What is Navratri?
Navratri, also known as Navratra, is a festival that is celebrated for nine nights and ten days by Hindus. The word Navratri in Sanskrit means nine nights (nava=nine and ratri= night). During this festive period, Hindus worship goddess Durga and her nine manifestations. She symbolizes shakti or energy, the force which drives the universe and destroys evil. Devotees engage in prayers and songs during these days. Many of them observe a strict fast and abstain from smoking and drinking at this time.
The onset of spring and autumn are both believed to be auspicious periods and this is the right time to worship the mother goddess. Traditionally, Navratri is celebrated at five different times during the year. The exact dates for Navratri are taken from the lunar calendar. The most popular celebration of this festival is from the first day (pratipada) of the bright phase of the month of Ashvin. The biggest celebration of this festival roughly corresponds to a date between September to October in the Gregorian calendar.
The Navratri Festival
Navratri is a time of devotion and celebration. Not only is the mother goddess worshipped with great fervour, devotees also plant nine different types of food grain seeds (usually, turmeric, barley, pomegranate, mana, plantain, bel, ashoka, paddy and kachvi) in small pots and offer these saplings to the goddess. According to some legends, these nine plants, also known as navapatrika, represent the nine forms of the mother goddess.
Navratri is celebrated all over India with great devotion and enthusiasm. Celebrations during this period are particularly strong in the states of West Bengal and Gujarat. While the Bengalis celebrate the return of goddess Durga and her children to her maternal home, the Gujaratis offer prayers and indulge in dandiya and garba rass dance during Navratri.
The nine-day celebrations of Navratri are divided into three periods of three days each.
First Three Days
During the first three days, goddess Durga is worshipped. She is invoked as the mother goddess to protect her children and save them from evil. The image of goddess Durga on a lion, slaying the demon Asura depicts her power. This goddess is also invoked as goddess Kali (the embodiment of power) and goddess Parvati (the gentle consort of Lord Shiva). The nine forms of goddess Durga that are worshipped during Navratri are Shailputri, Kushmanda, Chandraghanta, Skandamata, Kalratri, Mahagauri, Brahmacharini, Katyayani and Siddhidatri.
Second Three Days
For the next three days, goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is worshipped. Devotees seek her blessings so that they are successful in their business ventures and they can flourish. She is invoked so that scarcity is removed and abundance prevails.
Last Three Days
During the last three days of Navratri, goddess Saraswati, the embodiment of spiritual wisdom and knowledge, is invoked. She is the goddess of the creative arts and intelligence and her blessings are essential to thrive in all intellectual endeavours. On the ninth day, Kanya Pooja is performed where nine pre-pubescent girls, representing the nine forms of the goddess, are worshipped.
Devotees pay their respects to all three goddesses during Navratri, so that they may succeed in every aspect of life. On the tenth day, Dussehra is celebrated. The victory of lord Rama over Ravana the demon is celebrated by burning an effigy of the demon and chanting prayers.
Last updated on 18 August 2012