Navratri is an auspicious time in Hinduism to worship the nine forms of Mother Durga. The practice of celebrating Navratri has been around for ages and the spirit of it has only increased year after year.
For the first six days of Navratri, prayers and rituals are performed mostly inside the homes and of course in temples. The festivities grow in number significantly from the seventh day, the Maha Saptami.
On Maha Saptami, the seventh incarnation of the Mother Durga is worshipped and that is Kaalratri. She is better known by the name Maha Kaali.
The very mention of Her name sends a chill down the spine for any demon. She is considered to be the ultimate destroyer of all evil and evildoers and brings light by slaving the ignorance of darkness.
Meaning of Kaalratri
The word is taken from Sanskrit. 'Kaal' literally means time. Time, as an aspect is very important to Vedic seers.
According to them, time unfolds every creation and time is the one that devours all. The power of time can be seen here in a distinct manner. Hence, Kaalratri can mean 'the death of time'. In another sense, 'kaal' also means black.
The second half of the word 'ratri' means night. Here, 'Kaalratri' translates as the dark night. This concept came up from the Tantric tradition with roots in the Rig Veda.
Appearance of Kaalratri
Any person who does not know the characteristics of Ma Kaalratri might get frightened for a lifetime on seeing the way she carries herself. She terrifies everyone with Her dark skin, protruding eyes and dark red tongue that sticks out. She has wavy, long dishevelled hair.
Donkey is Her mount in spite of Her other forms that ride on lion, tiger, and cow. She wears a white necklace that shines like lightning. She has four hands and three eyes.
Her hands on the left hold a torch and a cleaver while Her hands on the right show the Abhay mudra and Var mudra. The Kaalratri form of Mother Durga is said to be the most ferocious of all. It goes to the extent that the Goddess breathes fire in Her nostrils as She inhales and exhales.
The appearance shows the dark side of Ma Kaalratri but the sole purpose of this is to drive away all the evils of the society by defeating the demons. Looking at it in a positive way.
She is a boon to her worshippers as she protects them from all forms of evil, takes away fear, and imparts courage to a great extent. Hence, She is also known by the name 'Shubhankari'. She is said to be very generous to people who pray to Her with complete devotion.
Legend has it that there lived a demon called Raktabeej. He was creating so much of havoc all over especially in the abode of the Demi-Gods. It was to slay him that Mother Durga took the form of Ma Kaalratri.
No one could battle him as he could clone himself with every drop of his blood that fell to the ground. To defeat him, Ma Kaalratri drank every drop of his blood even before it touched the ground. This gives the explanation for Her red tongue.
Importance of the seventh night
The night of the seventh day of Navratri is very auspicious for Tantriks and Yogis. In meditation, they attain the Sahastrar Chakra, the most important of all chakras which is the last milestone of the evolution of human awareness.
This is considered to be the state of being when one finds complete perfection in the universe. Scientifically speaking, the night is the best time that is peaceful to perform all the rituals and meditate with full concentration. So, night works out to be the best to attain mental and Yogic powers.