Navratri 2015 starts on the 13th of October. Navratri is a nine-day festival celebrated by Hindus with all the nine days representing the nine manifestations of the powerful and benevolent Goddess Durga. Navratri is derived from the Sanskrit words “nava” which means nine and “ratri” which means night.
Maa Durga (also known as Navdurga) is worshipped in Her different incarnations for ten days and nine nights during the festival which is celebrated all over India. Worshipping the nine forms of Durga is the main ritual during the Navratri Puja.
It is the most auspicious period to perform devotional sadhanas, pray to Goddess Durga and perform the Navratri puja. On the tenth day of this festival, known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra (Dasara) the idols of Goddess Durga is immersed in a water body.
Although Navratri is celebrated all across India, the festivities are at fever pitch in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and southern parts of Karnataka. In West Bengal Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja.
The Four Different Navratris in a Year
This festival is celebrated at four different times in a year. They are:
- Magh Navratri, also known as Gupt Navratri (January – February, observed only in certain regions of North India)
- Vasant Navratri or Ram Navratri, also known as Chaitra Navratri (March – April)
- Ashad Navratri, also known as Gupt Navratri (June – July, observed only in certain regions of North India)
- Shardiya Navratri, also known as Maha Navratri (September – October)
Out of the above four, Vasant Navratri and Shardiya Navratri are celebrated by devotees with much pomp and festivities as they are considered to be auspicious. Shardiya Navratri is the most important Navratri and is hence called Maha Navratri or Great Navratri. It is also called as Sharad Navratri as it is celebrated at the beginning of winter (Sharad). It falls on the first day or Pratipada of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin.
The nine manifestations of Goddess Durga are: Shailputri, Brahmcharni, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri.
The Navratri puja is to be conducted at a particular time each day. Sunrise is considered to be the best time for performing the puja. Sthapana of the idol and the Kalash with mango leaves and coconut are done on the chowki during the very first day.
It is also a ritual to sow barley seeds in a clay pot and water it. Prayers are offered to Maa Durga and an Aarti is conducted. During each day of Navratri the devotees must recite the Durga Saptshati. Kanya puja is performed on the ninth day of Navratri. Kanya Puja is the tradition where 9 girls (who haven’t reached sexual maturity) represented as the nine manifestations of Maa Durga are revered and fed.