Navratri is a synchrony of two words: “Nav” means nine and “Ratri” means nights. Therefore by combining the both we derive at Navratri. It is a celebration in honour of the Goddess Durga or Shakti, which represents the energy of the universe in her nine different forms. This festival is celebrated for a span of nine nights and ten days. It is celebrated in the month of Ashvin, and is known as Sharad Navratri and it is considered to be one of the most auspicious festivals celebrated in India. During these nine nights and ten days this festival, nine forms of Devi are worshipped.
Importance and Significance of Navratri - Why is Navratri Celebrated
Navratri means nine nights and each and every night is in honour of a particular form of Durga; and the worshipping practices though remain the same, nevertheless, there are some unique practices associated with every night of the celebration. At the end of the day the feeling of joy and celebration always ride high on the minds and hearts of every devotee.
The narratives might differ; the practices might differ; the stories might differ; but the crux of the festival celebrations always remain the same – “”Good triumphs over the evil”. In a country as vast as India, the same festival is celebrated in different variations. While the Northern and Western parts celebrate it as Navratri – the nine day festival to celebrate the victory of Rama over Ravana signifying the victory of good over evil. On the other hand, the Eastern and North-Eastern states celebrate it as Durga Pooja.
The Variations In The Celebrations
As the Hindu tradition goes, Goddess Durga battled with the demon Mahishasura and defeated him. To commemorate her victory over the demon, the day is marked to worship and honor the Goddess. Shraadha or Pitra Paksha is a 16-day lunar period in the Hindu calendar when the Hindus pay homage to their ancestors by performing rites and rituals. The end of that period is followed by the first day of the Durga Pooja, called as Mahalaya. On the tenth day, the idol of Goddess Durga is immersed in water with a lot of pomp and show. Pandals are decorated and people believe in engaging in charity and sharing to reach out to celebrate and honor the good in every human being. This practice was relating to Eastern and North-Eastern India. Let us look into the Northern and Western parts of India.
In this part of India, the nine - day festival is celebrated to as a symbol of victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. The world-famous Ram Lila originates from here. It is the mythological tale of Lord Rama’s battle with Ravana and his encounters with the evil forces. This play is enacted on stage and on the last day, tenth day, also known as Vijayadashmi, when Rama kills Ravana with his bow, the festival is celebrated by burning effigies of Ravana and his brothers Meghnad and Kumbhakaran. There is a rush of happiness and exhilaration among all the devotees and they hail Rama for his victory of good over evil. Traditional and colorful clothing, rich and elaborate food spreads, observing fasts, visiting pandals (a temporary shelter to house the structures of the diety).
The most interesting aspect of this festival is the special dances that are performed – garba and dandiya; one of the most captivating dances that has caught the attention of people world wide.
Nine Avatars of Goddess Durga - Nine Days of Navratri
Day 1 – Goddess Shailputri
Navratri begins with the worshipping of the first form of Durga, which is Shailputri. “Shail” means mountains and “Putri” means daughter, and they club together to form Shailputri which means daughter of the Mountains. She is believed to be the purest form of Goddess Durga and the Goddess of Nature. Also known as Sati Bhavani, Parvati or Hemavati, she is the daughter of Hemavana, the king of the Himalayas. In iconography she is depicted riding a bull and holding a trident and a lotus blossom; each of them bearing their own significance. Lotus depicting purity and the prongs on the trident representing the past, present and the future.
Colour of the day - Yellow
Day 2 – Goddess Brahmacharini
On the second day of Navratri, Goddess Brahmacharini is worshipped, whose name means “one who practices devout austerity” had performed severe austerities and taken many numerous re-births to attain Shiva as her husband. She walks bare feet and holds a rosary in her right hand and a water utensil in her left hand. She is an embodiment of bliss, happiness, prosperity and grace and bestows it on all her devotees. It is believed that she is the door to attain Moksha. She enlightens us in the magnificent embodiment of Durga with great powers and divine grace.
Colour of the day – Green
Day 3- Goddess Chandraghanta
Goddess Chandraghanta is also known as Chandrakhanda, chandika or Ramchandi is worshipped on the third day of Navratri. Chandra means half moon; and it is said that after she married Lord Shiva she started adorning half moon on her forehead in the shape of a ghanta or a bell. She is ravishing, having a bright complexion and rides a lion. She has ten hands, three eyes and holds weapons in all her hands. She is the beacon of bravery and is ever-vigilant to fight the evil forces.
Colour of the day – Grey
Day 4 – Goddess Kushmanda
The fourth day of Navratri is celebrated in praise of goddess Kushmanda which in Sanskrit means “ The Creator of the Universe” for she is the one who brought light to the Universe. The name is broken down into three parts – “Ku” meaning a little, “ushma” meaning warmth, “anda” meaning the cosmic egg. Even she has 10 limbs, and in one of the limbs she holds glitter among the other holy objects. The glitter in particular has a significant meaning that it represents the sparkling light it spreads to shy away from darkness. Goddess Kushmanda rides a lion which symbolizes strength and power.
Colour of the day: Orange
Day 5- Goddess Skanda Mata
“Skanda” means Karthikeya and “Mata” means Mother. Skanda mata was chosen by Gods as their commander-in-chief to fight against the demons. She is regarded as the Goddess of Fire. Being accompanied by Lord Skanda in the infant form she is an epitome of purity and divinity. Seated on a lion, which symbolizes strength and power, the goddess has four arms and three eyes. She is accompanied by Lord Skanda in the infant form, and she holds him with her right hand. There is a lotus in her upper right arm which is slightly raised upward.
Colour of the day: white
Day 6 – Goddess Katyayani
Katyayani is also known as The Warrior Goddess and as the legend has it – she single-handedly slayed the demon Mahishasura and her vehicle is the lion which was bestowed on her by Goddess Gowri. This is the popular tale which goes like this – there lived a great sage called Kata, who had a son named Katya. Kata was a renowned saint who had earned a lot of power and strength due to his sever penance and austerity being observed by him in prayer of Goddess Durga. He was very keen to have goddess herself in the form of his daughter. And he succeeded in convincing the Goddess for the same due to his severe austerity and self-control. He named his daughter as Katyayani as an avatar of Goddess herself.
Colour of the day : Red
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Day 7 – Goddess Kalaratri
Kalaratri is also known as “Shubhamkari” which literally means the one who brings in good; brings in hope. Unlike the other deities, she is a fearsome looking diety with dark complexion, thrown up hair, four arms and three eyes. Her necklace is sparkling shining and appears as if there is lightning emanating from it, and she throws out balls of fire from her mouth. She is the Protector of the Right and Destroyer of the wrong. One to be feared; one to be admired. Her 2 left arms adorn the dagger and spiked club. While her right hands are ever ready to bless the faithful and honest devotees. So if a person prays to her with full devotion, they need not fear anything.
Colour of the day: Blue
Day 8 - Goddess Mahagauri
“Maha” means extreme, and “Gauri” means white; clubbed together it means “extremely white”. She is considered to be the most extremely fair and beautiful Goddess and her luminous beauty emanates from her body. She is worshipped on the eighth day of Navratri, also knows an Ashtami. She is a symbol of purity, serenity and tranquility; granting a deep sense of inner peace to all her devotees. There is a firm belief among the Hindus that she is responsible for washing away all the sins – past, present and future. Like she is the symbol of purity, so are her clothing – as she adorns white clothes. Has four hands – lower right arm holds a trident, upper right arm and lower right arm seems to be blessing her devotee with courage and bravery, her upper left arm holds a damaru. Going by the myths, Mahagauri had performed severe austerities in the deep forests of Himalayas without moving her body for long years, due to which her body changed from white to pink colour. Praying her with full faith gives you strength, courage and intelligence to face the worldly challenges.
Colour of the day : Pink
Day 9 : Goddess Siddhidatri
“Siddhi” means supernatural power and “datri” means giver or awarder. Goddess Siddhidatri is said to bestow supernatural powers on all the devotees as well as the deities, saints, yogis and the tantrics. Those who surrender to her with full faith they are bestowed upon with wisdom and insight. She is worshipped on the ninth day, the final night of Navratri. The lion is her vehicle; she has four limbs - one holding a trident, sudharshana chakra, a conch shell and a lotus. It is believed that Lord Shiva’s half side is that of Goddess Siddhdhatri, that is the reason why he is also known by the name Ardhanarishwar. She is always seen as a cool and composed Goddess; her image radiates happiness and enchanting beauty.
Colour of the day: Purple
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