Navratri: The Worship of Power
Navratri, meaning “nine nights”, is a widely celebrated Hindu festival of worship of worship of Shakti. During the nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti are worshipped. All of them are related to Hindu Mother Goddess and her various forms – Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba or Jagadamba, Annapoorna devi, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika or Chandi, Latika, Bhavani and Mookambika. The Devis worshipped depend on the tradition of the region. It is one of the major celebrated festivals all over India. The festival comes two times a year. One is celebrated during the Vasanta Rhitu that marks the beginning of summer (March-April). This falls during the lunar month of the chaitra. And again it is celebrated on the first day of the month Ashwina (September-October) of the bright fortnight. This celebration ends on the tenth day known as Dashera.
The celebration of Navratri is different in different regions of the country. It depends on the legend that people would follow. There are several legends associated with the celebration of Navratri. According to a popular legend Mahishasura, the buffalo headed demon worshiped Lord Shiva and obtained immense poer. After gaining power he started killing innocent lives and posed a threat to all the Gods. So all the Gods of the Hindu Trinity accumulated their supreme powers and created a divine being called Ma Durga, the symbol of Shakti. After fighting hard with the demon for nine days, Goddess Durga defeated him on the tenth day. Navratri is celebrated to commemorate her victory over the demon, that symbolizes the victory of good over evil. According to another legend of Hindu Mythology, King Daksha of Himalayas was blessed with a beautiful daughter, named Uma. She wished to marry Lord Shiva and therefore pleased him. Consequently, Lord Shiva married Uma. One day Uma wanted to participate in a Yagna organized by her father. Since Lord Shiva was not in good terms with Uma’s father, he refused to accompany her. At the Yagna , King Daksha insulted Lord Shiva. Unable to withstand the insult, Uma decided to end her life by jumping into the agni kund. Soon after doing this Uma came to be known as Sati. She took a second birth and the divine couple lived together happily. It is believed that Sati comes to stay with her parents for nine days, every year. This is celebrated as Navratri.
Another popular legend says that Lord Rama, who wanted to free her wife from the clutches of Ravana, worshiped Goddess Durga in nine forms for nine days to kill Ravana. These nine days are celebrated as Navaratri.
The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga, dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations – Kumari, Parvati and Kali are worshiped during these days. Next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi who is regarded as the Goddess of prosperity and knowledge. The last three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Dashera or Vijayadashami. People from various section of the society celebrate this festival by visiting temples and offering puja.
Navratri customs and rituals
The main ritual consists of placing images of Goddess Durga in temples and houses. Devotes offer fruits and flowers to the Goddess and also sing bhajans. There is also a custom of planting barley seeds in a small be or mud on the first day of the puja. When the shoots grow they are given to the attendees after the ceremony as blessings from the Goddess. The ninth day is the final day of the celebration, also known as “Mahanavami”. On this day a special puja is performed known as “Kanya puja”, where nine young girls who have not reached the age of puberty are worshipped. After the puja the girls are offered food and new clothes from the devotees. The nine-day celebration comes to an end with the immersion of idols of Goddess Durga in water. In the September- October Navratri celebrations, the tenth day is celebrated as Dussehra. The burning of the dummy of demon king Ravana also takes place on this day.
Navratri in Gujarat
Navratri is a very popular festival in Gujarat. It is the only state that observes nine-night dance festival. Each night people from all over the state, cities and villages gather in an open space to celebrate the festival of Navratri. They perform dances known as ras garba often joined by Dandiya that uses wooden sticks.