Chaitra Navaratri is a nine day long festival celebrated in the month of Chaitra according to the traditional Hindu calendar, or in the month of April according to the Gregorian calendar.
Chaitra is the first month of the traditional Hindu lunar year. Chaitra Navaratri is also known as the Vasant Navaratri or Rama Navaratri, as Rama Navami, or the birthday of Lord Rama falls on the ninth day of this nine day long festivity.
Chaitra Navaratri as a festival is celebrated with more festivity in Northern India. In Maharashtra it begins with Gudi Padwa and in Andhra Pradesh it begins with Ugadi.
- Who is the reigning deity of the Chaitra Navaratri?
In Chaitra Navaratri, all forms of Goddess Shakti is worshipped. Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati are worshipped during this period. It begins of the first day of the month of Chaitra, and ends on the day of Ram Navami, as per the Hindu almanac or calendar system.
- How did Goddess Durga come to be worshipped?
Goddess Durga is the manifestation of Shakti, who is the mother and the core of all existence. She was created with the combined powers of all the powers. In herself she packs the powers of Goddess Saraswati, Kali and Lakshmi. Goddess Durga is the primary existence of all things and beings and no creation or destruction is complete, and the name Durga means The Invincible.
According to the mythological scriptures, the demon Mahishasura gained extreme power with a boon from Lord Shiva. Endowed with the boon that no man or God will be able to kill him, Mahishashura terrorized all of heaven and earth and captured it. Dismayed and helpless the Trinity of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara or Shiva with their combined energy and power created the Shakti or Durga. She was bestowed with beautiful gifts and weapons to demolish the demon Mahishashura. She fought Mahishashura for nine days and nine nights in which Mahishashura kept changing his form from one animal to another and eventually defeated and killed him with the trident of Shiva and beheading him with a sword.
The Vedas describe Goddess Durga to be radiant, clad in a red saree with a pet of a lion. She has eight or ten hands and three eyes. The third eye in her forehead signifies knowledge, while the left signifies desire and the right action. She carries Shiva’s Trishula (trident), Vishnu’s Chakra (disc) and Agni’s Vajra (another form of weapon) among other weapons. The Shankha (conch) in her hand signifies Prana or Life, which gives out the sound OM signifying constant divinity in her. The red color saree that she wears emanate will power. Thus, Goddess Durga came to be worshipped, always signifying the victory of the Good or Divine over the Evil; the victory of what is right over what is not.
- What are then the nine forms of Goddess Durga?
- Goddess Durga has many manifestations, but the nine forms in which she is worshipped during the Navaratri are as follows –
- Ma Shailputri – The first day to the Goddess Shailputri, who is the daughter of the Mighty Himalaya. She is the companion of Lord Shiva.
- Ma Brahmacharini – The name of Brahmachariniis a derivative of the word ‘Brahma’, which means ‘Tapa’ or rigid penance. She is the personification of love, knowledge and wisdom. She is worshipped on the second day.
- Ma Chandraghanta – Ma Chandraghanta is a representation of beauty, peace, serenity and bravery and is worshipped on the third day. She has a Chandra or a crescent moon on her forehead.
- Ma Kushmaanda – The fourth day is dedicated to Ma Kushmanda, the provider of the Universe, who mounts a tiger and has eight arms holding various weapons.
- Skand Mata – She is the chief warrior in the Gods army Skanda, and is the one who provides the power to differentiate between the right and the wrong.
- Maa Kaatyayini – She is worshipped on the sixth day. The daughter of Sage Kaytyayan, who battles against the wrongs.
- Maa Kaalratri – This form of Shakti had defeated the demon Raktabeej and is the destroyer of evil and ignorance.
- Maa Maha Gauri – On the eighth day Maa Maha Gauri, of radiant complexion and emanating calm, peace and wisdom is worshipped. She rides a bull and has a trident and a drum.
- Mata Siddhidatri – On the final ninth day, Mata Siddhidatri is worshipped. She is worshipped by Rishis (sages) and Yogis all alike and is considered to be the possessor of Tantra (a channel of seek divine energy), mantra, and gyan (knowledge or enlightenment).
- Significance of the Navaratri –
On the first three days of Navaratri, Durga is worshipped, in the next three Lakshmi or the Goddess of Wealth is worshipped and the final three days see Sarawati or the Goddess of Knowledge being worshipped. Yagna or ritual is performed on the ninth day. The Navaratri period is considered to be an extremely auspicious period which is very fruitful. It is said that one achieves greater tantric powers during this powerful period of the Navaratri. The devotees who worship the Goddess in and around various peeths or special Shakti temples gain greater rewards. This period being highly powerful is also considered to be a great period to start new ventures. There is also a popular belief that fasting during the Chaitra Navaratri prepares the body for the coming summer season for its seasonal changes. It is also important to note that Chaitra Navaratri was the original time when the Goddess Durga in her various forms were worshipped. However during the battle between Rama and Ravana; Rama worshipped Durga during the Autumn or Sharat , that is the month of Ashwin according to the traditional Hindu calendar. This is why it came to be known as Akal Bodhan, which is untimely worshipping. However, that is now the more prevalent time when the Goddess is worshipped.
As mentioned earlier, Chaitra Navaratri is celebrated mostly in Northern India. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have some of the most eminent temple fairs and many important temple fairs take place in these places during this time.