Navratri is one of the most auspicious and popular festivals in India. It is a nine-day celebration of the divine feminine power, represented by Goddess Durga and her nine forms. Navratri means “nine nights” in Sanskrit, and during these nights, devotees worship the goddess with devotion, fasting, prayer, dance and music.
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When is Navratri 2023?
Navratri is celebrated twice a year, once in the spring (Chaitra Navratri) and once in the autumn (Sharad Navratri). The latter is more widely observed and coincides with the lunar month of Ashwin. In 2023, Sharad Navratri will begin on October 15th (Sunday) and end on October 24th (Tuesday). The tenth day is known as Dussehra or Vijayadashami, which marks the victory of good over evil.
How is Navratri celebrated?
Navratri is celebrated in different ways across India, but some common rituals and customs are followed by most devotees.
The first day of Navratri begins with the installation of a clay pot or kalash, which symbolizes the goddess. The pot is filled with water, rice, coins and betel nuts, and decorated with flowers, coconut and mango leaves. A sacred thread is tied around it, and a lamp is lit on top of it. The pot is placed on a platform or altar, where it is worshipped for nine days.
Nine forms of Goddess Durga
Each day of Navratri is dedicated to a different form of Goddess Durga, who represents various aspects of feminine power. They are:
- Shailputri: The daughter of the mountains, she rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus. She is the consort of Lord Shiva and represents purity and simplicity.
- Brahmacharini: The one who practices austerity, she walks barefoot and carries a rosary and a water pot. She is the embodiment of wisdom and devotion.
- Chandraghanta: The one who wears a crescent moon on her forehead, she rides a tiger and has ten arms. She is the warrior goddess who fights evil and protects her devotees.
- Kushmanda: The creator of the universe, she resides in the sun and radiates light. She has eight arms and holds various weapons and a lotus. She is the source of joy and happiness.
- Skandamata: The mother of Skanda or Kartikeya, the commander of the gods’ army, she rides a lion and has four arms. She holds her son in one arm and a lotus in another. She grants wisdom and prosperity to her devotees.
- Katyayani: The daughter of sage Katyayan, she was born to destroy the demon Mahishasura. She rides a lion and has four arms. She carries a sword, a shield, a lotus and a blessing hand. She is the epitome of courage and strength.
- Kalaratri: The dark night, she is the most fierce form of Goddess Durga. She rides a donkey and has four arms. She carries a sword, a trident, a thunderbolt and a blessing hand. She destroys ignorance and fear in her devotees.
- Mahagauri: The fair one, she is the eighth form of Goddess Durga. She rides a bull and has four arms. She carries a trident, a drum, a lotus and a blessing hand. She represents beauty, grace and purity.
- Siddhidatri: The giver of siddhis or supernatural powers, she is the ninth form of Goddess Durga. She sits on a lotus or rides a lion and has four arms. She holds a discus, a conch shell, a mace and a lotus. She fulfills all the desires of her devotees.
Nine colours of Navratri
Each day of Navratri is also associated with a specific colour that represents the mood or energy of that day. Devotees wear clothes of that colour and offer flowers of that colour to the goddess. The nine colours of Navratri are:
- Pink: The colour of joy and happiness, it is worn on the first day to welcome the goddess.
- White: The colour of peace and purity, it is worn on the second day to seek the blessings of the goddess.
- Red: The colour of power and passion, it is worn on the third day to invoke the courage of the goddess.
- Orange: The colour of creativity and enthusiasm, it is worn on the fourth day to celebrate the radiance of the goddess.
- Yellow: The colour of wisdom and prosperity, it is worn on the fifth day to honour the motherhood of the goddess.
- Maroon: The colour of elegance and royalty, it is worn on the sixth day to admire the beauty of the goddess.
- Navy Blue: The colour of calmness and depth, it is worn on the seventh day to seek the protection of the goddess.
- Green: The colour of nature and harmony, it is worn on the eighth day to appreciate the grace of the goddess.
- Beige: The colour of simplicity and humility, it is worn on the ninth day to surrender to the will of the goddess.
Nine bhog for Goddess Durga
Another important aspect of Navratri celebration is offering bhog or food to the goddess. Different types of bhog are offered to different forms of Goddess Durga, according to their preferences. The nine bhog for Goddess Durga are:
- Ghee: Clarified butter, it is offered to Goddess Shailputri on the first day. It symbolizes purity and nourishment.
- Sugar: Sweet crystals, they are offered to Goddess Brahmacharini on the second day. They symbolize sweetness and happiness.
- Milk: White liquid, it is offered to Goddess Chandraghanta on the third day. It symbolizes health and vitality.
- Malpua: Sweet pancakes, they are offered to Goddess Kushmanda on the fourth day. They symbolize joy and satisfaction.
- Banana: Yellow fruit, it is offered to Goddess Skandamata on the fifth day. It symbolizes wisdom and prosperity.
- Honey: Golden liquid, it is offered to Goddess Katyayani on the sixth day. It symbolizes sweetness and healing.
- Jaggery: Brown sugar, it is offered to Goddess Kalaratri on the seventh day. It symbolizes strength and endurance.
- Coconut: Brown fruit with white flesh, it is offered to Goddess Mahagauri on the eighth day. It symbolizes purity and completeness.
- Sesame seeds: Tiny black seeds, they are offered to Goddess Siddhidatri on the ninth day. They symbolize power and perfection.
What is the significance of Navratri?
Navratri is a festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. It is a time to honour the feminine power that resides in every being. It is a time to purify one’s body, mind and soul by observing fasts, performing rituals and meditating on the goddess. It is a time to express gratitude, devotion and love for the goddess who bestows her blessings upon her devotees. It is a time to rejoice in the glory of the goddess who protects, nurtures and empowers her children.
Navratri 2023 is a special occasion to celebrate the nine-day festival of Goddess Durga with devotion and joy. May you all have a blessed and prosperous Navratri!
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