Navratri Celebrations in India: Literally Navratri means Nav –nine, Ratri- nights. Hence nine nights and the tenth day that ensues is celebrated as Dusshehra. Navratri is a Hindu Festival invoking the deity ‘Shakti’, the principal form of Goddess Durga.
The festival commences either at the beginning of spring or autumn and subsequently nine days that follow. In all, Navratri is celebrated for 10 days inclusive of the 10th day which is celebrated as Vijayadashami or Dusshehra. Navaratri is a festival that is purely based on the Lunar Calendar. There are five navaratris celebrated during one Hindu calendar (lunar) year. They are:
- Vasantha Navratri: Celebrated during the months of March/April during the Basant season.
- Gupta Navratri: Celebrated during the Ashadha season (June-July).
- Sharana Navratri: Celebrated during the month of Ashvina (September- October). The Sharana Navratri is the most effective and most significant of all the navratris.
- Paush Navratri: Celebrated during the Paush month (December-January).
- Magha Navratri: Celebrated during the month of Magha (January- February).
All the navratris are typically celebrated during the phase of ‘Shukla Paksha’ the waxing phase of moon. The ritual observances vary all over the subcontinent, although the Principal diety Durga and all her nine forms are invoked in ardent devotion and fervor. Usually all the nine days of the ritualistic festival are observed by rigorous fasting and prayers. Gatherings, recitals of bhajans, poojas are organized almost across the subcontinent. The grandeur of the festival reaches a spectacular zenith in the state of West Bengal where clay Idols of the reigning Deity Durga are installed and the last 4 days of the Navratri call for some splendid devotional and religious ceremonies. The vermillion smeared beautiful Goddess is worshipped in a pure ecstatic joy. The Durga idols thus worshipped for almost five days are immersed in water finally. Legend has it that immersion of the idol is a kind of purgation and riddance of sins and other evil influences that might have gripped one’s life.
The first three days of Navaratri, Goddess Durga is worshipped and this is said to remove all impurities from the devotee’s life. The next three days are for worshiping ‘Lakshmi’- the goddess who confers upon her devotees ‘wealth and opulence’. The last three days are to worship goddess ‘Saraswati’ who grants almost all the legitimate desires of her devotees.
In some parts of the country an ‘Ayudha Pooja’ is performed on the ninth day after the Saraswati Pooja. All machinery, agricultural instruments, vehicles and automobiles are decorated and worshipped. Many kindergarten schools in India commence on the tenth day. The tenth day in the Northern Part of India culminates in the performance of ‘Ramlila’ wherein the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanatha are burned. In the North rich aesthetic indulgences like Garba, Dandiya and Jaagran take place. A ritualistic observance called ‘Bathukamma’ is celebrated during navratri in Andhra Pradesh. In all the nine days of the festival are celebrated in many unique and interesting ways all over the country.
There is a tradition in some households that a small pot is filled with rice and kept at one clean corner of the house. Such a thing is called ‘Ghatasthapana’ a lamp is lit and placed in the pot as a symbol to usher in the unlimited divine potential of the reigning deity- the Adi Shakti- Durga Devi. The pot with rice symbolizes the universe. Lighting the lamp is done during all the nine days of Navratri.
It is said that during Navratri, Shakti appears in all her nine forms- one form a day.
- Durga ( the Principal Deity)
- Amba or Jagdamba
- Annapoorna Devi
The tenth dayof Navratri- Vijayadashami is ushered in with all enthusiasm and love for Goddess Durga. People arise early perform ablutions and adorn themselves in best apparels. The worshipping places at homes and temples are decorated with oil lamps, flowers and fresh mango leaves.
Incense, camphor are burned to diffuse the divine aroma around. Nine different types of delicacies are prepared and served as victuals to Durga. Poojas are performed invoking the goddess. Devi Ashtotrams and Lakshmi Sahasranaamams are chanted to annihilate all the evil forces that might have enveloped the surroundings. Peace, prosperity, fertility is ushered in. Family members meet and savor delicacies in familial get-togethers.
Tell us how you celebrate Navratri. It would be wonderful to know the way you celebrate it. You can put it right under this article.
(This year i.e. 2011, Navratri is going to be celebrated between September 28th and October 6th.)