Navarathri is one of the most important traditional festival celebrated across India. The term Navarathri is also referred to as Navratri, Durga Puja etc. In Sanskrit, the term Nava means nine and Rathri means nights. On the whole, Navarathiri festival is a dedication of nine days and nights to Goddess Durga, who symbolizes purity and power of ‘Shakthi’. It is believed that nine forms of Goddess are worshiped. Usually Navarathri festival falls in the month of September and October. This festival is celebrated by states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra etc., During Navarathri those nine days are dedicated to one of the nine forms of the Goddess

 

 ORIGIN OF NAVARATHRI

Navarathri is more commonly and widely celebrated in Northern and Southern regions of India. It is believed that Goddess Durga’s husband Lord Shiva granted her permission to visit her mother for just nine days. During that time, the Goddess defeats demon Mahishasura and attains victory over him. Hence Goddess Durga, also known as Kali is represented as a symbol of shakti – The Ultimate Strength. It is also believed that Goddess Durga has an eternal divine power, which can never be created nor destroyed.

 FASTING & SIGNIFICANCE

During these nine days, fasting from meat, fish, eggs, alcohol, onions, garlic, grains is recommended. If this is difficult, fasting from grains may be done on the first and last day. People take bath twice in a day. Pujas and bajans will be conducted. After the completion of the bajans, food items will be distributed. Homes are decorated in such a way that they resemble a temple.

According to tradition, Goddess Durga manifests herself in three forms: Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakaali. Each of these 3 forms manifests into three more forms. They together form the nine forms of Goddess Durga. 

 NINE FORMS OF GODDESS DURGA: 

The first day is dedicated to Goddess Shailputri. On this day, devotees offer ghee as food for the Goddess, as it is believed this offering will bring a life free of diseases. 

The second day is dedicated to Goddess Brahmacharini. Devotees serve simple foods like sugar and fruits as offerings to the Goddess who was known to have undertaken severe penance. 

The third day is dedicated to Goddess Chandraghanta. Offerings of milk and sweets are offered to the Goddess who is believed to bring peace.

The fourth day is dedicated to Goddess Kushmanda. Taking fast on this day is believed to cure pain. Devotees offerings include malpua. 

The fifth day is dedicated to Goddess Skandamata. Bananas are offered to the Goddess to keep the good health of the devotees.

The sixth day is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani. Honey is offered as prasadham to the Goddess which   helps devotees get rid of their troubles. 

The seventh day is dedicated to Goddess Kaalratri. Jaggery or sweets made from jaggery are offered to the Goddess. The Goddess is believed to provide protection to the devotees from evil spirits. 

The eight day is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri. Coconut is offered to the Goddess who is said to wash away all the sins. 

The last day or Navmi is dedicated to Goddess Siddhidatri. Sesame seeds are offered to the Goddess. Devotees are protected from unfortunate accidents. 

CELEBRATION

Navarathri celebrations include colorfully decorated stages, music performance by legends. Cultural events are conducted and at the end prizes are distributed. The final day of Navarathri celebration is called Vijayadashami or Dussehra. On this day, the statues are immersed in rivers or oceans or they are burnt, marking evil's destruction. Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated twenty days after the completion of Vijayadashami or Dussehra. 

In Gujarat, each night, people from the entire state, gather in open spaces to celebrate feminine divinity, referred to as Shakti. They play Ras Garba music and both men and women dance to the music. The sounds of dandiya sticks can be heard all over Gujarat during the first nine days of the month of Ashvin. In the evening, after the dances, aarti is done. During Navarathri, Gujarat looks like a vibrant cultural state

Tamil Nadu has its unique way of celebrating Navarathri during these nine days. From generation to generation, people in Tamil Nadu have been following a golu culture where they purchase wooden toys from traditional toy makers.  The idols are then sorted out with their pair. In the evenings, relatives are invited over to the house and gifts are exchanged. Married women are given bangles, bindi and other ornaments. 

 

In Punjab, fasting is partially or completely followed. People are allowed to take fruits and other foods. Some of them only drink milk for the first seven days. Food items such as fish, meat, egg are strictly avoided. In the evening they conduct Jagrata; where people are not allowed to sleep but sing devotional songs and dance. This is a part of their fasting. On the eighth day, devotees break their fasting by feeding nine young girls who are treated as Goddesses. 

In some colleges and offices, Navarathri is celebrated with much splendor. During the celebration, everybody wears traditional dresses. For the nine days, nine teams are formed. They decorate statues, sing devotional songs and eat traditional food. On the final day, prizes are awarded.   

Celebration of Navarathri, not only brings us joy but positivity and spirituality into our lives. Let us open our hearts and minds to this fun filled yet divine festival.

 

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