The Navratra Saga, Day 2: The austere penance of Brahmchaarini


By Rishav

The second day of Navratras is dedicated to the celebration of a severe penance performed by Parvati in order to get Shiva as her husband. She is known as Brahamchaarini which consists of ‘Brahm’ meaning penance and ‘chaarini’ meaning performer. The severity of an ultimate penance she served to propitiate Shiva would be known throughout the 4 Yugs of time.



Legend: The legend of Brahmacharini goes after Sati immolated herself into the sacrificial fire and took rebirth to the ‘Parvat Raj’ (Mountain King) Himalaya and his wife Maina and was known to be ‘Parvati’. When she came of age, the celestial sage Narada happen to roam to the court of King Himalaya and was received with great respect. Lord Himalaya and Maina both requested him to predict the future of their daughter by reading her palm to which Narada agreed. Parvati was brought to court in an instant.

On seeing Paravati, Sage Narada bowed to her in respect. Surprised by this uncommon behaviour of the sage, they inquired him of the reason of his greeting. On this, the sage smiled and spoke, “O King of mountains, the daughter of yours in her previous birth was Sati, the daughter of King Daksha and the consort to Lord Shiva. She consigned herself to fire when Daksha denounced Lord Shiva. Now she’s born to you as your daughter, Parvati. That is why I bowed to her. By the virtue of her merits, she shall again have Lord Shiva as her Husband.”

Delighted on hearing this, Parvati inquired of him on how to beget Lord Shiva as her husband. Sage Narada then advised her to perform a severe penance.

Following the Sage’s advice, Parvati abandoned the worldly and lavish life of a palace and started performing her penance in order to propitiate Lord Shiva. It is said that she lived on fruits and roots for first thousand years. Then she survived on leaves for the next three thousand years flowed by mere water and then air alone for the next three hundred years, bearing warm and cold, rain and storm and all kinds of suffering.

Painting by Pratyasha Gupta

Parvati meditated on Lord Shiva for thousands of years. The severity of her penance reduced her to mere a skeleton. This austerity of her penance spread an outcry throughout the three worlds. This terrified the gods including Indra and all saints and sages. They together approached Lord Brahama and requested him to bless Goddess Parvati with her desire.

At last, Lord Brahama appeared before Parvati and spoke to her “O Goddess! All the gods bow before thee in great reverence, O Goddess! All the Gods bow to you in deep reverence. Only you can perform such a penance with this tremendous austerity. The cherished desire of yours shall be fulfilled. You shall be blessed with Lord Shiva as your partner. This austere penance and pure devotion shall be sung of through the 4 Yugs and you shall be known as “Brahmchaarini” – a woman of celibacy.” Brahma restored her physical charm and grace afterwards.

Goddess Parvati then begot Lord Shiva as her consort by virtue of her penance and because of it, she came to be known as ‘Brahmchaarini’- one who practises ‘brahmchaarya’ (celibacy)

Depiction: The second manifestation of The Divine Durga is seen to be clad in a white Saari. She carries a rosary in her right hand and a ‘kamandalu’( a water utensil) in her left hand. She signifies the aspect of austere penance, renunciation, devotion and struggle one should do in order to achieve the ultimate nirvana and amalgamation with the divine. Her worshippers are blessed with peace and calm that rids them off of all their worldly sufferings.


The concept of renunciation of the worldly pleasure in order to achieve a higher elevation and understanding of the divinity resonates through almost every religion and this aspect of The Supreme Goddess inspires and sings of that idea. On the second day, the devotion and austere penance of the Supreme Goddess Devi is celebrated with a great zeal.

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