The third avatar of the Goddess is as “Chandraghanta” where she first shows herself as the “ferocious one”~ten armed and riding a lion (sometimes a tiger~ both symbolic of bravery). Eight of her arms hold something, with each having it’s own symbolism; while two are in mudras~ one of bestowing a boon and the other of indicating protection. (The symbolism of her rosary, trishul, lotus and kamandal has already been spoken of. We are now introduced to her sword~razor sharp intelligence; a bow ~to bend and focus the mind; arrows~to aim with determination at one point; mace~the power to destroy all evil) The name derives from the bell shaped half moon on her forehead (bell translating to ‘ghanta’) and just one booming shout from her (like the loud peal of a bell) is said to be enough to make demons tremble. In this form she is always ready to battle all that is evil and dark in creation. The belief is that by praying to this form the devotee is blessed with a powerful aura and speech for Her Grace eradicates all the mental and emotional fears or the ’negative-energies’ that surround us. In ‘yogic-sadhana’ she represents the ‘solar or the manipur-chakra’. Many tales are woven around the reason for her assuming this form but the basic faith that underlies all, is that the Divine Mother who is the very embodiment of serenity and compassion can assume the most ferocious of forms to destroy the wicked.
In her fourth divine form, Maa Durga is known as “Kushmanda”~the word means one who created the universe as a tiny celestial egg (Her name being a fusion of the root words ku+usma+anda i.e. small+warmth+egg). The legend in ‘Durga Shaptashati” says that when the Universe was non-existent and darkness prevailed everywhere, she produced the cosmic egg with her smile, bringing forth light. She alone has the capability to live inside the core of the sun enabling it to shine and radiate energy to the universe. As the creator of the universe she is also referred to as “Adi-Shakti” or the Primordial force and one story around her even refers to her as the first being of the entire universe who made one half of her being into Shiva and then created all the other gods and goddesses. (Historians would probably attribute the origin of this as arising more out of a necessity to establish the Feminine-principle as the dominant force…but that is a whole new theological debate!) Her form is luminous and resplendent like the sun and all creation is bathed in her divine light. Also mounted on a tiger, she has eight hands (“ashta-bhuja”) holding a kamandal, a lotus, a mace, a chakra, a bow, an arrow, a rosary and in the remaining hand she carries a jar of nectar or the ‘amrit-kalash’. The rosary here is symbolic of the eight important ’siddhis’ (knowledge and wisdom of all that there is to know) and the nectar jar of ‘nine-niddhis’ (power and wealth of all types). The belief then is that to worship and appease the goddess in this form with purity, love and dedication bestows a long life of fame and prosperity to spread the radiance so received. In yogic-sadhana, she represents the heart or ‘anhata-chakra’.
The fifth form of “Navdurga” is “Skandamata” and her name comes from being the mother of Skanda or Kartikeya, her warrior son. Her image is of one who is four-armed, has three eyes and rides a lion with her infant son in her lap.Two of her arms hold lotus flowers; while of the other two, one holds her son and the other she blesses one and all. The son Kartikeya has six heads corresponding to the five senses and the mind or as one who has mastered the six demonic forces~kaama (the sexual urge), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada (ego), and matsarya (jealousy). In yogic-sadhana, this avatar represents the “Vishuddha-chakra” or the energy centre in the area of the throw It is the first of the three spiritual chakras and to be open and aligned in the fifth chakra, they say, is to speak, listen and express yourself from a higher form of communication. By themselves the stories about this form (from the Skanda-puran) may seem quite fantastical but they contain layers of metaphorical and allegorical references which seem beyond the grasp of ordinary minds. Perhaps at one level all one needs is pure dedication and selfless devotion to be able to completely surrender to this Divine Mother.