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Navratri Festival

Navratri Festival

Nav means “Nine” and ratri means “night”. Navrati is a festival spread over nine nights. Navratri celebrates Shakti (strength in a female form).

There are 4 major navratri celebrations throughout the year in India. Out of the 4, two are popular:

  • ‘Chaitra navratri’ is celebrated in March/ April and marks the onset of summer
  • ‘Sharad navratri’ is celebrated in September/October and marks the onset of winter.

The rest of the 2 navratri’s are called the ‘Gupt Navratrey’. ‘Navratri ‘ is called ‘Naratey’ in north India.

Navratri - 5Sharad Navratri represents celebration and worship of Hindu Goddess Durga in her nine forms or nine forms of “Shakti”. Each night of celebration marks the celebration in a different form. This festival spreads over nine nights and ten days.
The nine different forms of Goddess Durga are Shailputri, Brahmcharni, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. The daya and divine female form association during the nine days of Navratri are:

Pratipada1st nightShailaputri
Dwitiya2nd nightBrahmacharini
Tritiya tithi3rd nightChandraghanta
Chaturthi4th nightKushmanda
Panchami5th nightSkandamata
Shashti6th nightKatyayani
Saptami7th nightKaalratri
Ashtami8th nightMaha Gauri
Navami9th nightSiddhidatri

The 10th day marks the culmination of festivities and is called Vijaydashami. Clay models of Goddess Durga are worshipped during this festival.

In West Bengal and other eastern parts of India, Dussehra is marked by worship of Goddess Durga. This represents a triumph of “Good” over “Evil” with Goddess Durga being shown riding a lion to kill a demon called Mahisasura. On Vijaydashami, a procession of Goddess Durga is taken across the city and immersed in rivers and seas marking the culmination of the nine days of festival.

See Also -   Raksha Bandhan

On the 10th day, some of the states in India depict the victory of Lord Rama (from the epic Ramayana) over Ravana. Effigies of Ravana is burned as a mark of this victory with a complete enactment of Lord Rama killing Ravana using an arrow to burn the effigy.

How is Durga Puja celebrated in different states in India?

Different parts of India celebrate Dussehera or Durga Puja in their own unique way.

People in Punjab celebrate this festival by singing Bahamans & Aarti through the night.

In Gujarat festivities include Garba & Dandiya dances. Some states celebrate Dussehra only on the 10th day. Also called Kullu Dussehera it marks the end of Lord Ram’s exile of 14 years and return back to his kingdom of Ayodhya (as in epic Ramayana).

Durga Saptshati ‘,Durga Stuti’, `Devi Puran’ are some of the holy books that are read with reverence during navratri. Mata Jaagrans or Jagratas are organised by the devotees. RamLeela (Depiction of Ram’s life from the epic Ramayana) is held during Sharad navratri. On the last day of navratri, ‘ kanya poojan ‘ is done. ‘ Kanjak’ (girls who have not yet attained puberty) are given the traditional halwa, poori and chana along with red chunni, bangles etc.

Kanya Poojan or girl worship is a common theme in some states in India during these festivities. Some people fast for 7 days and end the fast on the last but one day by offering a feast to 9 young girls.

Fasting during Navratri

‘ FASTS ‘ are observed during navratri. Some devotees observe ‘ nirjala vrat’ (no food, no water) while some observe fast on pratipada and ashtami (1st and 8th nights) only.

Those who do not observe any fast strictly avoid garlic and onion during navratri. In north India various dishes during the fasting period are made from buckwheat flour (kuttu ka atta), fox nuts (makhane), tapioca pearls (sabudana), Water chestnut flour (singhare ka atta) and barnyard millet (samakhe chawal). Vegetables like potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, bottle gourd (lauki), kachalu, sweet potato and arbi can also be consumed. Dry fruits, fresh fruits and all milk products are permissible during fasts.

Besides having a spiritual significance, fasting during navratri is scientific too. Navratri falls at the time when there is a seasonal change. This is a period of low immunity and people are more susceptible to fall sick. Our eating patterns also change with a change in the seasons, so our body has to align itself accordingly. Fasting detoxifies the body and rejuvenates our cells with renewed energy.

Did you know?

Akhand Jyoti
On day 1, ‘Akhand jyoti’ is lighted and special care is taken that it keeps on illuminating incessantly for the following nine days. It is believed that lighting up an akhand jyoti consumes all the negative energy of the house.

Barley or wheat grains are sprinkled in clay pot with soil and are watered during navratri. They sprout and grow. It is called ‘khetri’ in the northern belt and ‘saakh’ in J&K. On the ninth day, it is immersed in flowing water. This ritual is associated with harvesting and the devotees believe that their houses shall be filled with prosperity by the grace of mother goddess.

See Also -   Top Indian harvest festivals

Significance of Navratri

The Devi that we worship is symbolic to the shakti (female energy) present in all of us.

Navratri marks the victory of Mata over the demons like Madhu, Kaitabh, Mahishasur, Raktbeej, Shumbh and Nishumbh. ‘Mahishasur’ is symbolic to `ego’ and its army refers to the various negativities that follow ego, i.e anger, jealousy, conspiring thoughts etc.

`Madhu’ means sweet and it refers to the praises that fill us with pride and mislead us from the path of righteousness.

`Kaitabh’ refers to criticism – critical mind that always judges others negatively.

Shumbh' andNishumbh’ are the creations of our mind as shubh (good) and ashubh (bad).

Raktbeej' is symbolic to ourPrarabhd bhog’ (destiny as per our past karmas). Slaying of this demon was an arduous task and so is the dissolution of our karmas. Every drop of blood that fell on the ground gave rise to many more demons. Similarly our karmas give rise to new karmas, good or bad as per our deeds.


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