Navratri is the 9 day long Hindu festival of worship and dance. In Sanskrit the word Navratri literally means nine nights. Nava means nine and Ratri means Nights. During these 9 nights nine forms of shakti (power) are worshipped. Each day is dedicated to a Goddess and has very important significance. In Gujarat it is the festival of dance. All 9 days observe dandiya and Garba (regional dance of Gujarat).
The Sharad Navratri is the most important of all three Navratris. It is celebrated during Sharad (beginning of winter, Sept-Oct). It celebrates the slaying of Mahishasura by the goddess Durga. The festival is observed in most parts of India, particularly in Northern India, Eastern India, and Western India.
The 9 forms of Shakti – Durga:
- Amba or Jagadamba, Mother of the universe
- Annapurna, The one who bestows grains (an) in plenty (purna)
- Sarvamangala, The one who gives joy (mangal) to all (sarva)
- Chandika or Chandi
These nine forms of manifestation :
- Shailputri (First Avatar ) On the first day of Navratri we worship Goddess Shailputri. Shailputri means the Daughter of a Mountain. In the form of Shailputri goddess Durga is worshipped as a girl child i.e. the first phase of a woman.
- Bhramcharni (Second Avatar ) Bhramcharini is the second form of Maa Durga. It represents the youth stage of a woman. Brahma means tapasya or meditation.
- Chandraghanta (Third Avatar ) The third form of Maa Durga is Chandraghanta. It represents matured woman.
- Kushmanda (Fourth Avatar ) The fourth form of Maa Durga Maa Durga’s is Maa Kushmanda. The worshippers are blessed with basic necessities, and every day sustenance to the world.
- Skandmata ( Fifth Avatar ) Maa Durga’s fifth form is Maa Skandmata. She is worshipped on the fifth day of Navratri. The worshipper is blessed with bounties of all kinds.
- Kaatyayani ( Sixth Avatar ) Maa Katyayani is the sixeth form of Maa Durga and is worshipped on the sixeth day of Navratri.
- Kaalratri ( Seventh Avatar ) Kaalratri popularly known as Kaali. It is the seventh form of Maa Durga and is worshipped on the seventh day of Navratri. She is also known as Maha Kali.
- Mahagauri ( Eight Avatar ) Mahagauri is the eighth form of Maa durga and is the symbol of peace and compassion. This avatar is worshipped on the eighth day of Navratri. She is kindest of all the avatars of Goddess Durga.
- Siddhiratri ( Nineth Avatar ) The ninth avatar of Maa Durga Maa Siddhdaatri. She is one goddess bestowed with all the powers i.e. Yantra Tantra and Gyaan. She is worshipped by saints and Gods.
The Nine day celebrations
The celebrations takes place in the form or 3 sets of 3 days. Each set dedicated to the three Goddesses. The first set of three days is dedicated to Goddess Durga (The goddess of Power), the second set of three days is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth and Prosperity) and the third set of three days is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Arts and Education)
1st – 3rd day of Navratri
In the First three days of Navratri The goddess Durga is invoked as kali in order to destroy the evil and our impurities. Many people fast on the first and the last day only. But, there are many who fast on all nine days. The celebration starts by preparing a mud bed at the place where pooja takes place. Barley seeds are sown in it.
Each day is dedicated to an avatar of Maha Durga. First day is dedicated to Kumari, the girl child. 2nd day is dedicated to Parvati, the young woman. The third day is dedicated to Goddess Durga’s Kaali avatar in order to acquire triumph over the evil and impurities.
4th – 6th day of Navratri
On this set of three days Goddess Lakshami is worshipped. Here she is the giver of spiritual wealth and prosperity to the worshipper. She is also the symbol of peach and prosperity. It is believed that the worshipper is blessed with inexhaustible wealth, peace and prosperity. The fifth day is known as Lalita Panchami. All the literature in the house is displayed in the pooja place and a lamp is lit. Goddess Sarasvati is then invoked.
7th – 8th day of Navratri
The final set of three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati is the Goddess of Art and Education. The worshipper is blessed with immense knowledge. The eighth day is known as Durga Ashtami. Im majority of the households a Havan (holy fire) is performed. All the family members participate in this havan.
Mahanavami –The ninth day is known as Maha Navmi. The day starts by Kajak i.e. the girl Childs are fed with Puri, Halwa and Chane. There must be atleast a set nine girls. Before offering food, their feet are washed and cleaned as a symbol of respect for the Goddess Durga. On Navami all the girl child are considered to be the form of Goddess Durga. After offering food they are given clothes or fruits or money. The number of girls could be any, depending on the worshiper’s will.
The tenth day is Dussehra, also known as Ravan dahan, Dashmi, Vijay Dashmi. On the tenth day, the shoots which were sown on the first day are about 3 – 5 inches in length. These seedlings are then pulled out and given to devotees in the form of Prasad.
As such there is no compulsion to fast all nine days. Though it is observed for all 9 days beginning from the first day of Navratri; some people observe the fasts for the first and last day only. It is believed that a person who fasts during Navratri overcomes all the obstacles and attains prosperity, happiness and spirituality. During Navratri people stop smoking, eating Non-veg and also stop consuming alchohol. There are many people who even do not consume onion and garlic. The food is prepared without using onion and garlic.
Fruits, Milk and dry-fruits can be consumed anytime. Some people observe “Ekana” i.e. they eat complete meal once a day. Others eat (without salt) potato, sweet potato etc. once a day.