What is Navratri?
People celebrate nine avatars of Goddess Durga for nine long days during Navratri. It is one of the significant festivals in India that comes with many cultural rituals. This nine-day festival begins from Pratipada in the Hindu month Ashwin and goes on till Vijayadashami.
As per the Gregorian calendar, it typically falls in the month of September or October during the Autumn season. People celebrate this festival every year with enthusiasm & devotion.
Significance of Maa Durga
Durga symbolizes various feminine aspects like motherly affection, strength, destruction, protection, power, etc. Her nine avatars are Goddess Shailputri, Goddess Brahmacharini, Goddess Chandraghanta, Goddess Kushmanda, Goddess Skandmata, Goddess Katyayani, Goddess Kaalratri, Goddess Mahagauri, and Goddess Siddhidatri. She is glorified in a lot of ancient tales but the most popular among all is Her victory over Mahishasura. Goddess Durga fought a 15 days long battle with Mahishasura who kept on reappearing in different forms. When he appeared in the buffalo avatar, she killed him with Her trident. Durga Saptashati narrates this story precisely with a detailed description of Devi’s war with the demon.
Unique & Lesser- Known Rituals of Navratri
Some of the common rituals which people perform during Navratri are ghat Sthapana, placing Garba pot & dancing. People from all the states perform these rituals like Navaratri in the South and Durga Puja in the East. While different regions of the country follow different Navratri Pooja vidhi, here are some Navaratri Rituals that we bet you didn’t know about for sure:
Astra Puja / Weapon Worship
Southern India follows a ritual called “Astra Puja” where the weapons are worshipped. It is a ritual performed since ancient times which is why the weapons of war are gathered and worship is offered. This ritual is believed to empower the weapons and bestow blessings of Goddess Durga who defeated Mahishasura, the evil. As times evolved, other things like laptops, agricultural tools, etc., are also kept in the Puja to revere the profession and seek growth in the respective field.
Also Read: Guide to the importance of giving gifts
“Kolu” translates to Doll in Tamil and it is celebrated in Tamil Nadu. Dolls of Gods & Goddesses, animals, birds, etc., made in clay are worshipped in Navratri. They are placed on steps that are in odd numbers, for an instance, 3, 5, or 7. Special delicacies are prepared, Bhajans are performed and various functions are held. Women participating in the Bhajan and performing rituals are given gifts that signify femininity like Kumkum (vermillion), bangles, nail colors, etc.
In few parts of Rajasthan, the Rajput families sacrifice a goat or buffalo to their specific family Goddess. It is also quite common in the states of West Bengal and Assam as some Hindu Goddess temples practice sacrifice of chickens, goats, etc.
This ritual is performed mostly in rural areas as it involves sowing Barley. It signifies growth and abundance and consequently, the length of Barley shoots is believed to determine the flow of income and wealth in a home. Sowing Barley in Navaratri is considered to be auspicious and promotes progress in a household.
Sondhi Puja is a brilliant ritual performed in the last twenty-four minutes of Durga Ashtami. Chamunda, a fierce avatar of Goddess Durga is worshipped and 108 Oil Lamps (Diya) and Lotus flowers are offered. It is a mesmerizing sight to watch as the devotees celebrate this moment of Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura.
On Navami, the ninth day of Navratri, 9 girls under the adolescence age group are called at home. They are worshipped and fed delicious food. The meal normally includes Chana-Puri and Suji Halwa (an Indian sweet dish). These 9 girls are considered to be the 9 Goddesses and they are gifted with accessories and clothing items.
Maa Durga is worshipped and Aarti is performed every day just like Ganeshotsav. People dance along and perform Garba, Dandiya-ras, etc., during Navratri. Devotees bring home beautifully sculpted and decorated idols of Goddess Durga and worship for 9 days followed by immersion (Visarjan) on Vijayadashmi. Many observe a fast on the first and last day of Navratri and some keep the fast for all nine days for wish fulfillment. Some even consume only Satvik food during this period and stay away from intoxications. Everyone dresses up in traditional style and grand shows are conducted in the cities where people gather and dance together in groups. Since this occasion honors Maa Durga, the Divine female force, ladies follow a color code for clothes throughout the nine days of Navratri. Especially, it is the most exciting festival for the Gujarati community but devotees from all castes enjoy the festival equally.
Wishing you all a Happy Navaratri! May Goddess Durga protect and shower Her blessings on you and your loved ones!