At present, the state of Gujarat and perhaps the entire nation is roistering in the festive spirit of Navratri and celebrating each day in the best possible way! And we aren’t really surprised with the happiness spread all over the country, Navratri is that one festival which brings together the most beautiful colours and an overwhelming fervour in our lives! The festive marks the magnificence and the power of the divine Goddess Durga. Navratri is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘nine nights’ and the festival’s name is derived after the holy period. This is the second one happening in 2018. The nine days festival celebrated in various ways in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. The second Navratri which is being celebrated everywhere is also known as the Sharad Navratri and lasts for nine nights and ten days. Falling in the months of Ashvin as per the Hindu calendar, the post-monsoon autumn festival falls between the months of September and October according to the Gregorian and Victorian calendar.
The Sharad Navratri is one of the most celebrated Navratri out of the four Navratris (two festive and two gupt or secret Navratris) celebrated by Hindus every year. It is followed by Dussehra (also known as Vijaydashmi) and the festival of lights known as Diwali or Deepawali.
The Significance of Sharad Navratri: Unlocked
Sharad Navratri happens during the lunar period of the Ashvin month and marks the end of monsoon. It is celebrated during harvest in some parts of the country while in others, it is celebrated post the autumn harvest is done. The major value to be taken from this nine days festival is the win of good over evil which we learn from the victory of Goddess Durga against the devil or asur, Maheshasura. During this holy period of nine days, the followers or devotees supplicate the energy aspect of Maa Durga, a common term denoting God in the universal mother.
The literal meaning of the term ‘Durga’ is ‘fort’. This is subjected to the fact that Maa Durga protects her devotees against all the miseries and agonies of life. Goddess Durga is also referred to as ‘Devi’ (meaning: Goddess) and ‘Shakti’ (meaning: Energy) signifying the power of God in the work of creation, preservation, and destruction. The prayers of Hindus for the holy power re-affirms the scientific theory that energy is imperishable: it can neither be created nor destroyed. It is also believed by Navratri followers that God is free from any form of change and motion, and the universal mother – Goddess Durga is the ultimate doer of this world. Hence, Durga Maa is also referred to as ‘Adhi Shakti’ – the protective, generative, and primal energy.
Navratri marks the worship of the nine forms or avatars of Goddess Durga. People from all corners of the country celebrate this festival by keeping fasts and dressing up traditionally in the different colours of these propitious days. Here’s a Detailed Meaning of the Nine Days of Navratri:
The first day of Navratri celebrates Goddess ‘Shailputri’. This avatar of Maa Durga is the manifestation of the unified power of Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Goddess Shailputri is worshipped as the consort of Lord Shiva.
The second day celebrates the second form of Devi, ‘Brahmacharini’. This avatar of Durga is an embodiment of peace, prosperity, grace, blissfulness, and happiness. She is also considered to be the way to emancipation or moksha in Hindi.
This day marks the celebration of the third form of Maa Durga, Goddess ‘Chandraghanta’. She is a true resemblance of beauty and grace and is worshipped by her followers to solicit peace, tranquillity, and prosperity in one’s life. Goddess Chandraghanta is also a symbol of bravery.
The fourth day of the holy festival celebrates Goddess ‘Kushmunda’. This form of Durga is also referred to as the creator of the whole universe or ‘brahmaand’. It is also believed that Goddess Kushmunda created this universe through her laughter.
The fifth day of Navratri celebrated Goddess ‘Skand Mata’; the fifth form of Maa Durga. Skand Mata is the mother of Skanda or God Kartikeya who was selected as the commander-in-chief as a common decision of Gods in the war against the demons or asuras. Skand Mata is a symbol of the vulnerability of a mother and how a mother can fight against anyone to protect her child when required.
Goddess ‘Katyayani’ is celebrated on the sixth day of the holy period. She was born to the great sage, Kata as an avatar of the universal mother- Durga. She is dressed in orange and demonstrates immense courage.
The seventh day remarks the celebration of the seventh form of the holy mother, Goddess ‘Kalratri’. This form or avatar of Adhi Shakti, Maa Durga has a fearless posture, dark complexion, and bedraggled hair. Kalratri is known to be the most menacing form of Goddess Durga. Although the most fierce form, she is dressed in white which represents peace and prayer.
‘Maha Gauri’ is celebrated on the eighth day of the holy period. This form of Maa Durga symbolizes peace, prosperity, calm, brilliance, and acuity.
The last day of the Navratri celebrates the ninth avatar of Goddess Durga, Maa ‘Siddhidatri’. This avatar of Maa Durga is perceived to have supernatural healing powers. Maa Siddhidatri represents sheer happiness and an ecstatic state of mind, like the clear blue sky and the blossoming flowers.
Navratri is celebrated differently in different regions and cities. Many devotees fast (also known as vrata) during the holy period in order to fully surrender in the divine spirit of Maa Durga. During this fasting period, special foods are allowed to consume while others are not allowed. Fasting devotees, during this period of nine days, give up on all spices and a variety of grains and consume the special Navratri fast food only once a day. While sugar is allowed during the fasting period, consumption of common or table salt is completely banned. The rest of the day is spent by consuming fruits, special fasting snacks prepared with Rock salt (also known as sendha namak). Only grains like buckwheat, water chestnut flour, and tubers like potato or sweet potatoes are allowed. Desserts made from only Sabudana or sabo, fox nuts or makhanas are eaten during Navratri fasts.
Common fast dishes people consume once a day includes Sabudana Vada, Sabudana Tikki, Sabudana Kheer, kuttu or buckwheat flour puris or chilla, potato curry, Fried potato crunches, sweet potato halwa, makhane ki kheer, etc. While some devotees fast on complete nine days of the holy period, others keep fasts in pairs (for example, some devotees fast on the first and last day of Navratri, etc). The last day of the Navratri ends by keeping a puja at home where 9 girls and 1 boy (or 8 girls and 1 boy) is invited to have a feast of Puri, Sabzi, and Halwa and bless the family with health, joy, and prosperity.
Navratri is celebrated to idolize the different aspects of Goddess Durga. The name, Navratri itself means nine nights (Nav: nine, Ratri: night) It is hence, divided into sets of three days each. In the first set of initial three days, we beseech the mother for her powerful force as the universal mother to destroy all our impurities, iniquities, and vices. In the next set of three days falling in the middle of the holy period, the mother is perceived to be the ultimate giver of spiritual wealth (coined as Lakshmi). The mother is also recognized with powers to bestow upon her devotee's wealth in abundance. The last three days of the third and the final set is spent in worshipping the Goddess of wisdom, Maa Saraswati.
Each set has its own importance and shows the three very important aspects of a successful life. Everyone prays to attain all three aspects of the Divine and the Holy Mother in order to achieve wealth, health, and wisdom in abundance. Thus, the nine nights and days are worshipped in Navratri.
During the holy period of nine nights, nine appellations of Goddess Durga is worshipped, also known as ‘Nav Durga’:
1. Shailputri: The Daughter of the Himalayas
2. Brahmacharini: The one who regards the state of celibacy doing penance
3. Chandraghanta: The one who wears and holds the moon in her necklace
4. Kushmunda: The creator of the universe
5. Skand Mata: The mother who gave birth Skand or Karthikeya out of her powers
6. Katyayani: The daughter of the sage, Katyayani; an incarnation to help the Gods or Devas
7. Kalratri: The destroyer of Kali, black as night
8. Maha Gauri: The wife of Lord Shiva doing penance
9. Siddhidatri: The giver of mystic powers and provider of Siddhis
Durga Saptashati is the most popular work having a collection of 700 verses, each describing the supernatural elements of the Universal mother: Durga. Saptashati is a Sanskrit word meaning 700 and hence, Durga Saptashati denotes the 700 verses to describe the divine mother. The verses also teach us her glory and how we can take refuge under her.
Durga Saptashati also contains 13 chapters of the Markandeya Purana which you can find between page numbers 81 to 93 of the work. In an attempt to invoke Maa Durga to bless devotees with grace and full care, many devotees recite some portions of the Durga Saptashati in order during the nine days of Navratri. The dedication and complete devotion in reciting the verses of Durga Saptashati signifies total surrender of our actions, possessions, and perhaps everything to the Universal Mother and achieve enduring delight, sustainable pleasure and ultimate satisfaction. It is also believed that each chapter written in the Durga Saptashati is present within each one of us, the forces which compel us to realize our own divinity, diminish odds and any kind of forces that are holding us back, and fill our lives with happiness, joy, and love.
If you have some more precious time to spare, we would like to know which particular thing helped you the most in this article. Whatever be it- a step, a tip or a paragraph, kindly mention it in the below-section.