The word Navratri comes from the Sanskrit words ‘Nav’, meaning nine, and ‘Ratri’, meaning nights. On these nine days, followers celebrate by worshipping the nine forms of Goddess Durga. The festivities end on the tenth day, which is known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
The Four Navratris
Navratris are celebrated four times in a year: –
- Sharada Navratri: This is the most popularly celebrated Navratri and is named after sharada or autumn. Observed in the lunar month of Ashvin, Sharada Navratri is celebrated post monsoon (September-October).
- Vasanta Navratri: This one is the second most popular Navratri and is named after Vasanta or spring. Observed in the lunar month of Chaitra, this Navratri is celebrated post winter (March-April).
- Magha Navratri: This Navratri is mostly just celebrated in a few regions of the country and is observed in the lunar month of Magha. Celebrated in the winters (January-February), the 5th day of these festivities is celebrated as Vasant Panchami.
- Ashada Navratri: Again celebrated regionally, the Ashada Navratri is observed in the lunar month of Ashada and is celebrated in the beginning of the monsoon season (June-July).
Navdurga: The Nine Forms of Durga
Each day of the Navratris is dedicated to a different form of Durga –
- Shailaputri: The first form of Maa Durga, she is the daughter of Himalaya. She is said to keep one away from diseases, and devotees offer pure ghee at her feet.
- Brahmacharini: Also known as Tapasyacharini, she takes a stance of piety and devotion. She is offered a bhog of sugar and fruits.
- Chandraghanta: Depicted as a fierce 10-armed Goddess, roaring in anger. Her name is derived from the crescent moon she wears on her forehead. Shown as riding a lion, she destroys all evil and wicked and devotees offer her milk, sweets, or kheer.
- Kushmanda: She is considered as the one who created the universe as a “Little Cosmic Egg” with energy and warmth. Devotees observe fasts and offer Malpua as bhog.
- Skandmata:Also known as Panchami, she is depicted as a four-armed deity. Sitting on a lotus, her posture is calm and serene. She keeps her devotees in good health and is offered bananas in prayer.
- Kaatyayani: Depicted as having four arms and carrying a sword, she is shown to ride a lion. Her blessings fill lives with sweetness and help rid of troubles. Devotees offer honey as bhog to her.
- Kalaratri: She is the fierce form of Durga, dark and ferocious and has three eyes on her forehead that are known to contain the entire universe. She bestows her true devotees with protection from evil-powers and spirits, and is offered sweets made with jaggery.
- Mahagauri: A four-armed deity carrying a trishul, she rides on a bull or a white elephant, and is offered coconut as bhog.
- Siddhiratri: A four-armed deity, she is depicted as sitting calmly on a lotus. She signifies the ushering of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance. Devotees offer til or sesame seeds as bhog.
Delicacies people savor during Navratris
- Spicy shakarkandi
- Singhara burfi
- Kuttu ki puri
- Singhare ke pakore
- Khuskhus aaloo
- Sabuddana vada
- Sabuddana khichdi
A Celebration of Diversity
The Navratris are celebrated in different forms all over the country. While in North India, the celebrations are marked by numerous Ramlila events that culminate with the burning of Ravana’s statue on Dussehra; in South India, people mainly worship the Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga. One of the most popular celebrations in Eastern and North Eastern India, this period of nine nights is celebrated as Durga Puja, marking Goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasur.
~May the religious fervor be joyous and prosperous this year. Happy Navratri!~