What is Navarathri?
Navarathri is one of the very important festivals of our country. Nava or Navam means number 9 and Rathri is night. The word Navarathri thus means Nine Nights that are considered very auspicious and are celebrated as such. The festival ends on the tenth day, known as Vijayadasami or Dussera, which symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Though there are Navarathri’s in all the seasons, it is the Autumn Navarathri which is very widely celebrated as the Navarathri festival. It falls in the bright fortnight of the month of Ashwin or Purattasi, that corresponds to September-October.
Predominantly, it is mother Goddess Durga and her different forms, who are worshipped during the occasion.
When does Navarathri fall in 2017?
In the year 2017, Navarathri is scheduled to be celebrated from 21 September, Thursday to 30 September,Saturday.
How is Navarathri celebrated?
Though Navarathri is celebrated throughout the country, different regions follow different customs and observe different practices.
The south invokes the mother Goddess during the festival, worshipping her as Durga on the first three days, Lakshmi on the next three and as Saraswathi, on the last three days. Many people in the states of Andra, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamilnadu set up beautiful arrangements of dolls known as Golu at home and celebrate the festive occasion with friends and relatives. Many observe fast during the day and undertake intense worship during the evening, and follow it up with socializing and feasts.
The celebrations in the western parts are more vibrant. People in the states of Gujarat and Maharashta, and in the city of Mumbai, wear colourful clothes and costumes, and indulge merrily in doing traditional dances, like Dandiya Raas and Garba, in the evening and night. Tradition often gives way to modernity too, as many young men and women break into dances, to the beats of drums, and film and pop music.
Ramlila remains the main theme of the Navarathri celebrations in North, where episodes from the epic Ramayan are staged in many places. As it is believed there that Ram fought Ravan and his army during the nine days of Navarathri and vanquished them on the tenth day of Dussera, effigies of Ravan, his brother Kumbhkarn and son Meghnath are burnt on the last day. It is also held that Ram prayed to Durga for the power to destroy Ravan during this time, and having obtained the same, he went on to destroy the demon on the last day.
However, it can be said that Navarathri is celebrated with the greatest enthusiasm and fervor in the eastern parts of the country, like in the state of West Bengal. Here, the entire Navarathri period is celebrated as Durga Puja, when big images of Durga, Lakshmi and Parvathi are erected in makeshift tents called pandals everywhere and elaborate worships are offered to them daily. The celebrations come to an end with the visarjan ceremony, when the idols are immersed in the sea or water bodies.
On every Navarathri day, each one of the nine forms of Durga is worshipped here with the associated rituals.
On the 1st day known as Pratipada, Navarathri puja begins with the Ghatasthapana ritual, invoking the energy of mother Durga. On this day, the Goddess is worshipped as Shailaputri, ‘the daughter of the mountain’, an incarnation of Parvathi devi. She represents purity and nature and is represented in yellow colour.
The 2nd day of Dwitiya is devoted to the worship of the unmarried form of Parvathi, called Brahmacharini, who did intense penance to obtain Lord Shiva as husband. Piety and austerity are associated with her and so the colour is green.
Chandraghantha, being the name derived from the crescent moon on the forehead of the Goddess, is the divine form that is worshipped on the 3rd Tritiya day. This married form of Parvathi represents courage for fighting the evil and gray remains the colour for the day.
Kushmanda, who is dwelling in the Sun and creating the universe, giving it energy and light, is worshipped on the 4th Chathurthi day, as the world’s ultimate source, with orange being the colour.
Panchami the 5th day, is dedicated to Skandamata, the mother of Skanda or Karthikeya, and white is the colour.
The 6th day of Shashti, the Goddess is worshipped as Katyayani, the warrior form of Parvathi, who destroys the buffalo faced demon, Mahishasura. Appropriately, red is the colour of the day.
On the 7th Sapthami day, devi Kalarathri, meaning ‘the dark night’ is worshipped. This fierce form of the Goddess offers great protection from all evils and the day’s colour is royal blue.
Ashtami, the 8th day is dedicated to Mahagauri, the younger version of Shailaputri. With a fair complexion, this divine form stands for grace, beauty and cleansing of sins. Pink is the colour for the day.
On the important day of Navami, the 9th, Siddhidatri is the Goddess for worship. She is the embodiment of all the eight siddhis, the immense, divine powers. She is the one who granted all the powers to Lord Shiva himself and the same, she will do to her sincere devotees too. The day’s colour is purple.
The last Dussera day, represents the comprehensive victory of virtue over the wicked, when devotees remember the greatness of the divine mother, acknowledge the blessings that she has bestowed on them and sing her praise with a sense of gratitude.