How to Celebrate Navratri

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The fanfare associated with Navratri celebration has a distinct flavour. While very few Hindu festivals can match the scale and fervor of Navratri, this nine nights festival singularly opens you up to new festive experiences. While puja and fasting rituals mark the day, the evenings are for exulting in the dancing thrills.

How to Celebrate Navratri

Marking the onset of summer, Chaitra Navratri is held in March/April while Sharad Navratri, which is the more popular one, is held in September/October. During this festival, Ma Shakti is invoked in all of her nine forms or incarnations. She is also known as ‘Amba’, ‘Annapurna’, ‘Drakali’, ‘Sarvamangala’, ‘Bhairavi’, ‘Chandi’, ‘Lalita’, ‘Bhavani’ and ‘Mookambika’. Broadly, the nine days are dedicated to venerating Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati to seek divine grace, knowledge and power. The tenth day or ‘Vijayadashami’ is celebrated to establish the importance of goodness with joyous participation. This nine nights festival is very holistic in approach, as fasting for spiritual cleansing is well-complemented by participation in chants, songs and dance.

Celebrating Navratri Festival

Although Navratri festival celebration involves some strict rules, some practices are quite flexible in nature. Some of the practices in celebrating Navratri festival are:

  • Sustaining only on fruits and milk for the entire fasting period.
  • Involving yourself in prayer or ‘prarthana’ and long meditation sessions.
  • Keeping awake all night and participating in ‘bhajans’ along with family members.
  • Keeping the mind focused on spiritual activities by reading ‘Durga Shaptashati’ and listening to ‘vrat katha’ or stories/episodes relating to the nine forms of Ma Durga.
  • Wearing different colors each day to honour Ma Durga’s nine forms, such as red on the first day.
  • Tying a garland of fresh flowers every day to the idol/photograph of Maa Durga.
  • Doing charity which includes donating food to the needy.
  • Thinking pure thoughts during the auspicious period. Eating only one meal a day, a vegetarian preparation without onion and garlic.
  • Lighting ‘Akhand Jyot’ or a constantly burning ‘oil lamp’ in front of Goddess Durga’s idol or picture for the entire period.
  • Planting nine varieties of food grains to appease the nine planets.
  • Performing ‘arti’ in front of the idol/photograph of Ma Durga.
  • Abstaining from wearing leather shoes, shaving, paring nails or cutting hair during this period.
  • Avoiding wearing black colored clothes.
  • Inviting married women and seeing them off with auspicious betel nuts and coconut.
  • Honoring Durga Ma’s nine forms by worshipping nine girls and preparing special meal for them.
  • Coinciding the day of starting new ventures or new purchases with Ashtami (eighth day)/Navami(ninth day).
  • Choosing to fast only on the first, fourth and seventh day of Navratri festival.

Besides the above, a devotee can choose to not continue fasting during Navratri if for some reason he/she is not able to do so.

Navaratri is a festival of nine shakti. Navaratri meaning is nine night is Sanskrit. Navaratri = nava + ratri = nine + night. Into these nine days lots of Hindus pray to shakti/devi . Bengali’s do the Durga Puja in these 9 days. All nine days referred to a particular Durga Devi avatars.

First day is of Shailaputri Mata.

Durga 1st day- Shailaputri

Durga 1st day- Shailaputri

Shailaputri literally means the daughter (putri) of the mountains (shaila). Variously known as Sati Bhavani, Parvati or Hemavati, the daughter of Hemavana – the king of the Himalayas, she is the first among Navadurgas. Her worship takes place on the first day of Navaratri – the nine divine nights. The embodiment of the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, she rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her two hands.

 Second day is of Brahmacharini Mata.

Durga 2nd Day - Bramhacharini

Durga 2nd Day – Bramhacharini

Mata Brahmacharini is worshipped on second day of Navarathri.  Brahmacharini is the goddess who performed ‘Tapa’ (penance) (Brahma – Tapa , Charini – Performer ). Mata personifies love and loyalty. She holds  japa mala in her right hand and Kamandal in left hand. She is also called as ‘Uma’ and ‘Tapacharini’ and provides knowledge and wisdom to her devotees.

Durga Day 3- Chandraghanta

Durga Day 3- Chandraghanta

Third day is of Chandraghanta Mata

The third facet of Goddess Durga is ‘Chandraghanta’, who is worshipped on the third day of Navaratri, for peace, tranquility and prosperity in life. She has a ‘chandra’ or half moon in her forehead in the shape of a ‘ghanta’ or bell. That is why she is called ‘Chandraghanta’. She is charming, has a golden bright complexion and rides a lion. She has ten hands, three eyes and holds weapons in her hands. She is the apostle of bravery and possesses great strength to fight in the battle against demons.

Durga day 4-Khushmanda

Durga day 4-Khushmanda

Fourth day is of Kushmanda Mata

Mata Kushmanda is worshipped on the fourth day of Navrathri. . She shines brightly with a laughing face in all ten directions as the Sun. She controls whole Solar system. In her eight hands, she holds several types of weapons in six hands and a rosary and a lotus in remaining hands. She rides on Lion. She likes offerings of ‘Kumhde’, hence her name ‘Kushmanda’ has become popular.

Durga day 5-Skandamata

Durga day 5-Skandamata

Fifth day is of Skanda Mata

The fifth aspect of the Mother Durga is known as ‘Skanda Mata’ – the mother of Skanda or Lord Kartikeya, who was chosen by gods as their commander in chief in the war against the demons. She is worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri. She is accompanied by the Lord Skanda in his infant form. Skanda Mata has four arms and three eyes, holds the infant Skanda in her right upper arm and a lotus in her right hand which is slightly raised upwards. The left arm is in pose to grant boons with grace and in left lower hand which is raised also holds a lotus. She has a bright complexion and often depicted as seated on a lotus.

Durga day 7- Katyayani

Durga day 7- Katyayani

Sixth day is of Mata Katyayani

Mata Katyayani is worshippedon the the Sixth Day of Navratri. Rishi Katyayan observed a penance to get Jaganmata as his daughter. She blessed him and took birth as his daughter on the bank of river Jamuna for getting Lord Krishna as a husband. She is considered as prime deity of Vraj mandal. Ma Katyayani has three eyes and four hands. . One left hand holds a weapon and the other a lotus She rides on Lion.

Durga day 7- kalaratri

Durga day 7- kalaratri

Seventh day is of Kaalratri

This is the seventh form of Mother Durga and is worshipped on the seventh day of Navaratri. She has a dark complexion, disheveled hair and a fearlessness posture. A necklace flashing lightning adorns her neck. She has three eyes that shine bright and terrible flames emanate from her breath. Her vehicle is the donkey. Her raised right hand always seems to grant boons to all worshippers and all her right lower hand is in the pose of allaying fears. Her left upper hand holds a thorn-like weapon, made of iron and there is a dragger in the lower left hand. She is black like Goddess Kali and holds a sparkling sword in her right hand battle all evil. Her gesture of protection assures us of freedom from fear and troubles. So she is also known as ‘Shubhamkari’ – one who does good.

Eight day is of Maha Gauri Mata

Durga day 8- Maha Gouri

Durga day 8- Maha Gouri

She is worshipped on the eighth day of Navaratri. Her power is unfailing and instantly fruitful. As a result of her worship, all sins of past, present and future get washed away and devotees get purified in all aspects of life. Maha Gauri is intelligent, peaceful and calm. Due to her long austerities in the deep forests of the Himalayas, she developed a dark complexion. When Lord Shiva cleaned her with the water of the Ganges, her body regained its beauty and she came to be known as Maha Gauri, which mean extremely white. She wears white clothes, has four arms, and rides on a bull. Her right hand is in the pose of allaying fear and her right lower hand holds a trident. The left upper hand holds a ‘damaru’ (a small rattle drum) and the lower one is in the pose of granting boons to her devotees.

Durga day 9- Sidharatri

Durga day 9- Sidharatri

Ninth day is of Siddhidatri Mata

Siddhidatri is the ninth form of Goddess. She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri. Siddhidatri has supernatural healing powers. She has four arms and she is always in a blissful happy enchanting pose. She rides on the lion as her vehicle. She blesses all Gods, saints, yogis, tantrics and all devotees as a manifestation of the Mother Goddess. In ‘Devi Bhagvata Purana’ it is mentioned that Lord Shiva worshipped her and was blessed with all Siddhis (supernatural powers). By her blessings his half body became female and other half body male in the avatar of Ardhnarishvara.

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