Navratri is an auspicious Hindu festival celebrated all over India that spans nine nights.
Devotees tend to observe rigorous fasting, feast and worship for Goddess Durga ( ten-armed goddess riding the lion) who symbolizes strength. Navratri is celebrated with a great passion. Maa Durga is the ‘deity of power’ and the ‘Protector of the Righteous’ to Hindu devotees, also known as Bhavani, Amba, Chandika, Gauri, Parvati, Mahishasuramardini.
When is it celebrated?
Navratri is celebrated twice every year. Chaitra Navratri, first celebrated in the months of March-April and also marks the first day of the Hindu calendar and another in autumn known as the Sharad Navratri.
Name of 9 Durga Avatars and 9 Devi Temples
During these 9 days/nights, Nine Avatars of Goddess Durga are worshipped:
1. Goddess Shailputri:
She is considered as the mother of nature and holds a Trishul in one hand which represents purity and devotion, while a lotus in the other hand represents the past, present and future and rides a bull called Nandi.
2. Goddess Brahmacharini
Goddess Brahmacharini holds a rudraksh mala representing the special Hindu prayers recited in her honor in one hand and a sacred Kamandalu in her left hand symbolizing marital bliss. She endows prosperity, happiness, peace,and grace upon all devotees who worship her.
3. Goddess Chandraghanta
She is a 10-armed goddess with a crescent moon on her forehead and three eyes .She is
all-seeing and ever-vigilant. People who have enemies and obstacles in life should worship the Goddess to set themselves free.
4. Goddess Kushmanda
Kushmanda is the fourth form of the mother goddess . ‘Ku’ means ‘a little’, ‘Ushma’ means ‘warmth’, and ‘Anda’ indicates the ‘cosmic egg’. Goddess Kushmanda rides a lion, symbolizing strength and courage in the face of adversity.
5. Goddess Skandmata
Goddess Skandmata who is worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri. As Skandamata is the mother of Skanda or Lord Kartikeya and she holds him in her lap as she is seated on a lotus. She can grant oceans of wisdom even to a most illiterate person if he/she worships her with complete devotion. When a devotee does puja to Skandamata, She fulfills all desires.
6. Goddess Katyayani
The sixth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani. If a girl is facing issues for fixing a marriage should pray to Maa Katyayani to get a blessing to obtain a happy and smooth married life. Devotees who worship Mother Katyayani are blessed with the fulfillment of their needs and all disease, sorrow and suffering is destroyed by Mother.
7. Goddess Kaalratri
Saptami or the seventh day of Navratri is of Goddess Kaalratri. Kaalratri is the one who destroys ignorance and removes darkness. She will grant freedom from fear of ghosts, spirits, snakes, fire, floods, and dangerous animals. Regular chanting of the Maa Kalaratri mantra can remove all the fear from the heart and make the devotees bold and self-confident.
8. Goddess Mahagauri
The eight-day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri. She is the Goddess who denotes peace and endurance. If we do puja to Mahagauri all confusion will be destroyed.
9. Goddess Siddhidatri
The ninth or the final day of Navratri is of Goddess Siddhidatri. This form of Goddess Durga signifies Grantor of perfection. Maa Siddhidatri is immediately pleased with her devotees and grants all desires both in this world and the other world.
During this period, it is considered auspicious to visit 9 Devi Temples (Mandir) in Himachal Pradesh and offer your prayers and chant bhajans.
9 Devi Temples (Mandir) are :
Mansadevi, Naina Devi, Chintpurni, Jawalamukhi, Vaishnodevi, Vrajeshwari, Chamundadevi, Kalika Devi and Shakumbhri Devi.
Navratri honors the nine different aspects of Nav Durga. Nine different qualities: strength, anger, beauty, transformation, compassion, fear, and power are represented by all the nine forms of Navdurga and reflected in each individual and in this universe as a whole.
Why is it celebrated?
The festival honours Goddess Durga for defeating the cruel demon Mahishasura, demon Mahishasura was granted immortality by Lord Brahma on a condition that he could only be defeated by a woman and couldn’t be destroyed by any God due to immortality granted by Lord Brahma on a condition, this is why this day is observed as Durga Navami. To take holy baths on this day, which is also known as Mahasnaan, is considered auspicious.
The day marks the celebration of strength and is celebrated as the victory of good over evil.
According to the epic Ramayana, Lord Rama performed Chandi pooja to seek the blessings of powerful Goddess Durga. Lord Rama needed 108 blue lotus flowers to worship Goddess Durga. However, he was able to collect only 107. To make it 108, Lord Rama decided to offer one of his lotus-shaped & blue in color eyes to Maa Durga to get her blessing. After seeing Lord Rama’s devotion, Goddess Durga appeared and blessed him. Lord Rama acquired victory over Ravana after receiving the blessings of Goddess Durga. Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga for nine days before slaying the demon king Ravana. This is why on the very next day after Navratri, Dussehra is celebrated.
How is it celebrated?
During Navratri, have a holy bath by getting up early in the morning. To please Goddess Mahagauri, various puja rituals and aarti are performed on Ashtami. Akhand Jyoti is lit in the house and the house is not left empty for the entire day and someone should be present at home to make sure that the Akhand jyoti is always lit.
Offering Pink flowers, Chandan, dhoop, coconut and bananas are the tributes to Maha Gauri. Barley is seeded on this day in earthen pots and if barley seeds flourish then it is considered as a symbol of wealth. After the seeds are 3-5 inches tall, they are offered to the Goddess.
Fasting is an important part of the ritual and is observed by both men and women to get the ultimate blessings of Maa Durga. Durgashtami is incomplete without reading Durga Chalisa and Durga Ashtami Vrat Katha.
What you can eat and should be avoided on this auspicious day?
In fasting, One can consume all kinds of fruits as well as milk and sugar but devotees should avoid consuming garlic, onion, lentils, cornflour, whole wheat flour, rice flour, semolina and all purpose flour but strictly avoid non-veg food, Alcohol and smoking.
Significance of Kanya Pujan
According to Devi Bhagwat Purana, young girls worshipped (Kanya Pujan) on this day are the forms of Goddess Durga and can be done on either the day of Ashtami (the eight of Navratri) or Navmi (the ninth day of Navratri) to get the blessings (real merit) of their prayers.
Little girls are invited at homes and the feet of young girls are washed and wiped and a clean place covered with the clean cloth is offered to sit the little girls before asking them to sit on a cloth. Also, at many places, there is a tradition of worshiping a boy in Kanyabhoja as a langur (one boy) along with the girls to get the blessing from Maa Durga.
It is a special day for people to open their fast by doing Kanya Pujan. First, a red thread (Kalva) is tied around the wrist and red Kumkum (tilak) is put on the forehead of the little girls. After that, Prasas is offered to the kanjak (little girls) on a plate in which a meal of puri, kala chana, coconut and halwa will be served. The young girls are also given some gifts in the form of money, jewellery, clothes, books or any other things you like to give. People ask little girls to put their hands on their head or back to get blessings from them by touching their feet.
Significance of Kanjak
Kanjak Pujan is considered the most important part of the Navratri as children are considered the purest souls as they have no evil emotions inside. To worship the nine forms of Goddess Durga, one can worship nine girls during this Pujan and feel blessed. There are no words to express the feeling of performing Durga puja. It can be felt only.
The celebration of festivals in India starts from Navratri and all the festivals like Dussehra, Diwali and many more festivals come after Sharad Navratri.
Anu Gautam @Vedic Global