NAVARATRI: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 9 NIGHTS OF FESTIVITIES
Navaratri, which means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit, is a nine-day festival celebrated to worship Goddess Durga. The celebration begins on the first day of the month of Ashvin as per the Hindu calendar, and ususlly falls in the month October every year.
According to Hindu mythology, the festival, also spelled as Navarathri in southern parts of the country, is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Durga, who defeated the demon Mahishasura in a battle that lasted nine nights. Celebrated all over India and Nepal, the festival involves the worship of the nine forms of Devi on each day. It concludes with the festival of Dussehra, which is also known as Vijayadashami, that falls on the 10th day of the festival.
“नवरात्रि की हार्दिक शुभकामनाएं।
Nine Days of Navratri:
Day 1 Pratipada
Day 2 Dwitiya
Day 3 Tritiya
Day 4 Chaturthi
Day 5 Panchami
Day 6 Shashthi
Day 7 Saptami
Day 8 Ashtami
Day 9 Navami
Nine evenings of party and prayer
May Maa always bless you
May you be free of all the problems you face
Praise Durga each Navratri Day.
Navratri is also the time for fasting and engaging in prayers as well as celebrating with garba, dandiya and other traditional dance forms.On the occasion of the festival, People extend warm greetings of the days to all the devotees.
NAVRATRI And GARBA
A ring of dancers swirl feverishly round and round a glittering maidan(Field). The ladies, bedecked in shimmering chaniya cholis, dip and twirl and clap their hands to the throb of the drum, their skirts spinning into rainbow blurs. The gentlemen, clad in their traditional kedia dhoti or kurta pyjama, flock to display their plumage, surreptitiously trying to catch the eye of the beauty next to them. At one end of the compound is a stage, on which a band fires away, the singer belting out the latest garba tunes. It is the Hindu month of Ashvin, time for Navratri.
Although Navratri is celebrated across India with tremendous fervour, it is Gujarat which has held it closest to its heart. This devotion is woven through the fabric of its iconic Navratri dance – the garba – in which women dance round a lamp or an earthenware pot (garbo). The revolving dancers represent the ceaseless circle of life and death while the pot is a symbolic representation of the mother goddess. It is said that the rhythmic clapping is a way of invoking and thanking the goddess for ridding the world of evil. The dandiya ras (dance with sticks) was historically the rhythmic re-enactment of the fight between the goddess and the demon, and is performed in Durga Maa’s honour. Enthusiasts can get in the groove in Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot.
Mumbai too hosts some of the biggest Navratri hotspots. It is here that Navratri queen Falguni Pathak sings her heart out. It is here too, that you may spot the hottest Bollywood celebrity twinkling away on an elaborate stage.
Indeed, the word Garba is derived from the Sanskrit word Garbadeep, which means a light inside a pot and represents the Almighty shining through the perforations of the pot, which symbolizes the universe. The garba tradition revolves around Shakti-Ma or Amba, the Mother Goddess, and garba or the clay pot also represents the womb and fertility. It’s a very meaningful ritual for females because it honors the Goddess and also their own ability for creation.
The circle formation in garba has a great deal of symbolic and metaphorical importance, because life itself is a circle, without beginning or end – an unending cycle. When you perform a garba, you do not break the circle: people go in and come out but the circle remains.
Dandiya Raas was performed by Lord Krishna, the Celestial Cowherd, with the Gopis or milkmaids.
While the Garba is performed by women in a circle, singing and clapping rhythmically as they worship the Goddess Amba, in Dandiya Raas, both men and women participate, moving in two circles in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions, clicking dandiya or wooden sticks with changing partners.
Come September and the swelter of the monsoon would ebb, the temperature dipping gingerly. An excited gaggle of school children would gather in the slate-coloured school compound, all lit up with sparkling fairy lights, and gambol with more energy than grace. Naturally, the next day would be a holiday.
Navratri is a festival dedicated entirely to the powerful supreme mother Goddess, in her various incarnations. She is worshipped as Maa Durga (the invincible mother of the universe), Goddess Lakshmi (the bringer of wealth, both spiritual and material) and Saraswati (the goddess of wisdom) and each of Navratri’s nine days are dedicated to these incarnations. Usually celebrated in the months of September or October, Navratri harks back to the time when the Goddess did penance to gain enough strength to slay the incorrigible demon Mahishasura. It is at the end of the penance, on Vijayadashmi, that he was eventually destroyed.
Nine forms of Goddess Durga:
- Śailaputrī (daughter of the Himālayas)
Brahmachāriṇī (observes the state of celibacy doing penance)
Chandraghaṇṭā (bears the moon in her necklace )
Kūṣmāṇḍa (the creator of the universe)
Skanda-Mātā (the mother of Skanda, Kārttikeya, who were born out of her powers)
Kātyāyanī (the daughter of sage Kātyāyana, who is incarnated to help the Devas)
Kālarātrī (destroyer of Kālī)
Mahāgaurī (the wife of Lord Shiva)
Siddhidātrī (provider of Siddhis, giver of mystic powers)
In honour of the goddess, a lamp is kept lit throughout the nine days and offerings of flowers and consecrated food are made. One of the most popular rituals followed is that of kanya, kanjak or kumarika puja, in which young girls (ideally, nine girls) are celebrated. This happens on the eighth or ninth day, when the girls are fed goodies such as halwa-puri and their feet are washed.
West Bengal celebrates the last few days of the festival as Durga Puja, a time when the state is drenched in pujo fanfare – a scatter of pandals, beautifully decorated statues of the goddess and much mishtieverywhere. But seven days before Durga Puja comes Mahalaya, when the arrival of the goddess is feted with the chanting of shlokas and the beating of drums.
Celebrations are more subdued elsewhere in India. For instance, in Tamil Nadu, it is Goddess Shakti who is celebrated as part of the Batukamma Panduga festival, in which decorative towers of flowers are crafted; they also celebrate golu, the festival of dolls, which is which is again an ode to the goddesses. Women gift each other flowers, jewellery and betel nuts, leaves and coconuts. In Madhya Pradesh, devotees bathe in the sacred Shipra river and exchange sweets while in Ujjain, the beautiful Harsiddhi Mandir glows with lamps. In Delhi and parts of Punjab, devotees fast and perform special pujas called Mata ki Chowki.
Food for the Gods
Synonymous with the fun and frolic is the fasting (vrat).
Typically, Hindu bastions frown upon a litany of foods during Navratri – meat, onion, garlic, certain grains, lentils, turmeric, asafoetida, mustard, fenugreek seeds, garam masala and dhania powder are all condemned.
The faithful multitudes use fasts for purifying the self and paying obeisance to a higher Truth. Many just have fruit, milk and sago (sabudana).
“During the festivity foods popular in Gujarat are the energy-giving sabudana – crisp Sabudana Vada and steaming Sabudana Khichdi also a Suran ni Khichdi (sweet potato khichdi) and Singhara ni Barfi and traditional Kuttu Puris with dahi.”
Meanwhile, in Chennai delicious sundal menu that is prepared for guests – chickpeas, green gram, dry green peas, sweet corn and cowpeas are some of the traditional Navratri offerings.
Maharashtrian families has a few generations-old dishes that they prepare for the vrat are “Sweet Potato Halwa, Papaya Halwa, Potato, yam and sweet potato chips and more healthier options like Sabudana Thalipeeth and fruit chaat.”
Around the World
Indians Abroad are not far behind celebrating as A score of community organizations, including temples, across U.S and U.K, jumped into the Navratri festival mood and organized Raas Garba and Dandiya mostly during the week ends falling during the nine nights of Navaratri.
The biggest Navratri celebrations in U.S are held in Edison, NJ, New Jersey, Boston, Raleigh, Chicago and California. where thousands turn up on three weekends for dance, music and socializing. These events always highlight a major dandiya performer from India, and Phalguni Pathak, the Queen of Dandiya, is a major crowd puller. This year the Indian Cultural Society of Union is holding one of the largest events in Elizabeth, NJ.
Garbas are largely open to anyone who enjoys dancing, according to Sneha and Vikram Chandrasekaran, the organizers of New York’s Garba In The City.
All this culminates in Dusshera’s festivities and feasting, the perfect end to Navratri’s abstinence.
The tenth day of the festival is called Dasera, and marks the triumph of good over evil. In northern parts of India, Hindus also celebrate Rama’s victory over Ravana during this time. This festival is called Dussera. The ten days represent the ten heads of Ravana, and each day is used by Hindus to get rid of bad characteristics, such as lust and jealousy. The tenth day is known as the Day of Victory.
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