Navratri Durga Puja: The Nine Nights of the Worship of Goddess Durga
Vasanta (Chaitra) Navratri festival in 2017
is celebrated from 28 March to 5 April.
Sharada Navaratri festival in 2017
is celebrated from 21 to 29 September.
About the Navratri Festival
Navratri is one of the most celebrated of all Hindu festivals. "Nav" means nine and "ratri" means night, thus Navratri festival means a festival spread over nine nights.
Though Navratri comes five times in a year, the most important and major are:
- Vasanta Navratri (also known as Basanta Navrathri, Chaitra Navratras, or Raama Navratri), which is celebrated in the month of March or April every year. It ends on the 9th and final day which is celebrated as Ram Navami.
- Sharada Navratri (also known as Maha Navratri or Sharad Navratri), which is celebrated in the months of September or October every year. The 10th day after the nine nights is celebrated as Vijayadashmi, the celebration of good over evil. It is also called Dussehra.
The dates of Navratri are based on the lunar calendar and change every year.
A pot is installed in a clean place in the home and a lamp is kept lighted at all times for the entire duration of the navratri festival. This is called Ghatasthapana.
Goddess Durga, the epitome of power or shakti, is worshipped during Navratri. It is believed the goddess had nine forms and she is worshipped in these forms during the nine-night festival.
The 8th Day
The 8th day is celebrated as Durga Ashtami or Ashtami. It is celebrated on an especially large scale in West Bengal.
The 9th Day
On the 9th day Kanya Puja (the worship of young girls who have not reached the age of puberty) is performed. Nine girls represent the nine forms of the Goddess Durga or Divine Mother. Their feet are washed, tilak is applied to their foreheads, and they partake in a feast of pooris, halwa, and black gram, a sweet dish like kheer. They are offered new clothes and fruits by those who perform this ceremony.
The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga
Depending on the region, different forms of the Goddess Durga are worshipped. The forms are:
- Durga, the invincible
- Bhadrakali, the auspicious and fortunate
- Amba or Jagdamba, Mother of the universe
- Annapoorna, the giver of food
- Sarvamangala, the giver of joy all around
- Bhairavi, the terrifying
- Chandika, the violent
- Lalita, the beautiful
- Bhavani, the giver of life
- Mookambika, the one who listens
Fasting During Navratri
Fasting is a common practice observed by many during Navratri. Meat, alcohol, grains, wheat, onions, and garlic are avoided by those fasting.
Grains are avoided as they are believed to absorb negative energy due to the seasonal changes at this time.
The Legend of Navratri
Though Navratri is a mix of various themes, the common factor is the destruction of evil or the victory of good over evil.
In the Chaitra Navratri, Demon Mahishasura (who had defeated all the Gods) was ultimately killed by Goddess Durga. After the Gods were defeated, they approached Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh, whose collective energy gave rise to shakti or power in the form of Goddess Durga. They appealed to her to kill the demon.
In the Chaitra Navratri, the 9th day is celebrated as Ram Navami, the day Lord Rama was born.
In the Sharad Navratri, the 10th day is celebrated as Vijayadashami or Dusshera, the day when the demon king Ravana was killed by Lord Rama.
The Nine Days
The nine days are divided into three sets of three days each to worship the three different attributes of the Goddess.
Day 1 - 3
The Goddess is worshipped in the form of Durga or Kali, in the form of a Warrior Goddess dressed in red and riding on a lion.
Day 4 - 6
During the middle three days, the Goddess is worshipped in the form of Lakhshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, dressed in gold.
Day 7 - 9
In the last three days, the Goddess is worshipped in the form of Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge, dressed in white and sitting on a white swan.
About Garba Dance
It is a folk dance form of Gujarat state in India. This dance is performed around a centrally placed earthen pot called a "garbha" in which a small lighted earthen lamp called a "deep" is kept. Dancers dance in circular movements around this "Garbha Deep" while also revolving.
The dance's circular patterns represent the movement of time and the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth again. The only thing that remains constant is the feminine form of Divinity that is the Goddess Durga, represented by the Garbha Deep.
Thus, by way of the Garba dance, the goddess Durga is honored.
Difference Between Garba & Dandiya Dance
The main difference between these two dances is that Garba is performed before the worship or Aarti of the Goddess Durga, while Dandiya dance is done after the worship.
Another difference is that Dandiya is performed with wooden sticks while Garba has just the hand and feet movements.
Both men and women take part in these dances.
There are some different rituals associated with Navratri depending on in which state it is celebrated, though Durga Puja is one common factor. Some of these are:
After the worship of the Goddess Durga in the evening, traditional dances like Garba and Dandiya are held at night. Around a central lighted lamp, men and women wearing traditional costumes dance in a circle to the accompaniment of devotional songs. Dandia is performed with a stick held in each hand which is struck against the stick of the partner. The dance goes on till the wee hours of the morning. Each locality makes arrangement for these celebrations and rituals.
The 10th day is considered auspicious for starting a new business, buying a house, etc.
In West Bengal:
Durga puja is celebrated here on a massive scale. Massive idols of Goddess Durga are installed and huge pandals are set up at various places for devotees to visit and worship. Everyone attends in new clothes.
Kanya puja is done on the 8th day of the festival before breaking the fast. These girls of prepubescent age are offered puris, chana, halwa, and red scarves.
In South India:
Idols of various Gods and Goddesses are placed on specially set-up steps. This arrangement is called Golu.
In Mysore, district of Karnataka:
Decorated elephants are taken out in a procession. The streets are colorfully decorated. The royal deity of Mysore, Chamundi is worshipped on this day. Computers, books, vehicles, kitchen tools are worshipped on the 9th day.
In the last three days, books are worshipped.
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© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly