Navratri, a nine-day long festival to honor Goddess Durga in 9 forms, is celebrated all over India with great fanfare. Actually, there are 4 Navratris - Chaitra Navratri, Magha Gupt Navratri, Sharad Navratri and Asadha Gupt Navratri. Of these, Chaitra and Sharad Navratri are considered very important. Chaitra Navratri is observed in Chaitra month (March-April). On the first day of the festival, Gudi Padwa and Ugadi are celebrated.
The festival marks the beginning of the Hindu new year and signifies the victory of good over evil. Worshipping Goddess Durga is said to help you gain Moksha (salvation). For 9 days, people keep a fast, perform Pooja, and worship the different forms of Goddess Durga- Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Kaalratri, Katyayani, Mahagauri, and Siddhidhatri to seek the blessing of Maa Durga. Devotees offer milk, fruits, flowers, etc., to the deity. On all the 9 days, people wake up early, take bath and wear new clothes. Apart from doing special poojas, people also chant different mantras.
Many Hindus observe many austerities and a fast as well. They may observe a Nirjala fast (without even water) or phalahar (fruits, etc.). They strictly avoid non-vegetarian food, alcohol, and even smoking during this time. Light, sattvik food (without onion and garlic) is preferred.
Difference Between Chaitra Navratri and Sharad Navratri:
The main difference is that Chaitra Navratri is celebrated during the beginning of the Hindu calendar year in Chaitra month. This is between the months of March and April, when the spring season is on. The festival, also known as Vasantha Navratri, ends with Rama Navami (Lord Ram’s birthday). Sharad Navratri is celebrated in autumn, during the month of Ashwin (September-October). During this Navratri festival, Garba and Dandiya Raas are also held. As the ninth day of Chaitra Navratri is celebrated as Rama Navami, it is often called Ram Navratri. During Sharad Navratri, the tenth day is observed as Dussehra, the day Rama defeated Ravana.
The story behind Chaitra Navratri is similar to that behind Sharad Navratri. It is said that during Navratri, Shiva allowed his consort, Parvati, to visit her parental house for nine days. During this visit, she took the form of Durga and killed the demon, Mahishasura.
Another legend about Chaitra Navratri is related to the creation of the world by Brahma. The Brahma Purana says that Brahma began the creation of the world on the command of Goddess Durga, who came down to earth during Chaitra Navratri. So she is called Ma Durga or the universal mother by her devotees.
Navratri is a celebration of the power of Shakti, the female principle. It upholds the power of a woman through the worship of Goddess Durga. The nine faces of Durga signify the different facets of womanhood. For a woman is a dutiful daughter, loving wife, caring mother, compassionate soul, and avenging angel, all rolled into one.
The festival conveys the idea that Goddess Durga, like any married woman, visits her parents’ house for a few days and is treated like a cherished daughter. But on the tenth day, she has to take leave of her parents and return to her matrimonial home.
Chaitra Navratri 2021, or Vasant Navaratri 2021, begins on 13 April, a Tuesday, and ends on 22 April.