The Navratri Festival is right around the corner with the most prominent celebration taking place this year from the seventh until the fifteenth of October. What is the Navratri Festival you may ask?
The Hindu festival of Navratri is celebrated for nine nights and ten days. The word Navratri itself has quite a literal meaning. It comes from the Sanskirt words nava, which means nine, and ratri, which means nights. According to a few Hindu texts, including the Vaishnava Puranas and the Shakta, there are actually two or four seasons where Navratri is celebrated. Two of these are specifically known as the Sharada Navaratri and the Vasanta Navaratri. The most prominent and observed of the Navratri festivals is the Sharada Navaratri, which is celebrated near the autumn equinox, in the months of September or October, referred to in the Hindu calendar as the months of Ashbin and Ashwayuja respectively. Regardless of the specific time of year that the Navaratri is celebrated, all of the festivals celebrate the triumph of good over evil, and specifically, are in honor of the noble Hindu goddess Durga and her victory over the malicious Mahishasura.
Mahishasura-Mardini ten-armed Durga
As the story goes, Mahishasura was a devoted follower of Lord Shiva. However, after being granted supreme powers by Shiva for his fidelity, he became evil and used his powers to inflict pain, suffering and destruction. Because of the wicked Mahishasura’s devilish acts, the Lords Vishnu, Brahma and Mahesh, came together and created the goddess Durga to battle against him. The warrior goddess Durga went to war against Mahishasura and emerged victorious after nine straight days of battle. On the tenth day, the goddess Durga beheaded the defeated Mahishasura. Today, the Navratri Festival not only celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga but the conquest of good over evil.
Each day of the festival has a particular significance and are all dedicated to Durga and her eight avatars or incarnations. The days are known by the following:
Day 1: Shailaputri
It means daughter of the King of Mountains (Shaila-Mountain, Putri- Daughter). She has two hands displacing a lotus and a trident and is sitting atop a bull.
Goddess Durga as Shailaputri
Day 2: Brahmacharini
In this form, she holds a "Kumbha" or water pot in one hand and a rosary in the other. She is a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. She is adorned in Rudraksha.
Goddess Parvati as Brahmacharini
Day 3: Chandraghanta
Chandraghanta means supreme bliss and knowledge. mounted on a tiger, she has ten hands and 3 eyes. Eight of Her hands display weapons while the remaining two are respectively in the mudras of gestures of boon giving and stopping harm.
Goddess Durga as Chandraghanta
Day 4: Kushmanda
The 4th night begins the worship of Maa "Kushmanda", who possess eight arms, holding weapons and a rosary. Her mount is a tiger and She emanates a solar like aura. "
Goddess Durga as Kushmanda
Day 5: Skandamata
In this form, Maa Durga holds her son Kartikey also known as "Skand" in her lap while displaying 3 eyes and 4 hands; two hands hold lotuses while the other 2 hands respectively display defending and granting gestures.
Maa Durga as Skandamata
Day 6: Katyayani
She is named Katyayani as she had stayed in the ashram of sage Katyayan for penance. This 6th Shakti is also astride a lion with three eyes and four arms. One left-hand holds a weapon and the other a lotus. The other 2 hands respectively display defending and granting gestures.
Goddess Durga as Katyayani
Day 7: Kaalaratri
Worshipped on the seventh night, Maa Kalaratri is the cleanser of darkness and ignorance. she has black skin plenteous l hair and four hands, two clutching a cleaver and a torch, while the remaining two are in the mudras of "giving" and "protecting". She is mounted upon a Donkey.
Maa Durga as Kalaratri
Day 8: Mahagauri
This form of Shakti radiates peace and compassion. She is dressed in a white or green sari and holds a drum and a trident on two hands. She is often depicted riding a bull.
Maa Durga as Mahagauri
Day 9: Siddhidatri
Ensconced upon a lotus, most commonly, with 4 arms, and is the possessor of 26 different wishes to grant Her bhaktas. Maa Siddhidatri's famous pilgrim centre, is located in Nanda Parvat in the Himalayas.
Maa Durga as Siddhidatri
The Navratri involves the practice of different customs and rituals. In fact, different regions in India observe the festival in different ways. While some devotees honor the festival with feasting, other devotees, on the other hand, follow one of the most common practices of fasting for all nine days. Aside from this, other festival rituals include praying to the Goddess Durga, singing devotional hymns, offering sweets, fruits, and gifts, as well as visiting family members. From Goa to Gujarat, North India to West Bengal, Bihar to Karnataka, and across other regions all over the country, many varying traditional practices, spiritual customs, and festive celebrations are observed. Aside from these, those celebrating the festival also pay particular attention to their attire throughout the nine days of Navratri. Different colors have particular significance and should be worn on specific days. Throughout the festival, devotees don their best ethnic attires that feature eye-catching designs, rich colors, and vibrant ornamentations to reflect the joyous triumph of goddess Durga and good over evil.
Maa Durga (Sherawali Maa)
While many different festivals and celebrations are observed in India, the Navratri is undoubtedly one of the most important and significant in the country’s rich culture.
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