Navratri, which in English means nine nights, is a festival celebrated by the Hindus for nine consecutive days for honoring Mother Goddess or Durga Ma. The celebrations of Navratri takes place twice every year, first during spring (March or April) and then again during fall (September or October). It would be wrong if anyone assumes that Navratri is only about having fun and celebrating along with friends and family members; this Hindu festival is also about attaining everlasting peace, happiness and bliss through sacrifice, self-control and self-discipline. To put it otherwise, during these nine days, Hindus live in the consciousness of Durga Ma and experience her love and grace to the fullest.
About Navratri Celebrations
During the period of Navratri, Hindus around the globe perform different kinds of ceremonies and pujas; the rituals and procedures of these ceremonies and pujas tend to vary from one community to the other. A large share of the Hindus fasts during these nine days eating only dairy products, vegetables and fruits. They perform specific prayers and also do things like visiting temples and practicing celibacy. There are some temples and also several homes that organize special prayers that include singing and dancing all through the night; the Hindu term used for such celebrations is “Jagaran”, which means staying awake all through the night.
On Ashtami i.e. the 8th day of the Navratri, homeowners conduct Kanjak Puja; during Kanjak Puja, young girls below the age of 9 years are worshipped as incarnations of Mother Goddess. These little girls receive gifts and are also fed diligently. You may be wondering why only girls below the age of 9 years are worshipped during this event? This is because according to Hindu mythology, like Ma Durga, girls of this age group also possess pure energy.
At the end of the 9 nights or Navratri, the idol of the goddess is immersed in water in a few parts of India. This act is referred to as Visarjan, which means immersion. There are also some parts of the country, where the last day of the festival i.e. Dashehra is celebrated by performing Ravan Dahan or by burning the effigies of Ravana.
In the state of Gujarat and in some other parts of Western India, dancing Garba is one of the most common ways of celebrating Navratri. Men and women clad is special Garba costumes perform all through the night along with their friends and relatives. Garba competitions are also organized during this time.
Importance of Navratri
According to Hindu mythology, Navratri marks the celebrations of Goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasura, a demon. Mahishasura was killing humans and other innocent lives living in the planet earth; he was operating with the aim of winning Saptaloka or the seven territories of the universe after getting the boon of staying invincible from Mahadev or Lord Shiva.
To beat Mahishasura and save the innocent, the Gods created Ma Durga or the warrior goddess by bringing their powers together. The war between Mahishasura and Ma Durga lasted for nine days and on the 10th day the demon was killed.
The celebrations of Navratri mark the victory of the good over the evil. Each night of Navratri symbolizes a night of the battle between Mahishasura and Ma Durga. In addition, during each of these nine days Ma Durga is worshipped in different avatars or forms. They are: Shailputri, Bramhacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmaanda, Skanda Ma, Kaatyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Sidhdhidatri. These nine avatars of Mother Goddess bless the human race with wealth, prosperity, good health, auspiciousness and knowledge.
During the Navratri festival (the one celebrated during spring), Hindus also celebrate the birth of Lord Rama. The 9th day of the Navratri is the birth day of Rama; and that day also marks the commencement of summer.