It is that time of the year when Goddess Durga manifests in different forms for nine days. People observe fasts, meditate, consume sattvik food, perform puja, offer divine bhogs with special ingredients and dress up in specific colours. Spanning nine nights and 10 days, it culminates on Vijaya Dashami, which signifies the triumph of Mahishashura Mardini (Goddess who killed demon Mahishasura).
Pratipada: Devi worshipped on this day is Shailputri, the daughter of the lofty mountain Himalayas.
Bhog: To get rid of ailments, it is advised to offer pure clarified butter (ghee) to Devi Shailputri. Bhog preparation should include loads of ghee. Generally, halwa, with a sprinkle of cardamom powder and dryfruits garnish, is prepared.
Dwitiya: Devi takes the form of bare-footed Brahmacharini, holding a rudraksha garland and a sacred kamandala in her hands, to exterminate evil.
Bhog: On this day Her blessings are sought for a long life by offering fruits and mithais.
Tritiya: Devotees invoke the divine energy of the 10-armed Goddess Chandraghanta with a half-moon on her forehead. She comes riding a tiger to rid the earth of evil.
Bhog: To pacify the anger and aggressiveness of the Devi, who is known to alleviate pains, a calming milk-dense offering like payasam or kheer is recommended. Make it flavoursome with cardamom powder, saffron along with with a sprinkle of dryfruits.
Chaturthi: Devi is worshipped on this day as the creator of the Universe, in the name of Devi Kushmanda. She rules the intellectual acumen and analysing capacity.
Bhog: To get the desired results of Her blessings in this sphere, if possible, it is advised to observe a fast. Nothing else will appease her as an offering of malpua — a deep fried pancake-like mithai prepared with refined flour, doused in sugar syrup.
Panchami: With baby Kartik on her lap, she is referred to as Skandmata (another name for Kartikeya is Skanda). She symbolises Mother Nature with four arms, sitting on a lotus flower.
Bhog: She confers salvation, shakti and prosperity to those who pray to her with full faith and belief while offering banana. Any sweet dish made with bananas can be prepared as bhog on this day.
Shahsti: On this day, she is the warrior deity called Devi Katyayani or Mahishasura Mardini.
Bhog: Strangely, this avatar is worshipped by girls for early marriage. To fulfil this desire, girls in the Northern states offer meetha paan as prasad with honey as the main ingredient.
Saptami: When the Goddess comes in a dark complexioned skin astride a donkey, with four arms carrying a sword, a trident and a lasso, she is known as Devi Kaalratri. It is believed that she contained the whole cosmos in the third eye on her forehead.
Bhog: Remover of obstacles and pain, she relishes the prasad made with jaggery or gur. Sharkara Pongal or sweet appams in the South, halwa-puri in the other parts of the country along with chana are prepared. Pre-pubescent girls are invited and this bhog is distributed among them.
Durga Ashtami: Also known as Goddess Chandi or Chamundeshwari, Shakti rides a white tusker, holding a damru and a trident in her hands.
Bhog: Coconut pleases this avatar the most. Hence, nariyal pak or any coconut-based sweet dish should be offered to her for bliss and a streak of good luck.
Navami: The Devi dons the avatar of Siddhidatri, known for her purity and compassionate nature. The day is observed as Saraswati puja when books and instruments are venerated at her altar.
Bhog: Devotees seek security and shelter from unforeseen mishaps. Sesame ladoos or any offering made of sesame seeds and gur are prepared as naivedhya for her protection.