Navratri is one of the biggest festivals amongst the Hindus. Navratri is literally meant as the nine nights and is the most auspicious and celebrated festival devoted to the Goddess Durga.
Nava in Sanskrit means nine and ratri means nights. Thus it is celebrated through nine consecutive nights and the last day is known as Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra.the nine ratris of Navaratri celebrates the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga in various forms.
There are two Navaratri in a year but the most important one is the Sharadiya Navaratri which begins with the end of Pitri Paksha at the first day of the bright half of the moon in the month of Ashwin as per the traditional Hindu calendar.
According to the Gregorian calendar, this falls in the month of September October. In 2019, the Sharadiya Navaratri begins from 29th Sept.
The sharadiya navratri as mentioned is the most prominent Navratri celebrations beginning of Pratipada in the month of Ashwin. The festival is celebrated for nine consecutive nights celebrating the Goddess Amba, the power and shakti of the ultimate Goddess. In various states of India, Navratri is celebrated in different manner but with the same fervor, festivity and devotion.
Navratri in Gujarat is one of the main celebrations. Garba , the traditional and color full dance form is organized for all night long festivities. It is actually a devotional; dance form which traditionally arose from Lord Krishna playing and singing with the gopis using a dandiya or a wooden stick. With the passage of time, this has become a high voltage event with latest dandiya troops and live orchestra etc.
In West Bengal, the last 4 days of the Navratri reach a maddening crescendo with the state celebrating the state festival of Durga Puja. All over the state life size idol of Ma Durga along with her family is seen in the pandals or houses where the pujas are held. Here Ma Durga is seen in a pose of defeating the Mahishasura. The idols are worshipped with fervor and great devotion and the idols are then immersed in river, lake or ponds on the 5th day. The whole state and all the inhabitants celebrate this grand festival with a lot of fun frolic and devotion.
In Punjab, these nine days are known as Navratras or Naratey; where fasting is emphasized for the first 7 days. On the eighth day, the devotees who are fasting calls worship young girls as Goddess. They are given bangles, red chunni, bindis and other traditional foods to eat.
In the Hindu temples of Goa copper pitchers are kept in which nine varieties of food grain are kept. All the nine hights are spent amidst devotional songs and religious discourses.
In Maharashtra, on the first day of Navratri, the Ghatasthapana is done and celebrated. Ghatasthapana is when an earthen pot kept amidst water surrounded by clay in which the food grains are sown. There are certain occasions where Ma Kali is worshipped on the first and the second day, on the third fourth and the fifth days there is Lakshmi Puja, on the sixth seventh eighth and ninth day Ghatastapna along with Saraswati Puja is done.
In the southern part of India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, people arrange the idols in a step and worship them. This is called Kolu and in the evening women calls each other to their homes to view the Kolus. In the middle of a beautiful Rangoli a Kuthuvilakku lamp is lit and devotional songs are sung and mantras are chanted. Then on the 9th day Saraswati Mata, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom is invoked. The 10th and the ultimate day is celebrated as the day when evil was vanquished by the greater God. In the evening of the 10th day, a doll from the kolu is moved and put to sleep signifying an end to that year’s Navaratri celebrations. The Kolu is then dismantled and packed aside for the next year. The Kulasekarapattinam devi temple, madurai meenakshi temple, the Chennai kapaleeswarar temple and the Perambur Ellaiamman temple, Srirangam Ranganathan temple etc are decked up gaily as Devi is worshipped with Chandi homa and vedic rituals.
In Karnataka, the ninth day is celebrated with a lot of fanfare and is known as Mysore Dosara. On this day all the regular appliances required to earn a livelihood and the daily use objects are worshipped. All machineries etc are decorated with flowers and sought divine blessings for better luck and prosperity In the coming year.
In Kerala from the eighth day onwards Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and knowledge is worshipped. The Vijaya Dashami day is considered auspicious and on this day the Vidyarambham celebrations are done, that is cmall children are initiated in reading and writing.
In the northern parts of India, Ramlila culminates on the day of Dussehra into the symbolic win of Ram over Ravana and the burning of life size effigies of Ravana.
At home devotees aspiring to observe the Navratri do a ghatsthapana or place a ghat at a good location in the prayer room. A lamp is lit and should continue to be lit for the nine days. Devotees should avoid alchoholic drink, meat, grains, wheat and onion while they are fasting. On the ninth day Kanya Puja takes place where pre-puberty girls are worshipped in the form of Goddess.
The nine manifestations of Shakti and Ma Durga
- SHAILPUTRI – the color of the first day is Red depicting action and vigor. Shailputri is the embodiment of the combined power of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. In this form she is the consort of Lord Shiva and worshipped as such.
- BRAHMCHARINI – the color of the second day is blue, signifying calmness and powerful energy. In this form the Goddess practices severe austerities and is blissful to endow happiness, peace, prosperity and divine grace upon her devotees. She leads the patha to salvation or moksha.
- CHANDRAGHANTA – the color of the day is yellow, representing beauty and grace. She is worshipped for innate tranquility and prosperity in life. She is the epitome of great bravery and fights the demons in the battlefields.
- KUSHMUNDA- the color of the fourth day is green as it is believed that the Goddess created verdant green valleys from the chaotic darkness by her laughter. She is considered to be the creator of the universe.
- SKAND MATA- the color of the day and the Goddess’s aura is grey to signify that a mother Goddess can turn into stormy grey clouds should the need arise. This is the mother of Karthikeya, chosen by the Gods as their commander in chief to fight the battle against the demons. Here she is accompanied by the infant Skanda.
- KATYAYANI- the color of the day is orange as the Goddess appeared in the world draped in orange kata which is a symbol of extreme courage. The Goddess was born to the great Sage Kata and is an incarnation of Goddess Durga.
- KALRATRI – THE COLOR ON THIS DAY IS WHITE SIGNIFYING PRISTINE and symbolical to show that the Goddess will protect her devotees from all evils. The Goddess Kalratri is dark complexioned and a fearless posture with her hair disheveled. She possesses three eyes that shine bright and emanates fire from her breath. She is the fiercest form of the Goddess Durga.
- MAHA GAURI – the color of the day is pink denoting fresh start and newer hopes. Maha Gauri is serene, intelligent, peaceful and supremely calm. It is believed that when she performed severe austerities in the deep jungles of Himalayas, her color turned black from the beautiful white. However, later Lord Shiva cleansed her again and she regained her pearl whiteness. She is known to be the destroyer of all sins.
- SIDDHIDATRI – the color of this day is sky blue as it reflects the beauty of nature. The goddess here has four arms and is in an enchanting and happy pose. She blesses all the Saints, Yogis, Tantrics, Gods and all devotees as the supreme manifestation of Mother Goddess. The Goddess appears in a blissful state as clear as the blue sky.
Navratri Durga Puja Vidhi and Samagris or articles
The puja samagri or articles required for the Navratri puja are as follows –
- Idol or photo of Goddess Durga of Navdurga’
- A clay pot with soil
- A Red cloth
- Sacred Thread or Moli
- Five Leaves from Mango tree or Amrapallab
- Akshat or raw colored rice
- Oil Lamp
- Chunri or red dupatta
- The Durga Saptshati book
- Ganga Jal
- Supari or Areca nuts
- Paan or Betel leaves
- Kumkum or vermilion
- 10 coins
The Navratri puja is best conducted in the early hours of the morning after a ritual cleansing bath by the devotee. Thus sunrise is the most propitious time. The ghatsthapna and the idol should also be placed in a chowki. The coconut and mango leaved on the kalash is kept on the chowki on the first day. Barley seeds are sowed in a pot and regularly watered for the next nine days. Durga Saptshati must be read every day with great devotion. On the ninth day Kanya Puja is performed. Here nine girls in the pre puberty state are decorated and worshipped and gifted things in the form of nine goddesses.