Updated: September 18, 2018
Navaratri, literally means nine nights, also spelled Navratri or Navarathri, is a nine nights and ten days Hindu festival, celebrated in the autumn every year. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent.
There are four seasonal Navratri. However, the most observed one is the post-monsoon autumn festival called Sharada Navratri that is in the honor of the divine godess Durga. The festival is celebrated in the bright half of the Hindu calendar month Ashvin, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. The word Navratri means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights.
Durga Puja during Devi Paksha is observed as Navratri in other Indian states such as in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, and Maharashtra. Although Navratri is also dedicated worship of Goddess Durga and overlaps with Durga Puja, rituals and customs followed during Navratri differ significantly than those of Durga Puja.
In Northern, Central and Western states of India, the Ramlila play is enacted during Navratri by rural artists. According to some Hindu texts such as the Shakta and Vaishnava Puranas, Navaratri theoretically falls twice or four times a year.
This is the most celebrated of the four navaratris, named after sharada which means autumn. It is observed in the lunar month of Ashvin that is post monsoon, between September and October. In many regions the festival falls after autumn harvest, and in others during harvest. Shardiya Navratri is the most popular and significant Navratri of all Navratris. That is why Shardiya Navratri is also known as Maha Navratri.
The second most celebrated, named after vasanta which means spring. It is observed in the lunar month of Chaitra that is post winter, between March and April. In many regions the festival falls after spring harvest, and in others during harvest.
The other two navratris are observed regionally or by individuals and include:
It is observed in Magha that is in winter season between January and February. The fifth day of this festival is often independently observed as Vasant Panchami. This is the official start of spring in the Hindu tradition wherein goddess Saraswati is revered through arts, music, writing, kite flying. In some regions, the Hindu god of love, Kama is revered.
It is observed in Ashadha between June and July, start of the monsoon season.
In all cases, Navaratri falls in the bright half of the Hindu luni-solar months. The celebrations vary by region, leaving much to the creativity and preferences of the Hindu.
The Sharada Navratri begins on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvini. Ghatasthapana is invocation of Goddess Shakti which is one of the significant rituals during Navratri. It marks the beginning of nine days festivity. Ghatasthapana is prohibited during Amavasya and night time. Doing it wrong time might bring wrath of the Goddess Shakti. The most auspicious time to do Ghatasthapana is first one third of the day while Pratipada is prevailing.
Ghatasthapana can be done during Abhijit Muhurta if not possible to do it on pratipada. It is advised to avoid Nakshatra Chitra and Vaidhriti Yoga during Ghatasthapana but those are not prohibited. Ghatasthapana should be done before Hindu midday while Pratipada is prevailing.
The festival is celebrated for nine nights once every year during this Ashvini, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. The exact dates of the festival are determined according to the Hindu luni-solar calendar. Sometimes the festival may be held for a day more or a day less depending on the adjustments for sun and moon movements and the leap year.
Sandhi Puja has special significance during Navratri Puja. It is done at the time when Ashtami Tithi ends and Navami Tithi starts. It is believed that Devi Chamunda was appeared during this time to kill demons Chanda and Munda. Navratri is also the adoration of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts through Ayudha Puja in Hindu tradition. This day falls on the ninth day of Navratri after the Good has won over Evil through Durga or Rama.
Most of the time, it falls on Maha Navami during Navratri. Ayudha Puja is also known as Shastra Puja and Astra Puja. Historically Ayudha Puja was meant to worship weapons but in its present form all sort of instruments are worshipped on the very same day. Peace and knowledge is celebrated on this day. Warriors thank, decorate and worship their weapons, offering prayers to Saraswati. Musicians upkeep their musical instruments, play and pray to them. Farmers, carpenters, smiths, pottery makers, shopkeepers and all sorts of trades people similarly decorate and worship their equipment, machinery and tools of trade. Students visit their teachers, express respect and seek their blessings.This tradition is particularly strong in South India mainly in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, but is observed elsewhere in India too.
In South India it is a day when craftsmen worship their tools and instruments similar to Vishwakarma Puja in other parts of India. Ayudha Puja has become Vahana Puja now a day when people worship their vehicles including cars, scooters, and motor bikes. During Vahana Puja all sort of vehicles, which are in use, are decorated with vermilion, garlands, mango leaves and banana sapling and worshiped. Most significantly during Vahana Puja a white pumpkin is decorated with vermilion and turmeric and smashed in front of the vehicle as a custom to get rid of all sorts of evils.
Navratri has been called the Hindu festival of dance. It is a cultural and social festival which marks family time. Women, especially in Maharashtra and Gujarat, adorn themselves with 9 different colors which are allocated to each day of Navratri. The color of the day is decided on the weekday. Each weekday is ruled by one the planets or Navgrahas and accordingly colors are assigned to each day.
Navdurga is the manifestation of Durga in nine different forms who is considered as supreme power among all Goddesses. These nine days are solely dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine Avatars. Each day is associated to an incarnation of the goddess and celebrates the victory of Good over Evil. Navdurga are worshiped during all Four Navrati in the year. The concept of Navdurga originates from Goddess Parvati. The nine forms of goddess Durga include:
This day is Known as Pratipada and is associated to Shailaputri which literally means Daughter of Mountain, an incarnation of Parvati. After the self-immolation as Goddess Sati, Goddess Parvati took birth as the daughter of Lord Himalaya. In Sanskrit Shail means the mountain and due to which Goddess was known as Shailputri, the daughter of the mountain. It is in this form that the Goddess is worshiped as the wife of Shiva. She is depicted as riding the bull, Nandi, with a trishula in her right hand and lotus in her left. Shailaputri is considered to be the direct incarnation of Mahakali. The color of the day is red, which depicts action and vigor.
Goddess Brahmcharini, another incarnation of Parvati, is worshiped on Dwitiya. Goddess Parvati took birth at the home of Daksha Prajapati. In this form the Goddess Parvati was a great Sati and her unmarried form is worshiped as Goddess Brahmacharini. Brahmcharini is worshiped for emancipation or moksha and endowment of peace and prosperity. Depicted as walking bare feet and holding a japamala and kamandalu in her hands, she symbolizes bliss and calm. The color of the day is Royal Blue which depicts calmness with energy.
The worship of Chandraghanta, the married form the Goddess Parvati is done on Tritiya. The name derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvati adorned her forehead with half-chandra(lit. moon). She is the embodiment of beauty and is also symbolic of bravery, and hence, the color of the day is yellow.
Goddess Kushmunda is worshiped on Chaturthi. Goddess Parvati started living inside the center of the Sun so that He can liberate energy to the universe. Since then Goddess is known as Kushmanda. She is believed to be the creative power of universe who has the power and capability to live inside the Sun. The glow and radiance of her body is as luminous as that of the Sun. Kushmunda is associated to the endowment of vegetation on earth and hence, the color of the day is Green. She is depicted as having eight arms and sits on a Lion.
Skandamata, the goddess worshiped on Panchami, is the mother of Skand or Kartikeya. The color grey is symbolic of the transforming strength of a mother when her child is confronted with danger. She is depicted riding a ferocious lion, having four arms, and holding her baby.
In this form Parvati born to a sage as Katya to destroy demon Mahishasura. She is an incarnation of Durga and is shown to exhibit courage which is symbolized by the color Orange. Known as the warrior goddess, she is considered one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. In this avatar, the Devi rides a lion and has four hands.
Considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga, Kalaratri is revered on Saptmi. When the Goddess Parvati removed outer golden skin to kill demons named Shumbha and Nishumbha, She was known as Goddess Kalaratri. The color of the day is white. Her skin turns black.
The Goddess Shailputri at the age of sixteen was extremely beautiful and was blessed with fair complexion. Due to her extreme fair complexion she was known as Goddess Mahagauri. Mahagauri symbolizes intelligence and peace. The color associated to this day is Pink which depicts optimism.
On the last day of the festival also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidaatri(Ardanareeswara). In the beginning of the universe Lord Rudra worshiped Adi-Parashakti for creation. It is believed that Goddess Adi-Parashakti had no form. The supreme Goddess of Power, Adi-Parashakti, appeared in the form of Siddhidatri from the left half of Lord Shiva. Sitting on a lotus, she is believed to possess and bestows all type of Siddhis. Here she has four hands. Also known as Saraswati Devi.
Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. Some fast, others feast. Some revere the same Goddess but different aspects of her, while others revere avatars of Vishnu, particularly of Rama. The Chaitra Navaratri finishes on the day of Rama Navami on the ninth day, and the Sharada Navaratri finishes in Durga Puja and Dussehra.
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