Observed for nine days, the Navaratri festival celebrates and glorifies the power of a woman. It worships Maa Shakti and her three incarnations – Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati and three form of each incarnation.
According to the Hindu calendar, the festival is celebrated in the month of Ashvin that falls in September or October. Each of the nine days is dedicated to the worship of different forms of the Goddess Durga.
This year it will commence from 10 October and will conclude on 19 October.
A combination of two words, nava means nine and ratri referring to night, the festival is the manifestation of the triumph of good over evil and erases negativities, purify the soul, blesses people with power, prosperity and knowledge.
Navaratri- Looking Back At History
Legend has it that there was a buffalo demon called Mahishasura who had put all the three worlds trembling in terror. He had received a special boon that he could not be killed by any god, human or demon except the feminine energy. He thought that a woman would be not capable enough to vanquish him.
In order to save the world, Mother Durga assumed a powerful form and initiated a war against him for nine continuous days, killing him on the tenth day.
Navaratri is celebrated five times a year for nine days each. The three main Navaratris are: Sharad Navaratri, Vasant Navaratri and Ashada Navaratri.
The ninth day is also known as the Ayudha pooja which is held to be the time when the Pandavas in Mahabharata retrieved their weapons during the last year of their 13-year exile. Consequently, all the machines, work tools, appliances and vehicles that contribute to the prosperity of mankind are worshipped on this day.
Dussehra or Vijayadasami marks the end of the festival which celebrates the victories of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura and Lord Rama in Ramayana over king of Lanka, Ravan.
Following this victory, Lord Rama and his companions travelled back to Ayodhya. Diwali is celebrated 20 days after Navaratri to mark this day.
The Three Incarnations
The first three days of Navaratri invoke the Goddess Durga, a warrior incarnation, as the divine power within humans that helps in destroying the underlying animalistic tendencies like the buffalo demon.
On each day, three different forms (Kumari, Parvati and Kali) of Durga are worshipped, signifying the three stages of womanhood.
The next three days are devoted to the Goddess Laxmi who represents wealth.
Goddess Saraswati is worshipped on the final three days, symbolizing the power of knowledge.
Thus, wealth and wisdom go together.
Significance Of The Nine Incarnations
During the nine days, each day, the Goddess takes a new character, attire and responsibility.
- On the first day, daughter of Himalayas, Shailaputri, who is the consort of Lord Shiva, is worshipped. She represents the collective powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Mounting upon a bull, she holds a lotus and a trident.
- The second day is dedicated to Brahmacharini, filled with knowledge and wisdom. She embodies loyalty, love and shows the way to emancipation.
- Chandraghanta personifies beauty and bravery, possessing ten hands and three eyes.
- On the fourth day, Kushmanda is worshipped. Mounted on a tiger, she is believed to be the creator of the entire universe, vegetation and laughter.
- The fifth day is dedicated to Skandmata, the chief warrior of the God’s army with three eyes and four hands.
- Katyayani seated on a lion with four hands and three eyes, exhibits immense courage but is dressed like a sage in orange colour.
- Kaalratri meaning the dark black night is invoked on the seventh day of Navaratri. Mounting on a donkey, it is the fiercest form with flames emanating from her breadth. She holds a cleaver and a torch, signifying protection and sacrifice.
- On the eighth day, Maha Gauri radiating in a white saree is worshipped. Riding on a bull, she depicts tranquility and displays wisdom.
- The last day is devoted to Siddhidatri consisting of all the eight Siddhis, who resides on lotus flower.
On the final day of Navaratri festival, Mahanavami, nine girls (not adolescents) representing the nine incarnations are worshipped.
Once the puja is over, they are welcomed into homes, their feet are washed and sweet is offered along with clothes, gifts and money.