Navaratri 2021 is approaching. It is that time of the year when most people in India start entering the ‘festive mode’ once again. This is a festival which is being celebrated in India for hundreds of years now.
If you are one of those people who hasn’t celebrated the Navaratri festival yet or if you are someone like my friend who has celebrated this festival in the past but doesn’t know much about the significance of this Indian festival, this article is for you.
I have written this article for all those enthusiastic readers out there who want to know more about the nine nights ten days festival. Apparently, this is also one of the longest festivals that’s celebrated in India every year.
Let’s jump right in.
But before that, let me tell you the Navaratri 2021 date.
Navratri this year starts on Thursday, 7th October and ends on Friday, 15 October (dates may vary).
What Is Navaratri or Navratri Festival?
Navaratri can also be spelt as Navratri or Navarathri, which means ‘Nine Nights’ in the Sanskrit language. This is a popular festival in India which is celebrated in different styles in different parts of the country. However, the main idea behind these celebrations remains the same. Celebrating the victory of good over evil.
In these nine nights and ten days of Navarathri, the deity which is at the centre of the celebrations is Goddess Durga. Goddess Durga is the divine mother, who is the manifested female form of that all-pervading energy which is governing everything in this universe and beyond.
According to certain scriptures, there are four Navaratri s conducted every year based on different seasons and reasons.
Did You Know That There Are Four Navaratris Celebrated Every Year?
Ancient scriptures like Puranas from Shakta and Vaishnava origin, divide Navaratri into 4 types based on the seasons or Rutus (Ritus).
Sharad Navaratri or Sharannavaratri:
This is the most popular and the most significant of all the Navratris and is popularly known as Maha-Navaratri. It is observed in the bright half of the lunar month of Ashwayuja (also called Ashwija, Ashwin) which mostly coincides with the English months September and/or October every year. This time period in India is the post-monsoon period, in most parts of the country.
This is the next popular nine nights festival, followed by Sharannavarathri. As the name suggests this festival is observed in the Vasanth Ritu or the spring season in India.
This is also called as Chaitra Navaratri because it coincides with the Hindu lunar month Chaithra. According to the English calendar, this coincides with the months of March and/or April every year. This is mostly observed in northern India and western India.
This festival is celebrated in the Hindu lunar month of Magha or Maagha. This one coincides with the English months January and/or February every year which also happens to be the winter season in India.
The fifth day of this nine-nights festival is often independently celebrated as Vasanth or Vasantha Panchami/Basantha Panchami in some parts of India which marks the arrival of spring in that particular region.
This is the least popular of all and is celebrated in the month of Ashadha which coincides with the English months June and/or July. The month Ashadha marks the beginning of the rainy or monsoon season in many areas.
Magha and Ashadha Navaratri are also called as Gupta Navaratri. This is because most people are unaware of these celebrations and also because these festivals are mainly celebrated by Tantrics or the people who practice Tantra Shastra.
How Exactly Is Navarathri Celebrated And What Is The Significance of Each Day
As told earlier this festival is mainly celebrated to worship the divine mother Goddess Durga and her many forms. This is a celebration of good over evil.
According to the ancient scriptures, this festival was first celebrated in order to honour and remember the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon or Rakshasa called Mahishasura.
So each day, one of her Avatars is worshipped, which contributes to 9 avatars being worshipped for 9 consecutive days.
The celebrations usually start with Ghatasthapana. Ghata is a kind of urn or a pot which is filled with water and then a Diya (earthen or some kind of lamp) is lit which will be kept burning for 9 consecutive days. This is called Akhanda Diya.
Many people often fast for these 9 days with very limited food (like fruits) and water intake. Then on the 10th day, nine young girls are invited to the house and fed to their heart’s content (these young girls represent the nine avatars of goddess Durga). Once they are fed, people break their fast and intake food.
Maata (mother) Shailaputri is worshipped on the very first day. The first day of Navratri is Padya or Pratipada tithi. She is believed to be the incarnation of Mahakali and is the consort of Lord Shiva.
On this very first day, mother Shailaputri is usually seen riding on Nandi (the divine bull vehicle of Lord Shiva) with a Trishula (trident) in her right hand and a lotus flower in the left hand.
‘Shailaputri’ means the daughter of the mountain. Goddess Durga or Adi Shakthi takes birth as the daughter of Parvata Raja, Himavat or Himavantha (king of Himalayas) and hence gets the name Parvathi.
Goddess Shailaputri also represents the ‘Mooladhara Chakra’ which is otherwise called the Root Chakra.
The serpent energy slowly rises from Mooladhara and moves towards Sahasrara with the intent of reunion. Similarly, Adi Shakthi born as Parvathi is worshipped in the form of Shailaputri who was born with the intention of reunion with Lord Shiva.
Brahmacharini is the form that is worshipped on the second day, the Dwitiya tithi. Although there are many versions of the story behind the origin of the Brahmacharini avatar, the most acceptable one goes like this. Parvathi who was Sati in the previous life wants to marry Lord Shiva in the present life.
But Lord Shiva doesn’t have any interest in the routine family life as he has conquered all the Vasanas (desires). So in order to win Shiva’s divine grace and love Parvathi decides to do Tapas. She goes into the mountains and starts her Tapas and begins to live like an ascetic. And this is the form of Brahmacharini.
Brahmacharini Devi is worshipped for the endowment of peace, prosperity and finally Moksha. This is a calmer form of Goddess Durga (Shakthi).
Brahmacharini Devi can be seen in bare feet with Japamala in one hand and Kamandalu in the other.
The form that is worshipped on the third day, Tritiya Tithi is goddess ChandraGhantha. ChandraGhantha means “one who has a half-moon shaped like a bell”. This goddess has her third eye always opened and she is always ready for the war against the demons.
This form of the goddess is both beautiful and brave.
The name Chandraghantha originated when Parvathi married Lord Shiva. Parvathi took the form of Chandraghantha when Shiva arrived for their marriage in his original ascetic form with his bhootha ganas, agoris and others.
Seeing this marriage party, people on Parvathi’s side including her mother were terrified and worried. To normalize everything Parvathi took the Chandraghantha form and prays Shiva to reappear in a charming form. He obliges her and takes the most stunning and charming form which is complete with divinity and bliss.
Goddess Chnadraghantha has eight hands, out of which seven hands are holding Trishula(trident), Gada(mace), bow and arrow, khadga (sword), Kamala(lotus flower), Ghanta(bell) and kamandala (water pot) respectively.
The hand which is free is in ‘Abhaya Mudra’ or the blessing posture which tells us to be fearless because the mother is guarding us.
Her vehicle is a lion or a tiger which signifies that although the form Chandraghantha is an embodiment of calmness, charm, and beauty, she can take a ferocious form when provoked.
This is the 4th day of this nine nights festival. The Tithi is Chaturthi or Chauthi, and the form that is worshipped on this day is Goddess Kushmanda. Kushmanda Devi is always associated with new beginnings, birth, and vegetation in this universe.
In the name Kushmanda, Ku means “a little”, Ushma means “warmth” or “energy” and Anda means “cosmic egg”. It is believed that Goddess Kushmanda created this universe with her divine smile.
Goddess Kushmanda can mostly be seen with eight hands holding a trident, discus, sword, hook, mace, bow, arrow and two jars of honey and blood in her seven hands and one hand in the Abhaya Mudra form.
Her vehicle is the tiger.
Mostly in Shaktism it is believed that from the Devi Kushmanda’s left eye Mahakali was created, from her third eye Mahalakshmi was created, from her right eye Mahasaraswathi was born, from her feet were born Brahma and Saraswati, from her arms, were originated Vishnu and Lakshmi. Shiva and Shakthi are eternal forms with no birth or death.
Goddess Skandamatha is the form that is worshipped on the fifth day of Navarathri, Panchami Tithi. Skandhamatha literally means the mother of Skandha, who is none other than the god Kartikeya.
Devi Skandamatha has four hands and is seated on a lotus. Her vehicle is a lion. She is accompanied by a water material and a bell. Her two hands hold the lotus, one hand holds her son Kartikeya on her lap and her other hand always takes the blessing posture.
The story goes like this. For the birth of Kartikeya who was destined to kill Tarakasura, Shiva and Parvathi united their energies which resulted in the formation of an energy ball. But fearing the attack by demon Tarakasura, Lord Indra ordered Agni deva to take that energy ball and protect it. But when goddess Parvathi came out from the meditative state she realized that her son was taken by the Gods especially Agni (the fire god) without permission.
She got really angry and took the form of Goddess Durga. She then curses Agni deva that whatever he comes in contact shall be burned without the sense of good or bad, in all three worlds.
He also should not have a body of his own and shall always be covered with black smoke and his food should always have impurities. She also curses all the Gods that their wives and they won’t be able to enjoy the happiness of children.
Then Lord Shiva arrives at the scene and calms her. Meanwhile, Lord Skandha has already taken birth from six Krittikas. And it’s then the goddess takes the form of Skandhamatha and rides on her lion to bring back Skandha to Kailasha.
Katyayini Devi is the form that is worshipped on this day. The sixth day is Shashthi Tithi. Katyayini Devi is the daughter of Katyayana Rishi (sage) from the Katya lineage. This lineage apparently originated from Vishwamitra. However, some people have different stories about the birth of the form of Katyayani.
According to the Vamana Purana, Katyayani Devi was formed when three gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva combined their energies together which emitted from their third eyes.
Later all the gods give her their powers along with weaponry such as a Trident by Lord Shiva, Sudarshana Chakra by Lord Vishnu, Shankha by Varuna, dart by Agni, thunderbolt by Indra, a bow by Vayu, rosary and a water pot by Lord Brahma, mace by Kubera, a shield and sword by Kala, arrows by Surya (the Sun god), and battle-ax and weapons by Vishwakarma. Ultimately she heads to the Mysore hills and kills the demon Mahishasura.
Katyayani Devi is said to possess three eyes, black hair, and eighteen arms.
Kalaratri is the form that is worshipped on the 7th day, Saptami Tithi. This one is considered as one of the most ferocious forms of Goddess Durga. While most people think that Kali and Kaalaratri are the same forms some others believe that they are totally different.
Whatever may be the beliefs, they both are the forms of Goddess Parvathi. It is believed that when Lord Indra went to meet Shiva asking for help in the battle against Shumbha and Nishumbha, Shiva asked him to seek help from Parvathi.
When Indra went to mother Parvathi asking for help she was taking a bath. So she created another form which was her reflection Chandi, to take on the demons.
When she went for the battle she was welcomed by Chanda and Munda. These were sent by Shumbha and Nishumbha. It is then the goddess Chandi created a dark ferocious form which is none other than mother Kaali or Kaalaratri, who later killed both Chanda and Munda and acquired the name Chamundi.
Mahagauri is the form that is worshipped on the eighth day of Navarathri. This is the Ashtami Tithi.
Gaura varna means white. MahaGauri means extremely white. As this form of Goddess Durga is extremely white and beautiful the name was given as MahaGauri, who signifies intelligence and peace.
According to a story when Parvathi was performing Tapas for thousands of years to get Shiva as her husband, because of severe penance, her skin became dark. She was also covered with a lot of dust, and mud. After thousands of years of Tapas, Lord Shiva was pleased with her and agreed to marry her.
Seeing her skin and overwhelmed with her devotion he gave her a bath in the Ganga which was flowing from his hair.
This gave her a fair complexion and beautiful skin. And hence the name MahaGauri.
This is the best form for worshippers who are seeking Moksha and freedom for the repeated cycles of birth and death.
Mahagauri’s right arm is in the form of ABHAYAHASTHA. Her right lower hand has a trident in it. A tambourine can be seen in her left upper arm. Her lower arm is always in the blessing form. Sometimes you can also see her holding a lotus and a drum.
The white bull is her vehicle of choice.
The form that is worshipped on the ninth day of Navratri is SiddhiDatri. Siddhi means supernatural powers or fulfillment of desires, Datri means giver (female). The ninth day is the Navami Tithi.
People who are the seekers of Siddhis worship SiddhiDatri. She can bestow you with unlimited happiness, prosperity, peace and finally Moksha.
There are eight siddhis according to ancient scriptures. They are Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakambya, Ishitva and Vashitva.
Anima is the siddhi which gives you the power to reduce your body to the smallest size. Mahima Siddhi can give you the ability to expand your body to mammoth proportions. Garima gives you the power to make your body extremely heavy. Nothing can move your body when you are in the Garima state.
Laghima gives you the power to levitate because it makes your body lighter than a feather or almost weightless. Prapti Siddhi gives you uninterrupted, unrestricted access to every place. Prakambya gives you the power to manifest the things you desire. Ishitva gives you lordship over everything and Vashitva gives you the power to conquer and control everything.
SiddhiDatri has four hands and is seated on a lotus or sometimes lion. She has a lotus, a mace, Sudarshana Chakra and Shankha in her hands.
Ayudha Puja also called Astra Pooja is performed on the ninth day of Navaratri.
On this day of Navami Tithi weapons, tools, etc are worshipped. These also include the vehicles we use, machinery, etc.
Vijayadashami or Dushera or Dussera
The day after the completion of nine nights of Navaratri, the tenth day which is on the Dashami tithi is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera across the country. Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra in 2019 will be on Tuesday, 8th October.
How Is Navaratri Celebrated In Different Parts of India?
Vijaya Dashami in Karnataka
In Karnataka, Dasara is a big festival. This is also called ‘Nada Habba’ which means the festival of the land. Also called as Vijaya Dashami, Dusshera is celebrated in a grand style in Karnataka, more so in the Mysore region.
The royal family of Mysore takes special interest and pride in the celebration of Mysore Dasara celebrations a process that was apparently started by Mysore Wodeyar I in the year 1610.
One can’t miss seeing a Ramlila event which usually is played across the length and breadth of North India during the Navaratri and Dusshera. As Dusshera also marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, the demon king, you will more often than not come across songs, narrations, dialogues, and recitals based on RamaCharitha Manasa.
Navaratri is celebrated as Durga Pooja in Eastern India especially West Bengal. It is a very important yearly festival for Bengalis and other North-East Indian residents. Usually, many temporary sheds called Pandals are raised across this part of India during the Navratri and Dussehra celebrations which will play hosts to a variety of cultural and religious events and entertainment programs.
Navaratri is an important festival in Gujarat as well. The festival season is signified by fasting in the daytime with no food intake at all or only taking liquid food items and avoiding grains. In Gujarat, a symbolic pot called ‘Garbo’ will be installed at the beginning of the nine-day festival which represents the divine womb of the universe from which everything was born.
The significance of Garbo is usually celebrated by performing a certain dance form which is called ‘Garbha’. This is done throughout the ten-day period.