What is Vasant Navaratri?
Vasant Navaratri is also called Spring or Chaitra Navaratri. It is a nine-day festival celebrated grandly in Northern India. The festival is celebrated twice in a year. While Vasant Navaratri is celebrated in spring, the Sharad Navaratri is celebrated in autumn.
Goddess Durga or Shakti is worshipped during this festival, for nine days. It is said that all the gods and goddesses invoked Durga to fight the evil demon, Mahishasura. All their powers combined to give form to the Supreme Goddess and she was named Durga. Some think that Lord Ram began the tradition of Vasant Navaratri. People fast the entire day and pray to the Goddess.
Legend of Vasant Navaratri
A king called Dhruvasindhu of Kosala kingdom was killed while hunting. Before his son, prince Sudharshan, could be crowned king, two other kings, Yudhajit and Virasena attacked the kingdom. Prince Sudharshan fled the kingdom with his mother and a eunuch. They took shelter in sage Bharadwaja’s ashram.
Yudhajit pursued prince Sudarshan but the sage would not let him harm him. Many years later, one day, the sage’s son called the eunuch by his original name, ‘Kleeba’. Prince Sudarshan heard the first syllable ‘Klee’ and pronounced it ‘Kleem’. Kleem is the bija akshara (root syllable) used to invoke the Divine Mother. The prince was able to obtain the grace of the Divine Mother as he kept repeating ‘kleem’. The Goddess appeared to him and blessed him with power and weapons.
Later, the prince married the daughter of a powerful king. With the help of his father-in-law, the prince defeated Yudhajit and recovered his kingdom. After getting back his kingdom, Prince Sudharshan performed the Vasant Navaratri Pooja to thank the Goddess.
How to observe Vasant Navaratri
A 9-day fast is observed during this time and devotees chant the Durga Suktam chanted in the evenings during the Pooja. On Ashtami (eighth day of the festival), some small girls (pre-pubescent) called ‘Kanjak’ are invited to people’s houses. Their feet are washed by the head of the household and then a sumptuous meal is served to them. Gifts like chunri (scarf), bangles and money are also offered to the girls. It is believed that the girls represent the Supreme Goddess. They are treated like the Goddess herself and given a warm welcome by the householders. The festival is a time for both fasting and feasting.