Among the festivals of the Hindu tradition, Navratri is endowed with a great significance. It is the symbol of victory of good over evil. The nine-day festival culminates on the tenth day which is the day of victory and success. This festival also marks the symbolic journey from humanness to divinity thereby reminding people of the real goal of human life. Navaratri 2018 in India will begin on Wednesday, 10 October and ends on Thursday, 18 October.
The word “Navaratri” is a conjunction of two words “nava” (meaning “nine”) and “ratri” (meaning “night”). Spread over 9 nights and 10 days, it is one of the most sacred festivals in Hinduism where we worship Goddess Durga or Shakti, which represents the energy of the universe, in her 9 beautiful forms with great reverence.
During the period of 9 days of Navratri, 9 forms of Durga, called ‘nav-durga’, are worshipped in the following order:
- Shailaputri: She is the primal energy of the trident Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and was born as a daughter (putri) to Himalayas (shaila – mountains).
- Brahmacharini: This form represents penance and austerity leading to blissfulness and moksha.
- Chandraghanta: Represented as 10-armed mother riding a lion, she adores a bell-shaped (ghanta) moon (chandra), and is slayer of evil forces.
- Kushmanda: Literally meaning “little warmth cosmic egg”, she is the creator of the universe.
- Skandamata: She is the mother of Skanda, or Karthikeya, the chief warrior of Gods.
- Katyayani: As daughter of sage Katyayan, she is a fierce form of Durga.
- Kaalratri: As death of Kaal (time), she showcases the other side of life – death. She is the most terrible and ruthless form of Durga.
- Maha Gauri: She represents calmness and grants wisdom to her devotees.
- Siddhidatri: The fulfiller of all the wishes and giver of boons.
During Navratri, some devotees of Durga observe fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. A grain-free diet is a key part of Navratri. A period of introspection and purification, Navratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures.
Why do we celebrate Navratri?
Navratri is celebrated for different reasons and in different ways across India. In the East and many places of Northeast India, Navratri is observed as Durga Puja, signifying the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasura. In the North and Western states, however, Navratri is celebrated differently with ‘Ram Lila’ performances and the burning of effigies of Ravana, signifying Lord Ram’s victory over Ravana. The final day of Navratri in North India is called Dussehra and in the East, Vijay Dashami. The overarching theme of Navratri is the victory of good over evil. The nine days of Navratri are also a major crop season cultural event.
How is Navaratri celebrated?
Navratri is celebrated in these two most famous styles:
In Gujarat, people do dandiya and garba, a beautiful folk dance, wearing colorful dresses. In West Bengal, Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja and large-scale prayers are organized in the praise of Durga. Women take a central stage in this festival and it is a celebration of dance, music and decoration. The north celebrates it as a victory of King Rama over the demon Ravana in the festival Ramlila. At the end of the 10-day battle, huge effigies of demon Ravana are burned in each neighborhood. In Tamilnadu, Navratri is called Golu. People there, buy 100s of idols and try to create various settings that portray their culture and heritage.
Navratri is one of the longest and most diverse festivals of India. It celebrates arts like no other Indian festival. It is the most colorful Indian festival and super fun.