What is the Importance of Navratri Festival
Navratri is a nine-day long highly religious festival of Maa Durga or Shakti celebrated by Hindus with great festivity.It comes twice on a year, once around March-April and the second time, around September-October. Nava means nine, and ratri means night i.e. nine nights. Nine has a special significance and considered very powerful. In the festival Goddess Durga is worshiped in her nine incarnations for ten days and nine nights. The nine manifestations of Goddess Durga are: Shailputri, Brahmcharni, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. Worshiping these nine manifestations together is the main ritual during Navratri. It is believed that worshiping the nine incarnations with utmost purity bestows spiritual fulfillment. People observe fasts; keep on strictly vegetarian diets, and abstain themselves from any impure actions throughout this period. Chanting Goddess mantras, religious hymns, prayer, meditation and recitation of sacred texts of Goddess is very important ritual to worship her. These nine days are considered the most auspicious day to perform devotional sadhanas, start any new event, buy new things, and plan something. In these nine days energies of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are most accessible to us. These Shaktis rule over the three energy centres in our body opening the three knots — rudra granthi, vishnu granthi and brahma granthi — corresponding to the upper, middle and lower regions of the body respectively. Yogis use the effect of these three energies to overcome basic sensual desires and pleasures.
The ninth day known as ‘Navami’. On this day, Kanya puja is performed, where nine very young little girls, who have not reached puberty, are worshipped. Each of these nine girls symbolizes the nine forms of Goddess. Their feet are washed to welcome the goddess. Thereafter, the girls are offered special cooked food i.e. halwa, puri, chana and a gift from the devotees.
Tenth day of this festival is known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra (Dasara) when idol of Goddess Durga is immersed in the water.On this day, devotees perform ‘Saraswati Puja’, for knowledge and mental peace. Same day, the dummy of demon king Ravana is also burnt.
It is also called as SharadNavratri as this festival marks the beginning of winter (Sharad). There are total five Navratri fall in each year, however, Sharad or SharadaNavratri is the most important, popular and auspicious one. According to Hindu calendar, it falls on the first day or Pratipada of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin (September-October).
People read many religious books of Goddess such as Durga Stuti, Durga Saptshati, Devi Kavacha, Nav Durga Strotra, Devi Mahatmya, Devi Bhagvata Purana etc.
Legend behind Navratri
The legend goes that Mahishasura, the mighty demon, worshiped Lord Shiva and obtained the eternity. He started battle to win all the three lokas (worlds). The gods appealed to Lord Shiva, and the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine female warrior, known as Goddess Durga to get rid of the demon. Mahishasura, mesmerized by Goddess Durga’s beauty, approached her with the intention of marriage. The goddess agreed on a condition that Mahishasura would have to defeat her in a battle. Mahishasura agreed, the battle continued for 9 nights and at the end of the ninth night, Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. Hence, the nine nights came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijayadashmi.
There are Four Navratris in a Year:
- Vasanta Navaratri – March–April
- Ashad Navaratri – June–July
- Sharad Navaratri – September–October
- Pausha/Magha Navaratri – December–January
How to Worship Goddess Durga in Navratri
The main ritual of Navratri is ‘KalashSthapana’ along with Devi Pratima.
Navratri Kalash Sthapana (Ghatasthapana) Vidhi
Kalashsthapana or Ghatasthapanais one of the most important rituals on the first day of Navratri. It marks the beginning of nine days. There is a certain time or muhurta in the day to do the sthapana and one should check the panchang for the most auspicious time to do the ritual.
Items required for Ghatasthapana
Kalash with cover lid and base pot made of clay, clean soil, seeds of barley, fresh water or Ganga Jal, roli or moli or kalawa, scent, supari (betel), coins, 5 leaves of Ashoka or Mango tree, rice, raw Coconutgola, red cloth, flowers, garland, durva (grass).
Procedure of Ghatasthapana
Take the clay base pot and fill it partially with clean soil then spread barley seeds, again fill it up with soil, again spread barley seeds but this with the boundary of clay pot and again fill the second layer of soil.
Now take the kalash and tie the roli around its neck,after that fill it up with fresh water or Ganga Jal till the neck of the kalash. Drop Supari, drops of scent, grass, rice, and coins into the water. Keep 5 leaves of Ashoka at the edge of the Kalash in such a way that leaves are all around the neck, now cover the kalash with lid and fill the lid with rice.
After this take the coconut gola and wrap it with red cloth and tie the red cloth with kalawa or moli. Put the coconut on the lid of the kalash carefully that it should not shake, press it gently little bit.
Finally, put the entire kalash carefully on the clay pot filled with soil in such a way that it is firmly settled on the soil as it has to be there for nine days.
Once it is done, invoke Goddess Durga, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Lord Mahesh, and other deities to accept your prayers and oblige you by residing into the Kalash for nine days.
Once prayer is done, do the panchopachara puja.
After this, one also needs to install Devi herself alongside kalash. For this, take a chowki or wooden raised platform (don’t use plastic) and cover it with red cloth, take a photo of Goddess and wrap it around with red chunni or cloth and do the panchopachara puja.
Do remember that kalash should be at the left hand side of the Devi Pratima (photo).
It is combination of five activities to worship God; first we lit and show the lamp to the Kalash, then lit and show the dhoop stick, after that offer flowers and a few drops of scent. Finally offer Naivedhya fruits and sweets to the Kalash to conclude Panchopachara Puja.
Do the same procedure to the DeviPratima.
Each day we worship one of the nine incarnations of Goddess starting from Shailputri, and recite their mantra for 108 times. Each Devi has different mantra associated with them. For more information, click here.
Last day, when navratri is finished, break the coconut and distribute it as Prasad, red cloth should presented in temple, rice can be used to cook, supari should also be distributed as Prasad, coins should be kept carefully as khajana (treasure) of Goddess. The water in the kalash should be sprinkled all places at home for peace and prosperity.