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.
Sharad 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:
|Tritiya tithi||3rd night||Chandraghanta|
|Ashtami||8th night||Maha Gauri|
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.
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.