On the fifth day of Chaitra Navratri, Shakti is worshipped in the form of Skanda Mata (Skanda=a Hindu God, Mata=Mother). Skanda Mata is a form of Parvati and as Her name implies, She is the mother of Skanda. She has four arms and holds lotus flowers (symbolising blooming above the murk to achieve enlightenment) in Her two upper hands. In Her right arm, She cradles Her Son Skanda and She keeps Her left hand in the Abhaya Mudra position (indicates for the devotee not to fear and is a symbol of protection). Skanda Mata is a Warrior Goddess, riding atop a lion and defeating the Asuras (demons). However, She carries no weapons. Like his Mother, Skanda is also a warrior.
Skanda Mata governs the planet Mercury. She is associated with the Vishuddhi (Visha=impurity, poison, Shuddhi=perfection) chakra, located around the larynx and known as the Throat Chakra. The importance of the Vishuddhi chakra in Hindu thought is best narrated in this passage from the Holy Scriptures of the Puranas:
The Devas (gods) and Āsuras (demons) wanted to raise the treasure Amrita (the nectar of immortality), which was hidden in the depths of the ocean, to the surface. They used Mount Mandara as the stirring stick and the world serpent, Vāsuki, as the rope. The gods held the tail of the snake and the demons held its head. In this way they were able to churn the ocean of the world with their combined power. Numerous treasures and precious objects emerged from the ocean and, finally, the longed-for Amrita rose to the surface in a golden vessel.
But the serpent they had used to churn the oceans spat out a deadly poison that was capable of destroying the whole earth. Quickly the Devas caught it in a bowl so it was not able to do any harm. But as they had absolutely no idea what to do with it or how they could permanently “dispose” of it, they turned to Lord Shiva for help.
Lord Shiva is the most gracious of all the gods, and will never refuse a request from anyone. He took the bowl of poison and drank it down to the very last drop. However, in the process he did not swallow the poison but held it in the Vishuddhi Chakra and purified it by means of Ujjāyī Prānāyāma (a breath contorl technique used in yoga) and Jālandhara Bandha (a yoga position). In this way he rid the world of a deadly peril. Through the poison his throat was coloured dark blue, and since that day he has borne the nickname Nīlakantha (the blue-throated one).
This story demonstrates the purifying qualities of the Vishuddhi Chakra. This idea is also extended into yoga practice, in which conscious regulation of the breath is of great importance. Regulated breathing not only rids the body of physical toxins, but also purifies the emotions and conscious on a spiritual level. The importance of Vishuddhi Chakra is explained on a spiritual level in the following passage from chakras.net:
It is not just the external world that is extremely polluted, but also the psyche and consciousness of many people. For as long as the pernicious, toxic qualities of discord, rivalry, envy and resentment eat away at our mind, the light of God consciousness cannot shine through.
Just as Lord Shiva neither spat the poison out, nor swallowed it, we should not swallow our problems as we harm ourselves through this; but we should also not spit them out as this can cause another type of damage. Like Lord Shiva, who purified the poison in his throat, we can also resolve our problems with the help of the Vishuddhi Chakra.
Skanda Mata cares for Her devotees as Her own children and is often worshipped to remove obstacles from the devotee’s life. As Our Mother, She helps us to realise the poisons in our conscious and teaches us the best method in which to overcome these obstacles that hold us back from spiritual enlightenment.
Skanda Mata’s mantra is:
Sinhaasangataam Nityam Padmaanchit Kardwayaa
Shubhdaastu Sadaa Devi Skandmata Yashaswini
Which means in English:
Skanda Mata, who rides upon a lion with Kartikeya (another name for Skanda), holds lotuses in Her two hands and Varmudra (the mudra of blessing) in one hand, be propituous to me.
For purposes of pronunciation, I have included a link to the spoken mantra (The mantra itself lasts for the first 35 seconds of this video, after which a speaker gives a lecture in Hindi).