Navratri, the Festival of Nine Nights, is celebrated every year in the month of Asvin( September- October) in honour of the mother aspect of God.

The Goddess is the personification of Power, or ‘Shakti’. She is known by many names : Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Chandika, Durga, Bhavani, Ambika. Her main task is to destroy evil. In her hands( shown as four, eight or ten) she hold weapons of various types. The number of hands is symbolic of strength. She sits on a lion which represents the aspect of courage and valour which is the essence of Devi Durga. Durga is known as Mahishasuramardini, the slayer of the demon Mahishasura. The word ‘ Mahisha’ means ‘buffalo’, a symbol of lethargy and inertia. These are the qualities that impede the spiritual and material progress of an individual and need to be destroyed.

Worshipping of Different Forms of Goddess

These nine days are devoted to the trinity of God worshipped in a female form – Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati.

Durga grants to us energy – physical, mental, and spiritual. Lakshmi bestows on us wealth of many kinds, not just money, but intellectual wealth, the wealth of character and wealth of health. Saraswati bestows on us intelligence, the capacity for intellectual enquiry and the power of discrimination.

Rituals and Celebrations

The holy books ‘ Durga Saptashati’, ’Devi Mahatmya’ and ‘Lalitha Sahasranam’ describing the names and glory of the Mother Goddess are read during these nine days. Each name of the Devi refers to a specific quality or attribute of the Divine.

Navratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life size clay idols of Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up in temples and other places. On the first night, the ghatsthapana takes place at a sanctified place. An oil lamp is kept lit in the pot. The pot symbolizes the Universe. The uninterrupted lit lamp is the medium through which we worship the effulgent Adishakti i.e. Sri Durgadevi. A vessel of water called Kalash is put before the image of the Goddess, while vedic verses are recited. Near the water vessel some mud is spread and grains are sown. The grains sprouting during the nine days symbolize prosperity. In some parts, people have only one meal a day. In Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated with gaiety and devotion through public ceremonies of ‘Sarbojanin Puja’ or community worship. Huge decorative temporary structure called ’pandals’ are constructed to house beautiful idols of Durga , Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Prayers are conducted from early morning. Prasad is distributed to all. Cultural functions are held in the evenings. On the 8th day, Maha Ashtami, Kumari Puja or the worship of little girls is done. The girls are looked upon as manifestations of the Divine Mother. In some parts, Kumari Puja is done on the 9th day , Navami. Aayudh puja is also performed on Navami in many parts of India. It is believed that after slaying Mahishasura and other demons, Durga Maa no longer needed her weapons. So the weapons were kept aside and worshipped. People worship the tools of their trade on this way. On Dasami, the last day a tearful farewell is given to the Goddess. The idols are carried in processions and ceremonially immersed in a nearby river, lake or sea. The form is merged into the formless. In south India, people set up steps and place idols , which mostly depict gods and goddesses, on them. This is known as ‘Golu’. In Gujarat, the days are spent in prayers and fasting. The evenings are spent in song and dance. They perform the Garba, a graceful form of dance, in which women dressed in exquisitely, embroidered cholis, Ghagras and Dupattas, dance in circles around a pot containing a lamp. The Dandiya Raas (stick dance) is also popular.

In some parts of North India, Navratri is celebrated as Ram Lila .Recitations from Ramayana and enacting plays based on various episodes of the Epic are carried out during this period. On the final Dasami day( Vijaya Dasami), effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarana and Meghanad are burnt to symbolize the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana, i.e. the triumph of Good over Evil.

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