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Navaratri Festivals 2014-2015-16 can be split in two words “Nav” meaning nine and “ratri” meaning night; thus Navaratri literally means nine nights. The celebrations of this festival begin on the first day of Ashvin month, according to the Hindu calendar and conclude on the tenth day of the month which is celebrated as Dussehra. According to the Gregorian calendar, this festival should always fall in the month of October; however the exact date varies every year.
Why is Navaratri celebrated?
Goddess Durga is worshiped during the festive celebrations of Navaratri and she is believed to be the personification of Devi. This form of goddess Durga symbolizes feminine body and creative energy. The supreme goddess has nine aspects and thus Navaratri is dedicated to worship all the aspects of the goddess. Each form of the goddess is worshiped on a particular day throughout the nine days. The nine forms of goddess Durga are:
- The fortunate and auspicious- Bhadrakali
- Mother of universe- Jagdamba or Amba
- The food giver- Annapoorna
- The giver of joy- Sarvamangala
- The terrifying aspect- Bhairavi
- The violent one- Chandika
- The beautiful aspect- Lalita
- The life giver- Bhavani
- The one who listens- Mookambika
The Navaratri celebrations are dedicated to Eternal mother’s worship that has her origin in the Vedas. Goddess Durga is also said to be a combination of Trinity of goddesses, which are Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati. These are the three goddesses which are worshiped as the main goddesses during Navaratri. However the central theme of Navaratri is the victory of good over evil.
Legend of Navaratri
Navaratri is celebrated for a number of reasons throughout the country; however three of the most common reasons of celebrating the festival are:
According to Chaitra Navaratri, this festival is celebrated to commemorate goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasura. Mahishasura was a demon who had defeated all gods. Goddess Durga was created by Vishnu, Mahesh and Brahma to kill the demon who had terrified all the gods.
The 9th day of the Chaitra Navaratri celebrations marks the birth day of Lord Rama and is celebrated as Ram Navami.
In the Sharad Navaratri, 10th day of the festival marks the victory of Lord Ram over Ravana, the demon king and thus is celebrated as Dusshera.
Why twice a year?
Beginning of summers and winters marks two of the most important junctions of solar influence and climatic change. These two connections are preferred as the revered opportunities to worship the divine power because:
It is believed that a divine power provides energy to the earth to move on its axis which in turn causes changes in the nature. Chaitra Navaratri is celebrated to show gratitude to the divine power for maintaining correct balance in the universe.
Minds and bodies of people undergo changes due to the external changes in nature and Sharad Navaratri is celebrated to worship the divine power so that it bestows its blessings on all of us to give us enough power to maintain our mental and physical balance.
Celebrations of the nine days
The Navaratri celebrations last for full nine days, with each day having special significance. The celebrations are marked by huge pomp and show and people dress up beautifully to pay obeisance to the nine forms of goddess Durga; along with offering prayers to the Trinity of goddesses.
- 1st to 3rd day of the festival
The first three days of the celebrations are dedicated exclusively to the worship of Maa Durga. During this time, the power and energy of the goddess are worshipped. Each and every day is dedicated to various manifestations of goddess Durga.
Kumari, which signifies a girl child, is worshipped on the first day while on the second day Parvati, the quintessence of a young woman, is worshiped. The third day is reserved for the worship of goddess Kali which symbolizes a woman who has reached her maturity.
Barley seeds are planted on the first day of the festival in a bed of mud. This pot is kept in the room where pooja is held on regular basis. By the 10th day, which marks the end of the celebrations, each seed has grown into a four to five inch long shoot. After the pooja on the last day, the shoots are given to the attendees and it is believed to be the lord’s blessings.
- 4th to 6th day of the festival
The next three days are devoted to worship the goddess of peace and prosperity, goddess Lakshmi. Although goddess Lakshmi is worshiped on these three days, goddess Saraswati is prayed to on the fifth day. 5th day of Navaratri is known as Lalita Panchami and this day is celebrated by keeping all the literature and books at one place and then lighting up a diya in front of them. This is done to call upon Maa Saraswati.
- 7th to 8th day of the festival
The seventh day of the celebrations is dedicated to goddess Saraswati, who is said to be the goddess of knowledge and art. Devotees offer prayers to the goddess and seek spiritual knowledge. Children worship the goddess to obtain her blessings. The knowledge of spiritual world can help a person to get free from all the earthly bonds, which would in turn help him to get closer to god.
While on the eighth day, a havan is performed. This consists of a sacrifice which is done to the holy fire. The sacrifice is done to honor the goddess Durga and to bid her farewell as well. The offerings are made out of rice pudding, sesame seed and clarified butter.
- 9th day of the festival
The ninth or the last day is the most important part of the celebration and is often regarded as the culmination of the majestic Navaratri celebrations. The last day is known as Mahanavami and on this day people perform Kanya pooja.
In this pooja, people worship nine young girls who have still not attained the age of puberty. Each girl symbolizes one of the various forms of goddess Durga. Their feet are washed by the lady of the house and at the end of the pooja, the girls are given parshad and new clothes as a mark of respect to the goddess.
A large number of rituals are attached with the celebrations of Navaratri. The celebrations differ in each state of the country as people have their own ways of celebrating this festival. Some of the most famous and fascinating celebrations take part in the following states:
- In Gujarat
In Gujarat, devotees celebrate Navaratri in the form of Durga pooja. In the evening, after worshiping Goddess Durga, devotees perform their traditional dance such as Dandiya and Garba. Men and women dress up in beautifully embellished traditional clothes and dance to the tunes of devotional songs.
The main difference that separates Dandiya dance from Garba Rass is that the former is performed after worshiping goddess Durga while the lateral is performed before the aarti is done. Dandiya is performed with the help of wooden sticks while Garba includes hand and feet movements.
- In Maharashtra
In the Indian state of Maharashtra, goddess Durga is continuously worshiped for nine days. On the 10th day, devotees worship goddess Saraswati and school going children seek her blessings for their studies. People consider this day as auspicious and buy new clothes or ornaments. Devotees also visit various temples to mark their respect.
- In West Bengal
Navaratri is celebrated on a large scale in West Bengal. Gigantic idols of goddess Durga are constructed and installed in huge pandals. Devotees in large number visit one of these several pandals present in the city and worship to the goddess. People dress up in new clothes and then celebrate the event.
- In Kashmir
Hindu minorities in Kashmir celebrate Navaratri with pomp and show. Devotees observe fast throughout the nine days of the celebrations and eat only fruits or specially made food in the evening. Aarti is held on the last day of the celebrations after which the devotees break their fast.
Some of the dishes which are traditionally prepared during the celebrations are:
- Sabudana puris and kheer
- Singhare ka halwa
- Makhane ki sabzi
- Kuttu atta roti and sabzi
- Fruits and fruit juice
India is a land of festivals and a large number of festivals are celebrated in the country; however Navaratri holds special relevance amongst people belonging to different religions. So, if you are planning a trip to India then plan it around September or October to take part in some of the most important festivals.
- When to celebrate Navaratri in 2014:
Chaitra Navaratri is falling on 31 March and will last till 8 April while Sharad Navaratri is falling on 25 September and will last till 3 October.
- When to celebrate Navaratri in 2015:
Chaitra Navaratri is falling on 27 March and will last till 5 April while Sharad Navaratri is falling on 13 October and will last till 22 October.
- When to celebrate Navaratri in 2016:
Chaitra Navaratri is falling on 25 March and will last till 3 April while Sharad Navaratri is falling on 1 October and will last till 10 October.