Festivals are a significant part of Indian culture. Throughout the year, Indians engage in a multitude of festivities. The fascinating part of them is people from all generations and religions engage in harmony and kinship. The country jubilates with colourful attires, vibrant music, preparing traditional delicacies, ushering well-wishers and guests into their abode. Gods and Goddesses are worshipped with utmost divinity and respect. Onam, Ganesh Chaturthi, Eid, Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra, Bihu etc the names are uncountable. This article is especially dedicated to the celebrations of Navratri – A popular 9 Day festival of India.
History and Beliefs
Navratri is a word in colloquial Indian language that means Nine nights. The nine different forms or avatars of Goddess Durga of the Hindu Mythology, is worshipped in these 9 nights. Each of her form implies a significant meaning, portraying a unique power and strength.
It is believed that Mahishasura, the demon king, once meditated with great devotion and was granted immortality by the creator of the world, Lord Brahma. Brahma specified one condition while granting the boon, the demon king can only be defeated by a woman.
After attaining the immortality boon, Mahishasura transformed into his true colours and motives and attacked Heaven, Earth and Underground to capture all. The Gods were unable to defeat him due to Brahma's boon. To control and curb his power, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva fused their strength and created Goddess Durga. A fierce battle took place between Mahishasura and Durga for almost 15 days. In the end, the Goddess defeated and killed the demon with Trishul, a weapon given to her by Lord Shiva.
The Uniqueness of the Nine Days
Day 1 is known as Pratipada. On this day, people offer their prayers to Shailaputri, an incarnation of the Goddess. Red signifies Day 1 since Shailaputri symbolizes peace, calm and strength.
Day 2 is known as Dwitiya. Goddess Brahmacharini, a divine form of Durga is worshipped on this auspicious day. Her feet are kept bare. On one hand, she holds a japamala (a string of prayer beads) and on another hand, she holds a kamandal (an oblong water pot). Blue is the colour of day 2 as Brahmacharini is a symbolic representation of energy, calm and eternal bliss.
Day 3 is known as Tritiya. The day begins with the devotees seeking blessings of Chandraghanta, a deity form of Goddess Durga. In Hindu tales, Lord Shiva is shown as heralding half-moon on his forehead. After marrying him, Goddess Durga followed her husband and placed half-moon on her forehead. Half-moon is called as ardhachandra in the Indian colloquial language. Hence the name of Chandraghanta has been derived from it. Yellow is the colour of the day, depicting her beauty and immense bravery.
Day 4 is known as Chaturthi. Goddess Kushmanda is worshipped on this day. Her idol can be seen as sitting on a tiger and she has eight arms. Green is the colour fo Chaturthi, a representation of the greenery on earth.
Day 5 is known as Panchami. On this day, Goddess Skandamata is worshipped by the devotees. Skanda is the name of Kartikeya, the son of Goddess Durga. The essence of her incarnation is to symbolize the strength of a mother to protect her son from all the dangers. Her idol is shown as riding on a lion. She has fours arms and in one of them, she holds a baby. The colour of Panchami is therefore grey. T
Day 6 is known as Shasthi. Warrior Goddess Katyayani is offered prayers on day 6. She is one of the violent incarnations of Goddess Durga. Due to her courageous valour, the day is represented by the colour orange. Katyayani is depicted as being riding a lion and she has four hands.
Day 7 is known as Saptami. Tales and beliefs from Hindu mythology state that Goddess Durga attained a ferocious form to slay Subha and Nisumbha, the two demons. She transformed her skin to black to depict her rage. The Goddess Kaalratri is depicted with a white colour attire, assuring her devotees protection from evil and any harm.
Day 8 is known as Ashtami. Mahagauri, the peaceful and intellectual incarnation of Durga, is worshipped on this day. The colour of the day is pink portraying positivity and optimism.
Day 9 – Last Day
Day 9 is the last day of Navratri and is called as Navami. People worship and offer prayers to Siddhidhatri. She can be seen sitting on a lotus and has four hands. The colour of the day is light blue to depict the beauty of nature.
The Celebrations in India
India is comprised of different states along with its 4 parts – North, South, East and West. Navratri is celebrated in various forms and ways in each of the parts of India with great zeal and enthusiasm. In western India, especially in Gujarat, people engage in a colourful and vibrant dance form called Dandiya to commemorate the festival. In the eastern part of India, the locals celebrate a 4 day long Durga Puja. People in the north essentially celebrate Dussehra on the 10th day after Navaratri. They burn the effigies of the demon king Ravana who was defeated by Lord Rama during a fierce battle as narrated in the Hindu epic Ramayana.
In 2020, Navratri has started from Oct 17th and will continue till Oct 26th. People can be seen clad in new colourful attire. Many pandals or stages are constructed where the clay idols of the incarnations of Goddess Durga are placed for worship, to offer prayers and seek their blessings. Several temples of the Goddess are flocked by devotees and pilgrims all over India.
The people decorate their houses with candles, earthen pots, chandeliers, chimes and many other colourful items. Music and dance performances are held at various places. Local and authentic sweets and snacks are prepared and offered to guests as part of the traditions and customs. It strengthens the bond among the individuals, ushering in peace and harmony.
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