Navratri is a Hindu festival of India which is dedicated to Goddess Durga, who is a symbol of power, purity and ‘shakti’. The literal meaning of the word ‘Navratri’ is nine nights. Thus, this is a celebration of nine nights and ten days.
During these nine nights and ten days, Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine different forms. These nine forms are:Shailputri,Brahmcharni, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. In some of the Hindu religious books there are also suggestions of 7 day Navratri, 5 day Navratri, 3 day Navratri and even 1 day Navratri instead of the usually observed 9 days.
As per the lunar calendar followed by Hindus,Navratri in March/ April is celebrated as Chaitra Navratri and in September/October it is celebrated as SharadNavratri.Navratri is celebrated in most of the states of India, but is most popular in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka. Ritual puja and fasting is performed during the festival and the functions performed have an underlying theme of the victory of ‘good over evil’.
On the first day ofNavratri, Kalashsthapana or the Ghatasthapana is done at the appropriate ‘mahurat’, during which the Goddess Durga is summoned into a Kalash by enchanting ‘mantras’.
In West Bengal, Durga Puja is just a three day celebration – these three days are known as Durga Saptami, Durga Ashtami and Durga Navami. The celebrations are performed on the last three days of the Navratri and similar to the Kalashsthapana, the people of West Bengal perform the Kalparambha and BilvaNimantran, which is done on the sixth day of Navratri.
During Navratri, many devotees go for pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu. In Himachal Pradesh, Navratrimela is organized to mark the auspicious occasion. Folk music and dance are also part of the celebration.
During the Navratri celebrations, JyotiKalash, Kumari Puja, Sandhi Puja, Navami Homa, LalithaVrat and Chandi Path are some rituals which are performed. The best time to perform puja is sunrise.
The tenth day is observed as Vijayadashami when the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed into a water body.Dussehra coincides with the tenth day of SharadNavratri and therefore playsfrom the Ramayana are also performed during the Navratri celebrations.
This auspicious festival is celebrated with great devotion to achieve spiritual enlightenment.