• Arun Kumar Subramanian

Navaratri festival

What is Navaratri? Why is it celebrated?

Navaratri literally means nine nights. It's a religious festival dedicated to Maa Durga in her nine different forms/avatars (embodiment of Goddess Shakti) as Navadurga (nine durgas). They are namely


1. Shailaputri

2. Brahmacharini

3. Chandraghanta

4. Kushmanda

5. Skandamata

6. Katyayani

7. Kalaratri

8. Mahagauri

9. Siddhidatri


Everyone of them is worshipped every night with a special puja. Technically Navaratri is celebrated four times in a year. First one is celebrated in the spring time between March and April i.e. Chaitra Navaratri. Second is in autumn between September and October i.e. Shardiya Navaratri. The other two are known as Gupta Navaratri (comes in January and in June).


Shardiya/Sharad Navaratri is the most famous and widely celebrated festival among them. It starts from the next day of Mahalaya Amavasya in the lunar month of Ashwina. It is the largest Goddess festival of the world. It is celebrated as Durga Puja in the eastern and north-eastern parts of India (especially in the state of West Bengal). It's also celebrated in many different parts of the world by Hindus, Buddhists and other indigenous cultures.


Solstice and human tendency: It's important to worship the Goddess in the night time because Goddess Shakti is the ruler of the night while God Shiva is the ruler of the day. Astrologically Surya (Sun) is considered as Shiva and Chandra (Moon) is considered as Shakti, the two luminaries. Sun rules the left brain while Moon rules the right. Shardiya/Sharad Navaratri is most famous among other Navaratri festivals because it comes at the time of Dakshinayana of Surya (summer to winter solstice in the northern hemisphere). It is believed that the tendency of human beings will be more tamassic in this time. Tamassic guna (attitude) is responsible for blind attachments and the delusions followed by it. All the crimes and hatred we see today are because of the blind beliefs and attachments people have that delude their minds and create their distorted ideologies.


Read further about Shivashakti and the concept of God particle.


Purana: The story behind the festival is that when Mahishasura (an asura) tried to destroy the many worlds, the Trimurtis (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) and the Devas accumulated all their energy (Shakti) and created Goddess Durga to destroy the asura. Then, Mother Durga created nine different avatars from her to assist her in the battle with each of them having their own special powers. Finally, Navadurgas won the battle by destroying Mahishashura on the ninth day, thus Navratri represents victory of good over evil. According to Hindu Puranas, Shakti (energy) is the feminine principle that’s why tuesday (ruled by Mars, the significator of energy) is dedicated to the worship of Goddess. Goddess Shakti is associated with tantra as well. So the people with interest in tantra vidya (mystical knowledge) can start learning in this time to embark on a journey of mysticism and super science. Navaratri is basically a good time to start any work related to education. Maa Durga is the presiding deity of Rahu, hence worshipping her becomes a powerful remedy for dosha related to Rahu. Fasting and worshipping in this time not only helps clear your doshas and bad karmas but also keeps you away from performing bad karma further.


Rules: Different rules/practices are followed by different cultures to celebrate the festival. Usually worshippers will perform puja every day and night by keeping a decorated kalash (sacred water vessel). In the southern state of Tamilnadu, people will also decorate Golu (arrangement of specially made dolls and idols) at their homes to tell the visitors the story of Navaratri through songs and bhajans. In eastern and north-eastern states (esp. in West Bengal) this festival is celebrated in the name of Durga Puja in which they worship the specially made Durga idol with daily pujas till the end of Navratri and will immerse the idol (visarjan) in any water body once the celebration is over. The tenth day is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami denoting the victory of Navadurgas over the demon Mahishasura.

 

Day/Night-1 (प्रतिपदा/பிரதமை/Pratipada)

The first day/night of the festival starts on the first waxing lunar day (Pratipada/பிரதமை). Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Shailaputri (शैलपुत्री/சைலபுத்திரி) aka Parvati devi. Shaila means mountain and Putri means daughter. She is depicted as carrying a trident in her right hand and lotus flower in her left while having a crescent moon on her forehead. She rides a bull/nandi.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash and offer jasmine flower, pure ghee and banana to the Goddess while reciting the mantra for Goddess Shailaputri at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Simple puja rules: If you can’t conduct the puja you can still conduct a fast by avoiding food from sunrise to sunset. Also avoid smoking, drinking and all sorts of physical pleasures (like sex). Liquid food such as tea, coffee, fruit juice can be taken. Chant the mantra for 108 times at the time of sunset and finish the fast by eating some food.


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/65fdQvg3HIw


Note: Many other variations of mantras are available. You can chant anything but dedication is the most important factor.

 


Day/Night-2 (द्वितिया/துவிதியை/Dwitiya)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Brahmacharini (ब्रह्मचारिणी/பிரம்மச்சாரிணி) aka Tapascharini. This form of Maa Durga represents the power of devotion and the dedication towards it (penance). Brahma means penance (tapasya) and Charini means ardent female devotee. After taking birth as the daughter of Parvat Raj (king of mountains) Maa Parvati did severe penance to reunite with God Shiva due to which she is called Brahmacharini. She underwent intense penance for many millennia. It is said that for a thousand years she ate only fruits and flowers while living in the forests. She then spent a hundred years eating just vegetables and another 3000 years with just Bilva leaves (Aegle marmelos/வில்வம்). Later she even stopped taking Bilva leaves and continued the penance without food and water for many millennia.


Her other names are “Aparna and Uma”. Parna means leaves in Sanskrit thus living without leaves gave her the name “Aparna”. After knowing her daughter’s intense penance her mother Maina cried out “O Maa”, since then she became “Uma”.


Note: If you get confused as to who is Parvati and who is Durga please understand that they both are the same. The names are only different due to their many different forms and aspects.


Depiction: She is three eyed, holds a japamala (rosary) in her right hand and kamandal (water pot) in her left. Also wears a crescent moon on her head.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash and offer jasmine flower, sugar, fruits and unsalted butter to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Simple puja rules: If you can’t conduct the puja you can still conduct a fast by avoiding food from sunrise to sunset. Also avoid smoking, drinking and all sorts of physical pleasures (like sex). Liquid food such as tea, coffee, fruit juice can be taken. Chant the mantra for 108 times at the time of sunset and finish the fast by eating some food.


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/O5d9eh5K_LE

 

Day/Night-3 (திருதியை/Tritiya)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Chandraghanta (चंद्रघंटा/சந்திரகாந்தா). In this form she represents bravery, courage as well as love. After her intense penance, God Shiva accepted to marry her. On the day of their wedding Shiva arrived at the palace (marriage venue) with ash smeared on his body, snakes around his neck and unkempt hair. He was accompanied by nandi, ganas, ghosts, sages, ascetics and aghoris. Parvati’s relatives were terrorized by the sight of it. So to avoid further embarrassment to her family and God Shiva, Maa Parvati transformed herself into a terrorizing form of Chandraghanta.


Depiction: Chandra means Moon and Ghanta means the Bell. She wears a half-moon on her forehead that looks like a bell, hence the name Chandraghanta. She has five pairs of arms and mounts on the tigress. She carries trident (trishul), mace (gada), bow, arrow, sword, lotus, japamala (rosary), kamandal (waterpot) while with the tenth pair of hands she holds Varad Abhay Mudra (as shown in the picture).


Puja rules: Keep a kalash and offer jasmine flower, milk and milk sweets to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Simple puja rules: same like previous one


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/Sk8vZPBzgKQ

 


Day/Night-4 (Chaturthi/சதுர்த்தி)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kushmanda (कुष्मांडा/குஷ்மாந்தா) aka Adishakti. Kushmanda means “little cosmic egg aka the Universe”. Her smile gave birth to the first light of the Universe which was non existent before. It is believed that she resides inside the Sun/Surya that becomes the source of Lord Surya’s power. She blesses her devotees through her smile thus the name “Kushmanda”, the universal smile.

After creating the Universe Maa Kushmanda created three supreme goddesses. From her left eye came Mahakali, from her right eye came Mahasaraswati and from her third eye came Mahalakshmi. Mahakali gave birth to Shiva and Saraswati. Mahalakshmi gave birth to Brahma and Lakshmi. Mahasaraswati gave birth to Vishnu and Shakti. She then offered Shakti to Shiva, Lakshmi to Vishnu and Saraswati to Brahma as consorts. Once it was over Maa Kushmanda and all three goddesses created by her entered Shakti as an orb of divine and unending energy.

Depiction: Three eyed, adorned with crescent Moon on her head. She has eight hands thus the name Ashtabhuja devi (eight handed goddess) wielding kamandal, bow, arrow, lotus, gold pitcher containing elixir, disc (chakra), gada and japamala. She mounts on the tiger.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash and offer jasmine flower, milk and milk sweets to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurat time based on your location.

Simple puja rules: same like previous one

For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/d3krTkqz_2U

 

Day/Night-5 (Panchami/பஞ்சமி)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Skandamata (स्कंदमाता/ஸ்கந்தமாதா) aka Padmasana Devi. It literally means “the mother of Lord Kartikeya”. Skanda is another name of Lord Kartikeya (Lord Ganesha’s brother) and Mata means mother.


Read the interesting story of birth of Lord Kartikeya


Maa Skandamata is worshipped as the mother of Kartikeya. Worshipping her gives the benefit of worshipping Kartikeya as well (he’s sitting in her mother’s lap).


Depiction: Three eyed, adorned with crescent Moon on her head. She has four hands holding lotuses in two hands, beloved baby Skanda in third hand and blessing the devotees through Abhay Mudra with her fourth hand. She mounts on a Lion and sits on a lotus.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash and offer lotus, hibiscus, red rose and kurinji flowers, yellow banana and milk to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Simple puja rules: same like previous one




For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/NtKo2aLx6jA

 

Day/Night-6 (Shashti/சஷ்டி)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Katyayani (कात्यायनी/காத்யாயனி) aka Mahishasura Mardini, one of the most worshipped forms of Maa Durga and is the destroyer of evil. The sixth manifestation of Maa Durga was born as the daughter of Sage Katyayan. Sage Katyayan was born in the dynasty of Katya but renounced everything to perform austere penance to propitiate Maa Durga. After many years of severe penance Maa appeared in front of him to grant his wish to be born as his daughter, thus the name Katyayani.


Vedic texts say that the Gopis of Vrindavan worshipped Katyayani on the banks of yamuna to get Lord Krishna as their husband. Also said that Maa Sita, Radha and Rukmini were worshipping Katyayani for a good husband. Since then it is believed that young girls who worship Maa Katyayani will get a good husband.


Depiction: Goddess Katyayani was born to destroy the asura (demon) king Mahishasura. She has three eyes, four arms and mounts on the mighty lion. She carries a lotus and sword in her left hands while blessing the devotees in her right hands with Varada and Abhaya Mudra.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash and offer rose, red flowers, sandal, honey and kheer to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Simple puja rules: same as above


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/-yyfaRHXcG0

 

Day/Night-7 (सप्तमी/சப்தமி/Saptami)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kalaratri (कालरात्रि/காலராத்திரி) aka Shubhankari. She is the most terrifying form of Maa Durga. She took this form to destroy the asuras Shumbha and Nishumbha. This form depicts the dark side of life (similar to Goddess Kali). Kala means both time and black (darkness). It represents the early stages of the universe when darkness was engulfing everything including time. Everything that is today came out of nothingness. Ratri means the night itself representing darkness and fear. She is extremely frightening yet she bestows her devotees with auspicious results, thus the name Shubhankari.


Depiction: Absolute dark and fearful with unlocked bountiful hair. Big eyes and ears with fire breathing nostrils. She has four hands holding a scimitar and thunderbolt in her left hands while blessing the devotees with Varada and Abhaya Mudra in her right hands. She wears a necklace that shines at night like the moon. Her mount is a donkey.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash, decorate with night blooming jasmine and offer jaggery, milk and molasses to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Simple puja rules: same as above


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/PPUzJGTsXPE

 

Day/Night-8 (अष्टमी/அஷ்டமி/Ashtami)

"Durga Ashtami, the most important night among the nine nights of Navratri."


Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Mahagauri (महागौरी/மகாகவுரி) aka Shwetambardhara. Mahagauri means “extremely fair/glowing”. This incarnation of Maa Durga has many different stories, the popular ones are: After destroying the asuras Goddess Kalaratri (7th form of Durga) gained her beautiful appearance back by performing penance (tapas). The other version is that, Goddess Brahmacharini (2nd form of Durga) was covered by dirt, soil, leaves and insects from the forest while performing austere penance to marry God Shiva. Pleased by this, he accepted to marry her. She then bathed in the Ganga emanating from his matted hair and regained her glory back.


Depiction: The glorious one compared to the shining moon and the beautiful flower of jasmine. She appears wearing a white cloth (sattva) and adorned by the crescent moon. She’s three eyed with four hands. She carries a trishul and a damaru in two hands while blessing the devotees with Varada and Abhaya mudra in the other two hands. She rides a bull/nandi, thus she also came to be known as “Vrisharudha”.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash, decorate with night blooming jasmine (or jasmine) and offer coconut and banana to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Goddess Mahagauri is also said to be 9 years old (source unknown) hence some people perform Kanya/Kumari puja which means worshipping girls of 8 to 11 years of age.


Simple puja rules: same as above


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/ncoz_QM-UKY

 

Day/Night-9 (नवमी/நவமி/Navami)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Siddhidatri (सिद्धिदात्री/சித்திதாத்ரி) aka Ardhnarishwari. Siddhidatri is the bestower of the Ashta Maha Siddhis aka eight great supernatural powers such as Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakambya, Ishitva and Vashitva. Siddhi means supernatural powers and Datri means the bestower. She’s the moola roopa (basic form), the Adishakti who gave siddhis to Trimurtis. When Lord Brahma had great difficulty in his creation process he prayed to Siddhidatri, She appeared in front of him in the form of Ardhnarishwari (half male and half female) to show him the appearance of both male and female.


Depiction: Seated on a lotus with four arms. She carries a conch, discus, mace and lotus on all four hands. She is surrounded by her worshippers such as Siddhars, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Devas and Asuras.


Puja rules: Keep a kalash, decorate with night blooming jasmine (or jasmine) and offer til, coconut, banana and puffed rice to the Goddess while reciting the mantra at the specific muhurta time based on your location.


Simple puja rules: same as above

For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

https://youtu.be/ncoz_QM-UKY


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