Significance of Navratri
Navratri in Sanskrit literally means “nine nights”, nav meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. Know the significance of navratri its nine days , important legends behind six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nabami and Vijayadashami.
Navaratri is the most important festival of India dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Mother GoddessDurga. The word literally means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Devi are worshipped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra” (alsoDasera). It is an important Hindu festival and is celebrated all over India and some of the adjoining Asiatic countries. Though there are in total five types of Navaratri that come in a year, SharadNavaratri is the most popular one. Hence, the term Navaratri is being used for SharadaNavaratri here.
Why Do People Celebrate Navratri
Know the imporatance, customs, rituals and legendary stories from different parts of India,the nine nights and nine forms of Durga, the vijaydashmi euphoria.
Customs and Rituals of Navratri and their importance
Navratri 2016 dates are from October 1 to October 11, 2016. During these nine nights and ten days, the three forms of the goddess -Shakti, Lakshmi and Saraswathi – are prayed and invoked. The 9 nights of the festival of Navratri begins on the first day of bright fortnight of the Hindi month of Ashwin. On the first day of the Navaratras, a small clay pot is prepared in the puja room and barley seeds or wheat seeds are sown in it. It signifies the goddess of fertility. The three initial days are dedicated to DurgaMaa, the Goddess of power and valor.From 4th -6th days, Lakshmi Mata, the Goddess of peace and prosperity is worshipped.On 7th and 8th days Sarasvati Mata is worshipped to acquire the power of wisdom. On the 8th day of this colorful festival, yagna (holy fire) is performed. The ninth day is popularly known as Mahanavami. On this day Kanya Puja is performed. Nine girl child representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped.
The holy festival of Navaratri is anconsolidation of various themes, with the common theme of the victory of good over evil. According to some legends, Vijayadashami or Dusshera is celebrated on the day Lord Ram kills Ravana. According to MarkandayPuran ,Demon king Mahishasura attained Lord Brahma’s boon that, he would be not be conquered by any male.
The mighty demon defeated the gods and their king, Indra.Harrased and humiliated at their defeat they approached Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who decided to destroy the demon. So they all combined their energies, and gave rise to Shakti and appealed to her for help.Equipped with disastrous weapons given by all the gods and riding a fierce lion, the Goddess, vanquished the monster. The 10th day, on which the goddess kills Mahishasura, is celebrated as Dusshera or Vijayadashami as the victory of virtuous over wicked. Dusshera (tenth day) is one of the significant Hindu festivals, celebrated with passion and vigor all over the country.
After having worshipped Devi Maa for nine days, her image is taken to the streets in a procession and there is much celebration and dancing. To mark Durgaleaving after the nine day visit, her image is cast into water.
On the tenth day, the Vijayadasmi day, gigantic effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnadh are placed in vast open spaces. Rama, accompanied by Sita and his brother Lakshmana, arrive and shoot arrows of fire at these effigies. On this day in the famous Ramleela grounds in Delhi and other parts of north India, huge effigies of the ten-headed demon king Ravana, Meghanath, his son, and Kumbhakarna, his brother, stuffed with explosive materials are torched by a fire arrow to symbolize the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
Nine Forms of Durga
The nine different forms of Devi are worshiped over the nine days. These are the most popular forms under which she is worshiped.
Day 1 -Shailputri -“Shail” means mountains, “Putri” means daughter. Parvati, the daughter of the King of the Mountains Himavan, is called ‘Shailputri”.MaaShailputri is considered to be the first manifestation of goddess Durga. She carries the trishul and the lotus in her hands. Her vehicle is the divine Bull, Nandi. Shailputri in her previous birth was born as a daughter to Daksha Prajapati. She was named ‘Sati’. She had been deeply devoted to Lord Shiva since her childhood. When she grew into a maiden, she propitiated Lord Shiva by her tapasyaand devotion and desired to get him as her spouse. Lord Shiva bestowed the desired boon on her and accepted her as his wife. Once her father Daksha Prajapati organized a great Yanja in which all the gods including Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and saints and sages were invited, but Lord Shiva was excluded.
When Goddess Sati came to know of it, she could not tolerate this insult. So, she decided to visit her father to ask him the reason for disrespecting her husband .When Goddess Sati reached the site of the Yajna, she heard everybody denouncing Lord Shiva. Even Daksha, her father, surrounded by his servants was busy with the condemnation of Lord Shiva. All her sisters were mocking at Sati. Such a hostile situation fanned the fire of her fury even more. She failed to endure such a horrible dishonor of her Lord and consigned herself to the sacrificial flames. When Lord Shiva heard of Sati’s self-immolation, he sent his attendants to destroy the sacrifice.Sati in her next birth was born as a daughter to Himalaya, the Lord of Mountains. She was named Parvati or Hemvati. Since she was born as a daughter to the mountain-king Himalaya, she is also known as Shailputri. She propitiated Lord Shiva by her severe Taap and got him has her husband. Among the Nine Durgas, the importance and powers of Mother Shailputri are unlimited. On the first day of auspicious Navaraatri, she alone is adored and worshipped.
Day 2-Brahmacharini-Bhramcharini is the store house of knowledge and wisdom. Rudraksha beads are her most adored ornaments. Having sacrificed herself in fire, Sati was born of Maina as a daughter to the Mountain-King Himalaya. Keeping in view her auspicious traits, she was given the name of ‘Parvati’. Goddess Parvati renounced all the pleasures of the palace and started performing Sadhana to marry Lord Shiva. She spent the first thousand years of her Sadhana by living on fruits and roots. Thereafter she lived on leaves for another three thousand years. Then she lived on water and then air alone braving heat and cold, rain and storms and all kinds of sufferings. Goddess Parvati meditated on Lord Shiva for thousands of years.
The austere forfeit performed by her reduced her to a mere skeleton. A great hue and cry prevailed in the three worlds because of her severe forfeit. All the Gods including Indra and Saints and Sage were terrified by her penance. They approached Brahma in a body and prayed to him to bestow the desired boon on Parvati. At last Brahma, appeared before Parvati and said to her, “O Goddess! All the Gods bow to you in deep reverence. Such an austere penance can be performed only by you. Your cherished desire shall soon be fulfilled. You shall get Lord Shiva as your consort. By virtue of this austere penance you shall be known as “Brahmchaarini” – a woman of celibacy. Thereafter Brahma restored her physical charm and grace.Thus Goddess Parvati married Lord Shiva as her husband and earned the reputation of being a Brahmchaarini.
Day3-Chandraghanta-In this form Durga is 10-armed and rides a tiger. This is a terrible aspect and is roaring in anger. This form of Durga is completely different from earlier forms and shows when provoked she can be the dreadful or vindictive. Chandraghanta is worshipped on the third day of Navarathri.Her forehead is adorned with the crescent moon resembling the shape of a ghantaa. That is why she is called Maa ‘Chandraghantaa’ by devotees.By her grace all the sins, distresses, physical sufferings and misfortune of the devotees are eradicated. Riding on the lion the Mother inspires her devotees with fearlessness.
The devotees who adore and worship her with their deeds, minds and speech develop an aura of divine splendor. They easily achieve success in every walk of life. MaaChandraghantaa is always ready to destroy the wicked, but to her devotees she is ever visible as the kind and compassionate Mother showering peace and prosperity. Her complexion is golden and possesses ten arms which holds weapons like the sword, the bow, the mace, the arrows and the like. During the battle between the gods and the demons, the horrible sound produced by her ghantaa had sent thousands of wicked demons to death. She is ever in an aggressive posture which shows her fervor to destroy the enemies of her devotees so that her devotees may ever live in peace and prosperity. Divine vision is acquired by her grace.
Day 4-Kushmanda-The name Kushmanda is made of three other words that are “Ku + Ushma + Amnda= Kushmanda”. Here “Ku” is “Little”, “Ushma” is “Warmth or Energy” and “Anda” is “Egg” , meaning the one who create the universe as “Little Cosmic Egg” with the energy of Her divine smile, is called “Kushmanda”. She lives in solar system, shines brightly in all the ten directions like Sun, possess eight hands and uses lion as her sedan. Seven types of weapons are shining in her seven hands and rosary mala is in her right hand. Her adoration and worship delivers a person from all kinds of ailments and leads him on to the path of opulence and pleasures.
Day 5-Skanda Mata– The daughter of Himalaya, after observing penance got married with Shiva. She had a son named “Skanda.” Skanda is a leader of the army of Gods. Skanda Mata is a deity of fire. Skanda is seated in her lap. She has three eyes and four hands. She is white and seated on a lotus.
Day 6 -Katyayani – she was born a daughter of Katyayana Rishi who had observed penance with a desire to get paramba as his daughter. When the atrocities committed by Mahisha, the wicked demon king,became intolerable on the Earth, Goddess Durga’s sixth manifestation appeared as a daughter to sage Kaatyaayana. She came to be known as ‘Mahishasuramardini,’ as she was the slayer of Mahishasura.
Day 7- Kalaratri-In this form Durga is four-armed and rides a donkey. She carries sword, trident and noose. With one hand she blesses. In this form she is dark and repulsive in appearance. She is cruel and excited. This is the violent and dark side of Durga. This form primarily depicts that life also has dark side. Kalaratri is worshipped on seventh day of Navaratri. She possesses three eyes in her forehead which are as round as the universe itself. The hair on her head is very dense but messy. She is ornamented with a glorious garland round her neck which is veryluminous. She breathes out horrible flames of fire. She protects us from fear and trouble. She is also called ‘Shubhamkari’, for making everything good.
Day8 -Mahagauri– She rides the bull, just like Goddess Shailputri. She has four arms, holding a Trishul in one of her right hands and depicts the Abhayamudra with the other right hand. She carries a Damaru in one left hand and depicts the Varadamudra in her other left hand.Due to her long austerities in the forests of Himalya,she developed a dark complexion. When Lord Shiva cleaned her with the water of the Ganges, her body regained its beauty and is called as Mahagauri(one who is extremely white).
Day 9 -Siddhidaatri-Goddess Siddhidatri sits on Kamal and rides on the lion. She is depicted with four hands. She has Gada in the one right hand, Chakra in the other right hand, lotus flower in the left hand and Shankh in the other left hand. She bestows all types of siddhi (supernatural powers) to her devotees and hence is worshipped by humans, ghandarvas, asuras and devas alike.
Having acquired the siddhis from Goddess Siddhidaatri, Lord Shiva created Lord Vishnu who in turn created Lord Brahma who was entrusted with the task of the Creation whereas Lord Vishnu got the task of Protection and Lord Shiva that of Destruction.Lord Brahma felt a great difficulty in his task of the Creation in the absence of man and woman. Thereupon he remembered Mother Siddhidaatri. When she appeared before him, Lord Brahma said to her about his problem.Having heard Lord Brahma, Mother Siddidaatri converted half the person of Lord Shiva into a woman. Thus Lord Shiva became half-male and half-female and came to be known as Ardhanaarishwara.
The reason behind worshipping at night instead of day is that it is more peaceful and supernatural powers are more active during night instead of day.
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