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Navratri Festival: Honouring the Goddess Within

What is Navratri? Why is it celebrated?

Navratri is a festival spanning nine nights to honour the Goddess Durga (Embodiment of Goddess Shakti) in her nine different avatars as Navdurga, meaning "nine Durgas."

  1. Shailaputri

  2. Brahmacharini

  3. Chandraghanta

  4. Kushmanda

  5. Skandamata

  6. Katyayani

  7. Kalaratri

  8. Mahagauri

  9. Siddhidatri


The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, as it celebrates the defeat of the demon (asura) Mahishasura by the Navdurgas. Navratri is celebrated four times a year with each of the nine forms of Goddess Durga worshipped every night with a special puja. The first Navratri is celebrated in springtime (Chaitra Navratri) between March and April, followed by the autumn Navratri (Shardiya Navratri) between September and October. The other two are Gupta Navratri, one is celebrated in January and the other is in June.


The Shardiya aka Sharad Navratri, begins the day after Mahalaya Amavasya in the lunar month of Ashwina, is the most renowned and widely celebrated among the four Navratris. It is the largest Goddess festival in the world and is commemorated as Durga Puja in the eastern and northeastern regions of India, particularly in West Bengal. It is also observed by Hindus, Buddhists, and various other indigenous cultures across the world.


Solstice and Human Tendency

The worship of the Goddess during the night time is significant because she is regarded as the ruler of the night, while the God Shiva is the ruler of the day. According to astrology, the Sun is identified as Shiva and the Moon as Shakti, the two luminaries. The Sharad Navratri festival is the most renowned as it occurs during the Dakshinayana phase of the Sun, from summer to winter solstice. The Sun will move towards southern hemisphere from July to January causing winter in the norther hemisphere. Hence, this phase is tamassic, that creates more tamassic guna or tamassic attitude in the human tendencies. Tamas is responsible for the attachment to blind beliefs and delusions. The prevalence of crimes and hatred in today's world can be attributed to the blind beliefs and attachments that delude people's minds and create distorted ideologies.


This phase is also equivalent to the evening twilight (dusk) of the gods, for whom our one year passes like a single day based on their time scale. The time after sunset to the time before brahmamuhurta is tamassic time, so devas pray to Goddess Shakti every evening to protect themselves from the asuric forces. Since humans tend to reflect the tendencies of gods and demons, it is believed that during this time, humans tendencies will also become more tamassic if they did not spend time for prayers and services.


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. The Navdurgas emerged victorious in their battle on the ninth day of Navratri, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. According to Puranas, Shakti, the feminine principle representing energy in all forms, is highly revered. And thus, Tuesday is dedicated to the worship of Shakti because Mars, the significator of energy and action, rules Tuesday. Eventhough Mars is a male planet, it is still signifying the feminine principle i.e., Shakti.


Remedies

Goddess Shakti is also associated with tantra vidya (mystical knowledge). Therefore, Navratri is an auspicious time for individuals interested in pursuing the path of mysticism and super science. It is also a favorable time to begin any educational endeavors. It is believed that Maa Durga is the presiding deity of Rahu, making her worship a powerful remedy for doshas related to Rahu. Fasting and worshiping during Navratri not only helps to eradicate doshas and bad karma, but also prevents the individual from committing any further bad deeds.


Traditional Practices

Different cultures have their own set of rules and practices to celebrate Navratri festival. Generally, worshippers observe daily puja both during the day and night, with a decorated kalash (a sacred water vessel) kept nearby. In the southern state of Tamilnadu, people create Golu, an arrangement of dolls and idols, to depict the story of Navratri through songs and bhajans. In eastern and northeastern states, especially in West Bengal, the festival is celebrated as Durga Puja. Here, a specially made Durga idol is worshipped with daily pujas until the end of Navratri, after which it is immersed in a water body as a part of the visarjan ritual. The tenth day of the festival is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami, signifying the victory of Navdurgas over the demon Mahishasura.

 


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

The festival commences on the first day/night of the waxing lunar phase, known as Pratipada/பிரதமை. This day is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Shailaputri (शैलपुत्री/சைலபுத்திரி), also known as Parvati Devi. Shaila, meaning mountain, and Putri, meaning daughter, depict her as a daughter of the mountains. She is portrayed holding a trident in her right hand and a lotus flower in her left, with a crescent moon adorning her forehead. She is often depicted riding a bull or Nandi.

Puja rules: Keep a kalash and offer jasmine flowers, pure ghee, and bananas to Goddess Shailaputri while reciting her mantra at the auspicious muhurta time according to your location.


Simple puja rules: In case you are unable to perform the puja, observing a fast can be an alternative. You can refrain from eating any solid food from sunrise until sunset and also abstain from indulging in smoking, drinking or any physical pleasures like sex as they're tamassic activities. However, you can consume liquid foods such as tea, coffee, and fruit juice. Recite the mantra for 108 times during sunset and conclude the fast by eating solid food.


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra


Note: While there are various mantras available, the most crucial aspect is your dedication while chanting.

 


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

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Brahmacharini (ब्रह्मचारिणी/பிரம்மச்சாரிணி), also known as Tapascharini. This form of Maa Durga represents the power of devotion and dedication towards penance. Brahma means penance (tapasya) and Charini means ardent female devotee. After being born as the daughter of Parvat Raj (king of mountains), Maa Parvati underwent severe penance to reunite with God Shiva, which earned her the name Brahmacharini. She spent many millennia undergoing intense penance, during which she lived only on fruits and flowers for a thousand years, then on vegetables for a hundred years, and on Bilva leaves (Aegle marmelos/வில்வம்) for another 3000 years. Finally, she even stopped taking Bilva leaves and continued her penance without food or water for many millennia.


Her other names are “Aparna and Uma”. The name “Aparna” was given to her because she lived without leaves, with "parna" meaning leaves in Sanskrit. After her mother Maina witnessed her daughter's intense penance, she cried out “O Maa”, which resulted in Parvati being known as “Uma”.


Note: If you are confused as to who is Parvati and who is Durga, please understand that they are one and the same. The names are different due to their various forms and aspects.

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


Simple puja rules: In case you are unable to perform the puja, observing a fast can be an alternative. You can refrain from eating any solid food from sunrise until sunset and also abstain from indulging in smoking, drinking or any physical pleasures like sex as they're tamassic activities. However, you can consume liquid foods such as tea, coffee, and fruit juice. Recite the mantra for 108 times during sunset and conclude the fast by eating solid food.


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

 


Day/Night-3: Tritiya (तृतिया/திருதியை)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Chandraghanta (चंद्रघंटा/சந்திரகாந்தா), who represents bravery, courage, and love. After completing her intense penance, Lord Shiva agreed to marry her. On the day of their wedding, Lord Shiva arrived at the palace with ash smeared on his body, snakes around his neck, and unkempt hair, accompanied by Nandi, Devganas, sages, ascetics, aghoris, and ghosts. Parvati's family members were frightened by this sight. To prevent further embarrassment to her family and Lord Shiva, Parvati transformed herself into the terrifying form of Chandraghanta.


Chandraghanta's depiction includes a half-moon on her forehead that resembles a bell, hence her name. She has five pairs of arms and is mounted on a tigress. She carries a trident (trishul), mace (gada), bow, arrow, sword, lotus, japamala (rosary), and kamandal (water pot), while her tenth pair of hands displays the Varad Abhay Mudra (as depicted in the picture).

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


Simple puja rules are mentioned as above.


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

 


Day/Night-4: Chaturthi (चतुर्थी/சதுர்த்தி)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kushmanda (कुष्मांडा/குஷ்மாந்தா), also known as Adishakti. The name Kushmanda refers to the "little cosmic egg", also known as the universe itself. It is said that her divine smile gave birth to the first light of the universe, which did not exist before. She resides inside the Sun (Surya) as the source of power. She is called "Kushmanda" due to her ability to bless her devotees with her divine smile aka the universal smile, the other meaning of her name.


After creating the Universe, Maa Kushmanda created three supreme goddesses. Mahakali was born from her left eye, Mahasaraswati from her right eye, and Mahalakshmi from her third eye. Shiva and Saraswati were born to Mahakali, Brahma and Lakshmi to Mahalakshmi, and Vishnu and Shakti to Mahasaraswati. Maa Kushmanda then offered Shakti to Shiva, Lakshmi to Vishnu, and Saraswati to Brahma as consorts. Finally, Maa Kushmanda and all three goddesses merged into Shakti, becoming an orb of divine and unending energy.


Depicted with a crescent moon on her head and three eyes, the goddess is known as Ashtabhuja Devi, meaning the eight-handed goddess. She is portrayed holding a kamandal, bow, arrow, lotus, gold pitcher filled with elixir, disc (chakra), gada, and japamala. She is often depicted riding a tiger.

Puja rules: Setup a kalash and offer jasmine flowers, milk, and milk sweets to the Goddess while chanting the mantra during the specific muhurat time according to your location.

Simple puja rules are mentioned as above.


For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

 

Day/Night-5: Panchami (पंचमी/பஞ்சமி)

Dedicated to Goddess Skandamata (स्कंदमाता/ஸ்கந்தமாதா), also known as Padmasana Devi, which means "the mother of Lord Murugan". Skanda refers to Lord Murugan (brother of Lord Ganesha), and Mata means mother.


Read the interesting story about the birth of Lord Murugan


Maa Skandamata is worshipped as a mother who loves her child. Worshipping her in this form is believed to bring the same benefits as worshipping Lord Murugan, as he is depicted as sitting in her mother's lap.


Goddess Skandamata is depicted as three-eyed, with a crescent moon on her head. She has four hands, holding lotuses in two of them, her beloved baby Skanda in the third, and blessing devotees with her fourth hand through the Abhay Mudra. She is seated on a lotus and rides on a lion.

Puja rules: Setup a kalash and offer a combination of flowers such as lotus, hibiscus, red rose, and kurinji, along with yellow banana and milk to the Goddess. During this offering, you must recite the mantra at the specific muhurta time according to your location.


Simple puja rules are mentioned as above.



For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

 

Day/Night-6: Shashti (षष्टी/சஷ்டி)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Katyayani (कात्यायनी/காத்யாயனி), also known as Mahishasura Mardini, one of the most venerated forms of Maa Durga and the destroyer of evil. Katyayani is the sixth manifestation of Maa Durga and was born as the daughter of Sage Katyayan, who renounced his Dynasty of Katya to perform austere penance to propitiate Maa Durga.


According to Vedic texts, the Gopis of Vrindavan worshipped Katyayani on the banks of Yamuna to get Lord Krishna as their husband. It is also said that Maa Sita, Radha, and Rukmini worshipped Katyayani for a good husband. Thus, it is believed that young girls who worship Maa Katyayani will get a good husband.


Goddess Katyayani is depicted with three eyes, four arms, and riding on a mighty lion. She carries a lotus and sword in her left hands, while blessing the devotees with Varada and Abhaya Mudra with her right hands.

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 are mentioned as above. For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

 

Day/Night-7: Saptami (सप्तमी/சப்தமி)

Dedicated to the terrifying form of Maa Durga known as Kalaratri (कालरात्रि/காளராத்திரி) or Shubhankari. She appeared in this form to vanquish the asuras Shumbha and Nishumbha. This manifestation represents the dark aspect of existence, similar to Goddess Kali. The word "kala" can mean time and darkness, signifying the early stages of the universe when everything was engulfed in darkness, including time. "Ratri" means night itself, symbolizing darkness and fear. Although terrifying, she bestows her devotees with auspicious results, hence her name, Shubhankari.


Kalaratri is depicted as completely dark and fearsome, with wild and abundant hair. She has large eyes and ears with fire-breathing nostrils. She has four hands, wielding a scimitar and thunderbolt in her left hands while blessing devotees with Varada and Abhaya Mudra with her right hands. She wears a necklace that shines like the moon at night. Her mount is a donkey.


Puja rules: Setup 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 are mentioned as above. For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

 

Day/Night-8: Ashtami (अष्टमी/அஷ்டமி)

Durga Ashtami is the most significant night among the nine auspicious nights of Navratri. This night is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Mahagauri (महागौरी/மகாகவுரி) also known as Shwetambardhara, which means "extremely fair/glowing". Mahagauri, an incarnation of Maa Durga, has various stories associated with her, with the popular ones being that after destroying the demons, Goddess Kalaratri (7th form of Durga) regained her beautiful appearance by performing penance (tapas). Another version is that Goddess Brahmacharini (2nd form of Durga), covered with dirt, soil, leaves, and insects from the forest due to the austere penance to marry God Shiva. Impressed by her devotion, Shiva accepted her proposal, and after taking a bath in the Ganga that emanated from his matted hair, she regained her beauty back.

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.


According to an unknown source, Goddess Mahagauri is believed to be 9 years old. As a result, some individuals perform Kanya/Kumari puja, which involves worshipping girls aged between 8 and 11 years.


Simple puja rules are mentioned as above. For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra

 

Day/Night-9: Navami (नवमी/நவமி)

Dedicated to the worship of Goddess Siddhidatri (सिद्धिदात्री/சித்திதாத்ரி) also known as Ardhnarishwari. Siddhidatri is the bestower of the Ashta Maha Siddhis (eight 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 (base form), the Adishakti (the primordial power) who granted these siddhis to the Trimurtis. According to legend, when Lord Brahma faced challenges during his creation process, he prayed to Siddhidatri, who appeared before him in the form of Ardhnarishwari, representing both male and female aspects.


Siddhidatri is depicted seated on a lotus with four arms, carrying a conch, discus, mace, and lotus. She is surrounded by a retinue of worshippers, including 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 are mentioned as above. For clarification on how to pronounce the mantra