Navaratri 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. Navaratri is made of two words, “Nava” meaning 9 and “ratri” means night. The festival of Navaratri is celebrated twice each year, and the tenth day of “Shardiya Navaratri” is celebrated as Dussehra or Vijayadashmi, signifying the victory of good over evil.
Navaratri Festival Significance
Navaratri 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 worshiping 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. Navaratri 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 Navaratri. 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.