What exactly is Navratri?Now, before you start planning where to buy Navratri gifts online, it would be wise to learn more about the reason why these 9 days are considered so important. Navratri denotes nine nights and although there are four times in the year that these nine nights of importance occur, it is the ones that come during the month of Ashvin that is considered most important; this is also known as Sharad Navaratri. This is a period that generally comes towards the end of September and goes on till the middle of October. The first nine days are celebrated as days dedicated to the several forms of Devi, the tenth day is Dussehra or Vijayadashami, which is often considered the day Lord Rama killed Ravana, signifying the victory of good over evil.
Here is the significance of the nine days:
- The first day of Navaratri is dedicated to Goddess Shailputri, the daughter of the mountain king; Shailputri is also recognised as Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.
- Day two is the day of worship for the Goddess Brahmcharini – this second avatar of Durga is believed to provide moksha.
- The third day is meant to celebrate Goddess Chandraghanta, who is revered for bringing prosperity as well as peace and tranquillity in life.
- Goddess Kushmanda, who is considered the originator of the entire Universe is prayed to on day four.
- Day five is reserved for Goddess Skandmata, who represents the vulnerability as well as strength of a mother, who will fight any danger, should the need arise.
- Born to the great sage Kata, Katayayani is known to symbolise courage and the sixth day of the Navaratri is dedicated to her.
- Kal Ratri is considered to be the fiercest form of Durga and this is the form that is worshipped on the seventh day.
- On the eighth day, goddess Maha Gauri is worshipped – she is recognised for peace and calm, intelligence and prosperity.
- The final day of the nine nights is devoted to Goddess Siddhidatri – she is said to have supernatural powers of healing and rejuvenation.
The story behind Navratri:While there are a lot of people who know that Navaratri is all about celebrating the divine form of the Devi, very few know about the true story behind it. Legend has it that there were two brothers - Rambha and Karambha, who prayed and meditated to earn some incredible powers. Lord Indra was threatened by the amount of power these two brothers were gaining and killed Karambha. Rambha, angered by the killing of his brother, spent even more time and hours to gain powers. The gods, pleased by his penance, gave him several boons, including ones that protected him from being killed by gods or demons.
Now all powerful, Rambha happened to fall in love with a buffalo and had a physical relationship with her – a male buffalo, however, became the reason for Rambha’s death, because he had not protected himself against animals. The distraught pregnant female buffalo jumped into the fire, but as soon as she jumped, her son Mahishasura jumped out – half human and half buffalo.
As vengeance to what happened to his parents, Mahishasura made his life’s work to rules all the three worlds - Devaloka (heaven), Prithviloka (earth) and Patalaloka (nether world). He engaged in long and fierce battles and was able to get control over two of the worlds, but Devaloka was being defended by Lord Indra. So, Mahishasura did even more penance to appease Lord Brahma – when Brahma appeared in front of him, he asked for the boon of immortality. However, Brahma blessed him with another boon – no man, god or beast would be able to kill him.
Over time, Mahishasura started to become complacent and the gods became frustrated by the amount of power he wielded. They approached Brahma, but he was not able to revoke his boon, leading all the gods to Lord Shiva. Using the combined powers of all the gods, Shiva created Durga, the representation of feminine power. With her ten hands, she held weapons provided by each of the gods and seated on a lion, Durga was Shakti incarnate!
Durga challenged Mahishasura to a battle and the egotistical and arrogant man, who now considered himself invincible was about to meet his match. The battle between Durga and Mahishasura lasted for 9 days – each time, Mahishasura kept changing his form to confuse the goddess, but on the last day he made the mistake of turning into a buffalo and Durga slew him with her Trishul. This is yet another reason why Dusshera is celebrated on the last day of the Navaratri, showing the defeat of evil at the hands of the good.
The next time you look at that Durga wall hangings that you purchase from eCraftIndia, you will see more than just a radiant face – you will be able to see the incarnate version of Shakti!
Time to celebrate:Navaratri might be a time for prayer and reflection, but it is also time for celebration and festivities – the celebrations vary from region to region.
- In the northern parts of India, Navratri is about fasting and prayer – you will see jagratas and prayer meetings be held. You will also get to see lavish pandals, dedicated to Durga, which will also serve as bases for feeding people. On Ashtami and Navami, there is also the tradition of doing kanya poojan, worshipping young girls, seeking their blessings by seeing them as versions of Devi herself.
- South India sees temples being decked up during the Navaratri and this is considered a very auspicious time of the year. Given that this is a time to worship forms of the goddess, there is Saraswati pooja in several parts of South India, wherein children of all ages pray to her for education and knowledge. In some states, there is the tradition of golu or bommakollu, wherein nine steps are created and idols of gods, goddesses, humans, and animals are placed. People also take this time to invest in new home decor items to deck up their homes.
- In the western part of India, mainly Gujarat, this is the time for true celebration – while the spiritual and religious celebrations are important, this is also the time when everyone comes out to revel – there is dandiya and garba pandals that are open till the wee hours of the morning.
- East India, particularly West Bengal, perhaps looks forward to this time of the year, because Durga is the most dominant deity – the entire 10 days are like a non-stop party. There are pandals set up in every nook and corner with huge idols of Durga and food plays an important part. On the final day, the idols of Durga are immersed and the procession is mostly a sight to behold!
Why kanya poojan is done:In many parts of the country, Ashtami and Navami days are dedicated for kanya poojan – in literal terms, kanya means virgin and during the Navratri, these little girls are seen as the incarnation of the goddess. It is said that by worshipping kanyas, one can receive good fortune and blessings – people will invite little girls to their homes, wash their feet, tie sacred red thread on their wrist, anoint them with Kumkum and seek their blessings. The little girls will also be given food – the most common being poori, halwa and kala chana with some fruit. Before they are sent off, they are given gift in some form – either as money or these days, in the form of Navratri gifts for kanya chosen from websites such as eCraftIndia.
Navaratri is a time of the year that is dedicated to honouring the feminine nature of what is true power or Shakti – it is meant to revere the multiple dimensions of the goddess and make a promise to your self to be a better person.