Navratri is one of the most vibrant festivals in India, holding a special place in the hearts of millions. The terms “Nava” (which means nine) and “Ratri,” which means nights, are the roots of the phrase “Navratri.” These nine nights are dedicated to the worship of the divine feminine energy. Generally falling in September or October, this festival symbolizes not only religious significance but also cultural diversity. Celebrated in various states of India, Navratri is observed with fervor and devotion, honoring the nine divine forms of Mother Goddess Durga.
Celebrations of Navratri
The festival of Navratri is celebrated in different states in unique ways, yet the reverence for the Mother Goddess remains consistent across all regions. The festival is typically observed in the following manners:
Fasting: During Navratri, fasting is practiced by many as a display of devotion and faith towards Mother Durga. This fast can range from one to nine days, with some individuals observing strict fasting, refraining from consuming any food or water.
Kanya Puja: On the eighth or ninth day of Navratri, young girls are invited to homes and worshipped as manifestations of Mother Durga. Their feet are washed, and special meals are prepared with the utmost respect, symbolizing the worship of divine feminine energy.
Ramleela in North India: In northern India, Ramleela, a theatrical depiction of the life of Lord Rama, is organized during Navratri. This event is particularly popular in places like Varanasi, Chitrakoot, and Ayodhya. The celebration concludes with the burning of effigies of the demon king Ravana on Dussehra.
Traditional Folk Dances and Songs: Navratri witnesses the organization of traditional folk dance events in several states. People joyously participate in various dance forms as a tribute to Mother Durga. Garba and Dandiya are some of the most popular dance forms. Additionally, in many states, devotional songs and hymns dedicated to Mother Durga are sung.
The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga
One of the significant aspects of Navratri is the worship of the nine forms of Goddess Durga, collectively known as NavDurga. Each form represents a unique aspect of the goddess, and a specific day during the festival is dedicated to invoking her presence. The nine forms are as follows:
Shailaputri: The first day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Shailaputri, also known as the daughter of the mountains. She is depicted riding a bull and holding a trident and lotus in her hands.
Brahmacharini: On the second day, Goddess Durga is worshipped in the form of the ascetic Brahmacharini, depicted with a rosary and water utensil.
Chandraghanta: The third day is dedicated to Goddess Chandraghanta, whose forehead bears the shape of a half-moon. She is depicted with various weapons in her ten hands.
Kushmanda: The fourth form of Goddess Durga is Kushmanda, portrayed with eight arms, holding a rosary and a pot of nectar.
Skandamata: The fifth day is dedicated to Goddess Skandamata, the mother of the warrior deity Kartikeya. She is seen cradling her son and is depicted with four hands.
Katyayani: The sixth day witnesses the worship of the warrior Goddess Katyayani, depicted with four arms, carrying a sword.
Kalaratri: On the seventh day, Goddess Durga is revered in her fierce form as Kalaratri, often portrayed as the dark and terrifying Kali, the dispeller of darkness.
Mahagauri: The eighth day is dedicated to Mahagauri, considered a symbol of purity and peace, often depicted in white attire.
Siddhidatri: The last and ninth day of Navratri is devoted to the bestower of supernatural powers, Siddhidatri. She is depicted with four hands and is surrounded by Siddhas and Gandharvas.
Significance of Navratri Festival
The festival of Navratri holds profound spiritual and cultural significance among followers of Sanatana Dharma. It represents the triumph of good over evil, with Mother Durga embodying that divine power that vanquished the demon Mahishasura. The nine forms of Goddess Durga represent various virtues and strengths, inspiring devotees to embody these qualities in their lives.