Navratri is an important Hindu festival dedicated to Goddess Durga. The festival
lasts for 9 days and is celebrated with zeal and fervour all across India. Navratri
is made of two words, “Nava” meaning 9 and “ratri” means night. The festival of
navratri is celebrated twice each year, and the tenth day of “Shardiya Navratri”
is celebrated as Dussehra or Vijayadashmi, signifying the victory of good over evil.
Navratri falls around March-April and September-October. This duration marks the
beginning of summer and winter respectively, where important changes in climate
as well as solar influence take place. Hence, these have been chosen for worshipping
sacred Goddess Durga to bless the earth with prosperity and happiness. The first
3 days of the 9 days are dedicated to Goddess Durga, the powerful all-pervading
force who cleanses us of all our impurities. During the third to sixth day, the
Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi is worshipped to bless all her devotees with wealth and
prosperity. During the last three days, Saraswati, the Goddess of learning is worshipped.
All three facets of the divine Goddess are worshipped to seek her blessings.
Rituals and Celebrations
In different parts of India, the
celebrations and rituals
greatly vary. Navratri holds unique significance for Bengalis and Gujaratis. Dandiya
and Garba performances soak everyone in the state of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Farmers
sow seeds of the new crop on the first day of Navratri. Many people plant barley
seeds in mud on the first day of the nine days. Its shoots are considered a blessing
from Goddess Durga.
In many communities, fasts are observed on these 9 days. People devote themselves
completely to worship of Goddess Durga, sing spiritual hymns, eat pious meals and
offer the Goddess flowers and sweets. Durga pandals with elaborate decorations and
beautiful statues of Goddess Durga, Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Kali, Lord Ganesh
and Lord Kartikeya are set up. People visit the ‘pandals’ to offer their devotion
and indulge in interesting activities like music and folk dance celebrations. On
the ninth day, the festival ends with ‘Kanya Puja’. In this ritual, little girls
dressed as Goddess Durga are worshipped. Their feet are washed, they are offered
gifts like new clothes and ornaments and a special feast is cooked for them. They
are considered incarnations of Goddess Durga who should be pleased to have the Goddess’
blessings on the members of the house. On the tenth day, effigies of demon king
Ravana are burnt to symbolize the triumph of truth and goodness.