Kashi Khand of Skanda Purana stated that Navadurga Yatra will be performed during Navaratri, especially Sharad Navaratri which falls in October. So, this time in Kashi, I decided to visit the Devi temples scattered all over the holy city. In fact, they lie on the pilgrimage route that pilgrims follow, especially during Navaratri. Navadurga, Image – Shutterstock Several Shakta texts mention the nine forms of Devi worshiped during the nine nights of Navaratri. These nine forms are also the cycle of evolution, especially of the prakriti or nature, of which woman is a manifestation. All these nine forms have a temple in all the lanes of Varanasi, not too far from the Ghats. You can visit them either from the city side or from the ghats. Navadurga Yatra at Kashi Navadurga temples in Varanasi Let’s visit these temples and understand these forms of Durga: Shailputri – Daughter of the Mountain The first form of Durga is Shailputri or Daughter of the Mountain. “Shell” also means rock, which means that it is not in its active state yet. I just gave birth. Her journey begins here. In the iconography, she is shown riding a bull holding a trichole or trident in one hand and a lotus in the other. Shailputri Devi in Varanasi, her temple is located towards the north near Marhia Ghat. Most auto rickshaw drivers take you to the temple, which is located in narrow lanes. It is a small temple complex that contains many temples. I arrived at this temple early in the morning around 5 am and had to wait for Pujari Ji to open the doors of the temple. There are small ancient Shiva temples in the complex along with Hanuman temple. The main temple contains Shivalinga, with Nandi facing into Mandapa. On one side is a morty from Ma Shelpotry. You need to go to the other door to get a clear view of it. Early in the morning, Morty was completely covered in a yellow cloth, but fortunately the face was visible. I spent some time with Ma Shailputri, and since there was no one else in the temple, it felt like a very personal appointment, a blessing on a cold winter morning. Shailputri was visited on the first day of Navaratri. I was told that the paths to the temple were full of people that day. Brahmacharini – The ascetic form of Devi The second form of Devi worshiped on the second day of Navaratri is called Brahmacharini. This is the ascetic form of Parvati when she did a cruel penance to obtain Shiva as her husband. As an ascetic, she adorns simple clothes and holds in her hand a Rudraksha Mala and Kamadalu or water bowl. Brahmacharini Temple in Varanasi in Kashi, her temple is located near the Durga Ghat or Brahma Ghat. You can approach from the city side or from the Ghats. It is a small temple again, and the lanes around it have recently been painted with Kashi scenes. Outside the temple, there is a marble plaque with the Brahmacharini logo engraved on it. The Murti of Ma Brahmacharini is beautiful and decorated with clothes, flowers and jewellery. Like every Devi temple, there is a Shivalinga in front of the Devi Murti. The annakoot mahotsava or Brahmacharini Devi festival is held in Kartik Purnima. You can call the priest if you want to do a puja or Shringar of the Devi. Chandraghanta Devi – One with a bell-shaped moon on her forehead Chandraghanta is the third form of Devi who is worshiped on the third day of Navaratri. The moon on her forehead is her hallmark. She rides a lion and has ten hands holding ayoda or different weapons, at the same time providing Abhaya or protection to her lover. In this form, Durga is ready to fight evil or ensure protection for those who come to her. Devi Chandraganta in Varanasi in Kashi, her temple is near the chowk in a pass called Chandu Nai ki Gali. It is a small temple located on the side of the corridor. You can get darshan through the iron grill. I could see the Murti of Ma Chandraghanta and the smaller Murti of the other eight forms of Durga. The tablet outside the temple tells you that it is Chandrghanta Temple. It might be one of the smallest temples you might see. Kushmanda – The fourth form of the Cosmic Egg from Durga is Kushmanda which she refers to as the Cosmic Egg from which Srishti or the entire creation took place. She is 8 years old, carries many auspicious weapons and symbols, and rides a lion. It is radiant in gold as it represents Hiranyagarbha. Durga Kund in Varanasi In Varanasi, its temple is huge and famous as Durga Mandir, south of Asi Ghat. The temple’s reservoir is known as Durga Kund. This beautiful red painted temple is well known and easy to access. The story of the temple is mentioned in the Devi Bhagwat Puran about an exiled prince of Ayodhya who married a Kashi princess. The same can be read on a plaque outside the temple. Another story says that Durgasur was killed by Devi which earned her the name Durga. Read More – 50 cities in India named after Devi Although this temple in the Navadurga Yatra is scheduled to be visited on the fourth day of Navaratri, this temple is always crowded, especially during the nine nights of Navaratri. Even on other days, you can see a long line of people visiting Ma Durga. Chandni homa is performed during this time. It is a very powerful temple. Skandamata – the mother of Skanda the fifth form of Durga is the mother of Skanda or Kartik – the six-headed leader of the Devas army. As a foster mother, she sits on a lion who holds her son in her lap and holds a couple in her hands and protects devotees with the fourth. Alternatively, she is also shown sitting on a lotus as she is also a padmasana. Skandamata Temple in Varanasi In Varanasi, the Skandamata temple is located in Jaitpura district, near the Jaitpura police station, in a temple complex more commonly known as Bajshwari Devi Temple. It is a strong temple where I saw a lot of school kids come and reach Devi on their way to school. The temple is on two levels, the lower level has Bajshwari Devi which is actually an Aashwarda which means that she is riding a horse. Her temple only opens twice a year, and for the rest of the days, people pray only from the closed door. Skandmata is located on the top floor and this is where people come and worship regularly. In Navadurga Yatra, it is visited on the fifth day. This temple is unique in that it has a priestess as well. Katyayani – The power within Katyayani is the warrior form of Devi, who killed Mahishasur. Since Rishi Katyayan worshiped her in this way, she received the name Katyaani. In Kashi, there is another story of her in the form of Vikata Devi, who helped Amir Kashi to visit Swarga and return. She was worshiped on the sixth day of Navaratri. Katyaani is a four-armed goddess riding a lion, and she holds a lotus and a sword in her arms while the other two worshipers bless and protect them. It is known to remove suffering of all kinds. Her temple in Kashi is close to Scindia ghat in a temple complex called Atmaveereshwar Temple. You can approach him from Chowk or from Ghat. This area is also called Panch Mudra Mahabeth – a sacred space said to multiply the ponya that you earn here. In the Navadurga Yatra in Kashi, it was visited on the sixth day. Calratri – Dark night Calratri can mean many things. One of the meanings I understand is the periodic night that follows the day. It marks the end of an era in which creation dissolves and merges again with Brahman. After this night begins a new cycle of creation. She is also the goddess who shot just exhaled during the war. In Kashi, the city is guarded like many other deities. Kalika Devi, who represents the night, is depicted as a calratri with dark skin, blood red eyes, hair flowing all over, and a wreath of lightning and flames coming out of her mouth. She carries a Chandrahasa sword and a vajra or thunderbolt in two of her four arms and rides a donkey. Although scary, it imparts auspiciousness hence it is also called Shubhkari. It really removes all your fears. In Varanasi, her Calratri temple is located at Kalika Gali, which is parallel to Vishwanath Gali and named after Devi. It is within walking distance of the famous Dashashwamedha Ghat. She is also worshiped as Kali and the temple is treated as Shakti Peetha. During the Navadurga Yatra was visited on the seventh day. Mahagauri – The great fair-skinned goddess Mahagauri is Parvati in her most benevolent form and this is evidenced by her white bull in her chariot. In three of her four hands, she held a Trident, Damru, and Lotus. In Kashi, Devi is the chief of the city – Ma Annapurna is also the Mahagori – the eighth form of Durga that is worshiped on the eighth day of Navaratri. Her temple, next to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, is one of the most famous temples in the city. There is no way you can miss it. With or without Navadurga Yatra, Annapurna Temple is a must visit when you visit Kashi. This temple is always full of devotees. Other special days at this temple include Dhanteras to Diwali Amavasya when the golden Murti of Darshan was opened on the top floor of the temple. In Chaitra Shukla Ashtami, i.e. on the eighth day of Chaitra or Vasant Navatari, there is a tradition to do 108 parikramas or circumambulation around Ma Annapurna. Adi Annapurna Temple There is another small Adi Annapurna temple near this temple. Not many people visit it, but it has a very unique morti. You need to ask Pujari Ji to show it to you. Siddhidatri – Giver of siddhi or spiritual powers The last and ninth form of Durga is Siddhidatri and in this form, she is the giver of various siddhis. There are eight siddhis included in the Purani literature collectively called Asht Sidi. This model reminds us that once we reach the top, our role is to empower others by giving them the powers that we have. She is sitting on a lotus flower and holds in her four arms Trishul, Sudarshan Chakra, Kunch and Lotus. The Siddheshwari Devi temple in Varanasi is visited on the ninth day of the Navadurga Yatra during the Navaratri. In Kashi, it is located in Siddmata Gali in Siddeshwari Mohala – all of which are named after her. Its temple complex also houses the Chandreshwar Mahadev temple which is believed to have been created by Chandra or the moon itself and is believed to pre-date the Kashi Vishwanath temple. There is an ancient well called Chandra Koop whose waters are still used for Abhishek in the temple. The priest in the temple told me that it was Siddabitha and that many feathers were still meditating here in their sukshma or hidden form. You can feel the serene aura of a place that has been worshiped for a very long time. If you notice, every form of deity is associated with a lotus, either holding it in one hand or sitting on one. The lotus is a symbol of purity, growing in the mud while retaining its purity, not allowing any impurity to remain on it. Also Read – Navaratri – When Devi Comes Home Practical Tips for Navadurga Yatra In Kashi You can easily do all nine temples in one day if you have a local guide with you. Many temples are located in narrow lanes and it may take some time to locate them yourself. Some young guides can take you on two wheels. You can also rent a rickshaw to do the same. Most temples are open in the morning and evening. Pujaris are helpful in answering questions. Nobody expects anything in these temples, you can offer whatever you want. I visited them all in the morning and it was great to see local Kashivasis doing pooja in these temples. You may find people sitting and doing sadhana in most of these temples.