the darkness of night. Kalaratri Devi is the great Dark Night Mother of overcoming ego.
She represents the unfolding of time. The time on the clock keeps moving forward, making us older, inching us forward towards death with every passing moment.
Kālarātri can be translated as the Goddess of the Dark-night, or the Goddess of the night of Death. Death is similar to the state of deep sleep, you let go from your body and enter the dark realm where you have no body consciousness and yet the state of sleep is temporary, a mere pause (awakening to her real essence is understanding the transient nature of life).
She is a fierce form of Durga, who burns our egoistic tendencies in the fire of sacrifice. Today as you perform the yagna of the seventh day of Navratri, offer all your limitations in the fire pit of your consciousness where Mother Divine resides as Devi Kalaratri.
Saptami Tithi of Navratri belongs to Devi Kalaratri.
Maa Kalaratri is very frightening to look at for a demon, but for Her child, She is the most protective in Her motherly bhava. The colour of her inky black body rivals that of the darkest night. Her round eyes flash lightning bolts. She has a single braid in her hair. Her hair is long, unbound and flies wildly, dishevelled in all directions. The blood of the demons glows like red Hibiscus flowers on Her glorious body, yet She is the ocean of auspiciousness! Ma Kalaratri is Shubhankari!
Her bright garland of skulls glitters like the moon. She has three eyes and is hence eulogised as Trinetri. The Chaturbhuji Devi Kalaratri has four protective, loving hands, effortlessly holding a bloodstained, sharp thorn-like weapon called the lightning thunderbolt (Vajrayudha) in her lower left hand and a sharp dagger like scimitar (Khadga) in upper left hand, Her other two hands display Abhaya and Varad mudras. Her body is deep dark inky black and naked except for Her golden earrings on her large ears. Her lips hang open (lamba-oshthi), her body is covered in oil. Breathing fire she charges at the demons on Her Vahana, the donkey!
Don’t be amazed that she sits on the donkey, the symbol of unwavering service and loyalty. She wears a garland of lightning and dragon-like flames come out when she breathes. She looks every bit fierce with her dark form and unruly hair and three eyes (she opens her third eye today, by the way). In this form, she slays all disease, ignorance and darkness and grants all wishes of the devatas.
Although the Goddess Kalaratri is the most ferocious form of Goddess Parvati, She blesses her devotees with Abhaya and Varada Mudras (blessings and protection).
The significance of her form:
- black: takes away darkness from mind
- donkey: symbolises service, loyal and sure-footed
- iron scimitar: sharp cut to negative forces
- lightning: indestructible diamond hard shakti like the thunderbolt
- upper right hand: grants boons
- lower right hand: blesses with fearlessness
- braid: single braid representing mourning and anger at the destruction caused by the demons
- unbound hair: fierce, wild, untamed
This energy of Her lightning Vajra has a very special significance. Lord Shiva gave Rishi Dadhichi the boon that his bones would be indestructible and diamond hard as Vajra (thunderbolt). Indra needed a very strong weapon to fight the asuras, and so he asked the Rishi for his bones. Rishi Dadhichi gladly gave up his life so that his bones could be fabricated into Indra’s weapon.
The weapon had indestructible energy and shined with the radiance of Rishi Dadhichi’s tapas. It was this weapon which was used to slay many invincible asuras. Hence, it is often called shakti (energy), vajra (lightning or diamond hard), or parigham (fashioned like an iron tooth).
Goddess Kalaratri, with her divine presence, dispels darkness and illuminates the lives of spiritual aspirants with wisdom and knowledge, bringing clarity and unveiling mystical realms. The mere sight of her causes all negative energies to tremble and retreat in fear. Though Her appearance appears fearful to the eye, She is not to be feared, because when She is pleased, She grants very auspicious fruits to her devotees.
🌸 She protects her devotees from all harms and ends anything or anyone who troubles her devotees on the path of Dharma.
🌸 Worshipping Ma Kalaratri helps in gaining clarity of thought and purpose. She pulls an aspirant out of the dark phase of crisis by removing confusion and offering guidance on the path of Sadhana.
🌸 Devotion to Ma Kalaratri opens up mystical dimensions and deepens one’s spiritual connection with the Primordial Shakti. It facilitates the awakening of spiritual consciousness, sharpens intuition, and promotes spiritual growth.
🌸 At a subtle level, Ma Kalaratri builds confidence in us which gives us the faith and belief that we can achieve anything and everything and tide over all difficulties in the refuge of Divine Mother.
🌸 Ma Kalaratri is a powerful protector who shields her devotees from negative energies, evil forces, and malevolent influences of malefic planetary conditions. She creates a shield of divine energy around her worshippers, ensuring their safety and well-being.
🌸 By invoking Ma Kalaratri, one can experience profound inner transformation and inner purification (Antashkarana Shuddhi). She helps in purging negative traits, destructive restive tendencies and proclivities, allowing individuals to evolve spiritually and lead a righteous life.
🌸 The worship of Ma Kalaratri brings inner peace and harmony. She helps in finding balance amidst chaos, calming the mind, and promoting emotional well-being.
🌸 Worshipping Ma Kalaratri with devotion and sincerity attracts her immense blessings. She bestows auspiciousness, prosperity, and fulfilment in all spheres of life.
🌸 She dispels darkness and illuminates the lives of her devotees with true knowledge.
🌸 She removes all internal enemies that plague the sukshma sharira (subtle body) due to sanchit karma (consequences accrued due to past actions).
On this seventh day of Navratri, Yogis and other Upasaks (worshippers) of Shakti concentrate their minds on the Sahasrara Chakra (Crown centre). Worshipping Devi Kalaratri makes the devotee free from the entanglements of the transient nature of this material world, lifting the veils of ignorance and bestows Ashta siddhis and Nava Nidhis. Today, chant Her mantra and pray to Her for destroying the darkness in our minds, to let go of attachments, and to open the mind to thousands of blooming lotuses of the divine light of knowledge.
In Lalitha Sahasranamam, She is referenced as Kalaratryadi-saktyaughavrta. Rakini (presiding yogini of the Anahata Chakra) is surrounded by twelve of her assistant Maha Shaktis like Kalaratri devi, each presiding over a petal. When meditating on this chakra, Rakini should be visualised together with these 12 divine energies – Kālarātri, Khāteeta, Gayatri, Ghantādhārini, Joumini, Chanda, Chāya, Jayā, Jhankāri, Jnana roopa, Tanka hasta, Tankā kārini. All these deities protect the aspirant focusing on this chakra.
Kalaratri devi was born out of tamo guna of Rudra and also known as Raudri. Chanting her mantra causes destruction of one’s inner and outer enemies.
Tantric invocation: Roopdipika, Pragya, Yakshini
Tantric forms of Devi Durga – Yakshini, Roopdipika and Pragya are invoked as per the Durga Tantra and Vamkeshvara tantra on the seventh day of Navatri. This tantric invocation bestows Mother Divine’s immense grace and blessings, paving the way for the revelation of many hidden treasures of this beautiful creation that assist a practitioner in his spiritual quest. Anyone interested in pursuing Tantra Sadhana is recommended to do a full invocation of Devi Kalratri.
May the grace of Devi Kalaratri descend upon you!
⛰️Om Devi Kalaratryai Namaha⛰️
🌸Jaganmatruke Pahimam! 🌸