What is Chaitra Navaratri?
Chaitra Navaratri festival is celebrated in the Hindu month, Chaitra/Vasant, (March-April). As in the case of Sharad Navaratri, Chaitra Navaratri also honors Goddess Durga in all her nine forms. The methods of worship and celebrations may vary from region to region. But, the 9 day fast is common to most places.
Significance of Chaitra Navaratri
This Navaratri is significant because it marks the transition of seasons - from spring to summer. In India, agriculture is important, so this period too has its importance for Indians. Hence, each day of the festival, various items are offered to the Goddess. These could include sweets, toys and clothes. Poojas are performed on this occasion to welcome Goddess Durga into our homes. Dussehra happens to be the last day of Sharad Navaratri. Chaitra Navaratri is also important, as it culminates in Ram Navami, (the birthday of Lord Rama). This festival is also known as Ram Navaratri.
Chaitra Navaratri Diet
People consume Sattvik food items during this time. This helps to detoxify the body. When spring gives way to summer, our immune system becomes weak and we may be prone to flus, fevers, colds, etc. If the food we eat is sugary, oily and heavy, it is even worse. So, observing a fast during this time is good for the body and spirit. A variety of unique delicacies are made for the festival as many fruits and vegetables are available in the market at this time. They include Singhade ka Halwa (sweet) and savories like, Kuttu ki Puri, Singhare ka Pakore, sabudana khichdi and vada. Apart from the usual food taken during a fast, people also drink plenty of water and milk to ensure that they remain hydrated.
Hindu Puranas and scriptures claim that Chaitra Navaratri was the most important Navaratri for the worship of Goddess Shakti. It is celebrated with great pomp all over India, especially the northern states. The festival is very popular in states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, etc. Usually, a large fair is held in the Shakti temples. In Maharashtra, the festival commences with ‘Gudi Padwa’ whereas in a southern state like Andhra Pradesh, it begins with ‘Ugadi’.
Rituals of Chaitra Navaratri
The house is first cleaned to welcome the Goddess. Devotees observe a fast the entire nine days. ‘Satvik’ food like potatoes, curd, fruits, ‘kuttu ka aata’, curd and fruits are permitted. Non-vegetarian food, onion and garlic are strictly avoided. During this period, one has to maintain strict discipline in food as well as one’s behavior. Devotees offer poojas for the Goddess and chant Navratri mantras. The fast is terminated on the ninth day and the prasad which has already been offered first to the Goddess, is eaten by the devotees.
During Navratri, Goddess Shakti manifests in three forms - Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The puja rituals are done in sets of three days, each set honoring a particular Goddess. The first three days honor Durga, the Goddess of energy, the next three days, Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, and the final three days are dedicated to Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge.