Happy Navaratri to all of you. Navaratri is one of the most sacred festivals in Hinduism where we worship Goddess Durga or Shakti, which represents the energy of the universe. The word “Navaratri” is a conjunction of two words “nava” (meaning “nine”) and “ratri” (meaning “night”).
Importance of Happy Navaratri
This festival is celebrated as the victory of God over Devil. It is believed that during this time, goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon Mahishasura to help restore Dharma. The North and Western parts of India celebrate Navratri by holding ‘Ram Lila‘ and it culminates in Dusshera when the effigies of Ravana is burnt to signify Lord Ram’s victory over Ravana. The final day is referred to as Vijay Dashmi. This festival also marks the symbolic journey from humanness to divinity thereby reminding people of the real goal of human life.
History of Happy Navaratri
There was a very fiercest daemon, Mahishasura. He undertook severe penance to obtain a boon that he cannot be killed by a male. Underestimating at his own cost the power of the female form, he assumed himself as God and started threatening and killing innocent people. To stop him, Shakti took a very beautiful form of Durga and told him that she would marry him if he defeats her in a battle. It is believed that they battled for 9 days, and on the 10th day, Durga killed Mahishasura. Therefore the 10th day is called Vijayadashmi, day of the victory. One of the most famous idols that you see in temples depicts this scene where Mahishasura, in the form of a half bull, is being slayed by Mother Durga.
There is another legend that Lord Rama fasted and prayed for 9 days to seek Goddess’ blessings to kill Ravana. He kills him on the 10th day, and this day is called Dusshera, the day when the 10-headed Ravana was killed. Therefore, every year on the day of Vijayadashmi Ravana is burnt to signify Lord Ram’s victory over Ravana.
How Happy Navaratri is Celebrated
This festival is celebrated for nine nights and ten days. This year, Navratri will start on October 10 and end on October 18. The last five days are celebrated as Durga Puja in Bengal and the last day is called Dussehra. The festival is celebrated in different forms in different states of India.
During the period of 9 days of navratri, 9 forms of Durga are worshiped in the following order:
Day 1: Shailaputri
She is Known as Pratipada, this day is associated to Shailaputri (“Daughter of Mountain”), an incarnation of Parvati. she is depicted as riding the bull, Nandi, with a trishula in her right hand and lotus in her left.
Day 2: Brahmcharini
Goddess Brahmcharini, another incarnation of Parvati, is worshiped on dwitiya. In this form, Parvati became Sati, her unmarried self. Brahmcharini is worshiped for emancipation or moksha and endowment of peace and prosperity. She is depicted as walking bare feet and holding a japamala and kamandalu in her hands, she symbolizes bliss and calm.
Day 3: Chandraghanta
Goddess Chandraghanta is worshiped on Tritiya. This name was derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvati adorned her forehead with half-chandra.
Day 4: Kushmanda
Literally meaning “little warmth cosmic egg”, she is the creator of the universe. Goddess Kushmunda is worshiped on Chaturthi. She is depicted as having eight arms and sits on a Tiger.
Day 5: Skandamata
She is the mother of Skanda, or Karthikeya, the chief warrior of Gods. The goddess is worshiped on panchami. She is depicted riding a ferocious lion, having four arms, and holding her baby.
Day 6: Katyayani
Born to a sage, Katya, she is an incarnation of Durga and is shown to exhibit courage which is symbolized by the color Orange. She is considered one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. In this avatar, the Devi rides a lion and has four hands.
Day 7: Kaalratri
She is the most terrible and ruthless form of Durga. It is believed that Parvati removed her fair skin to kill the demons Sumbh and Nisumbh.
Day 8: Maha Gauri
She represents calmness and grants wisdom to her devotees. The color associated to this day is Pink which depicts optimism.
Day 9: Siddhidatri
On the last day of the festival also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidaatri(Ardanareeswara). Sitting on a lotus, she is believed to possess and bestows all type of Siddhis. Here she has four hands. Also known as Saraswati Devi.
During the 9 days, there is a feeling of festivity in the air. Many people fast during the entire period, there are different forms of prayers and lots and lots of varieties of sweets are prepared. Different parts of India celebrate navratri in different styles.
In Gujarat, people do dandiya and garba, a beautiful folk dance, wearing colorful dresses.
West Bengal :
In West Bengal, navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja and large scale prayers are organized in the praise of Durga.