Navratri is a nine days festival dedicated to worshipping nine incarnations of Durga – the Goddess of Shakti. Goddess Durga (Kali) is worshipped for the first three days of Navratri followed by Goddess Lakshmi for the next three days. During the last three days of Navratri, Goddess Saraswati will be invoked. Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga (Parvati/Kali) constitute the triune goddesses known as “Tridevi”.
Navaratri is celebrated five times a year. They are Vasanta Navaratri, Ashadha Navaratri, the Sharad Navaratri, the Paush/Magha Navaratri and the Magha Navaratri. Of these, the Sharad Navaratri or Maha Navaratri is the most important, which is celebrated in the first day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. This year it falls on October 1, 2016 to October 10, 2016.
Different Manifestations of Goddess Durga
Durga is the Mother Goddess of the Hindus. She is known by a variety of names – including Devi, Shakti, Adi Parashakti and Parvati. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word “Navaratri” is “nine nights”. Throughout the nine days, devotees will worship the nine different forms of Maa Durga. These manifestations are Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri. The nine different forms of Durga are collectively known as Navdurga.
The festival spanning nine nights and ten days is celebrated in most Indian states. It is more popular in Bengal, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Nepal. Today, the festival is celebrated outside India where there is sizeable number of Indians.
On the very first day of Navratri, Ghatasthapana or Kalashsthapana ritual will be held. This is nothing but invoking Goddess Durga into a Kalash (pot) accompanied by full Vedic rituals and chanting of Mantras. Devotees will ardently observe fasting and chanting through these days to please the goddess and to be blessed with fortune, health and wisdom.
In West Bengal, Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja. The last three days of the festival are observed with utmost festivity and importance. In Gujrat, devotees perform Dandiya Raas and Garba Raas dance forms during Navratri to appease Goddess Durga. Jyoti Kalash, Kumari Puja, Sandhi Puja, Navami Homa, Lalitha Vrat and Chandi Path are other rituals and events that are observed during the nine days.
Devimahatmya – the hymns narrating the slaying of demon Mahishasura goddess by Durga – will be recited during the Navaratri and Durga Puja. This is particularly popular in eastern states of India. It exalts the victory of positivity over negativity.
In South India, the festival is mainly celebrated as Bommai Kolu, a form of figurine (dolls) worship. It is a time of inviting friends to home and sharing. In Kerala, the last three days – Ashtami, Navami and Vijaya Dashami – are celebrated with much fervour.