Indian Festivals - Navaratri
There is no doubt why India is called the country of festivals. You can’t find any month in the Indian calendar that goes without a festival. The reason behind this is India’s diversity – of religions cultures and traditions. Every now and then, we find ourselves engaged in the enjoyment of some festivals. Sometimes, even one doesn’t completely go when the next one hops in. These festivals are also a good reason for binding the souls of the fellow countrymen and maintaining the unity; that unity for which India is renowned – “Unity in Diversity”.
One such festival is the Navaratri festival. Although this festival is of the Hindus, but other people from almost all other religions in India celebrate it with equal joy. So, here I am going to describe this festival.
The Navaratri festival begins on the “Prathma (Shukl Paksh)” day of the “Asvina” month of the Hindu calendar. This time usually falls between the end of September and the starting of October. This is the time when the soft pinkish winter just starts to enter the atmosphere silently. Mornings are cool with bright sunlight and everywhere the enchanting of the mantras and the jingling of the temple bells can be heard. The Navaratri festival is a nine-day fest for the worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga. Each day of this fest is related with a specific Swaroop or incarnation of Goddess Durga. In different parts of the country, this festival holds its own unique importance. Like, in states such as West Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat etc, people celebrate this festival in their own special way. Several places such as Maa VaishnoDevi Dham in Katra, Jammu and Maa ShardDevi Dham in Maihar, Madhya Pradesh witness the visit of several thousands of people especially during these days that come for the holy ‘Darshan’ of the incarnations of Goddess Durga.
The nine incarnations of Goddess Durga and their respective days of worship during the festival.
Day of the festival
Tithi (day according to hindu calendar)
About Goddess Durga :-
The Hindu Goddess Durga is considered as the eternal mother, the mother of the whole universe, the supreme deity, the symbol of power ‘Adishakti’. She loves us all equally and saves the whole universe from evils. We, all the creatures in the entire universe, are her children. She is often called as ‘Maa Durga’, where ‘Maa’ is the Hindi word for ‘mother’. Red is considered as her favorite color and so she wears red. Her ride is a tiger or a lion. She has got eight hands and in each, she holds a weapon or equipment. Her equipments are – a sword, bow and arrow, a ‘Shankh’ or conch, a 'Chakra', a 'Trishul', a 'Gada' and a lotus flower. Her eighth hand is always in the posture of giving blessings or Aashirwaad to her children and her beautiful face is always lit up with a caring smile. Goddess Durga is believed to live on hills and that’s why most of the major temples of the incarnations of Goddess Durga are situated at hill tops.
About the festival:-
It is said that during these days, Maa Durga killed all the Asuras or the demons. This festival is in the celebration of that victory of good over evil. In almost every square, street, lane and colony, statues of Goddess Durga are kept under ‘Pandaals’. Throughout the days, these ‘Pandaals’ are filled with visitors who come for the holy ‘Darshan’ and worship of Maa Durga.During these nine days, people make special arrangements for worshipping Maa Durga in their homes too. Especially the women of the family and all others, who are capable of doing so, keep a fast for those nine days, during which they do not consume common salt and anything which is made from grains or ‘Ann’ (but it not at all means that they can eat non-vegetarian food. They can’t even think of doing so!). Some people sleep on bare ground and walk barefooted. All these people keep and worship an ‘Akhandjyoti’ in their houses, which is actually a small flame in a special brass vessel, which is lit up using a thick cotton thread dipped in cow’s milk fat called ‘Ghee’. The Akhandjyoti is very well taken care of that the flame must be kept enlightened because it is believed to empower Maa Durga in her battle against the evil and so, the Akhandjyoti must keep on burning all day and night throughout these nine days. At the eighth day, a ‘Kanyabhoj’ is organized in every house in which nine little girls are invited to the house on a feast. They are believed to have the Swaroop of Maa Durga inside them and so, they are treated with utmost care. At the end of the ninth day, the fast is relieved by consuming anything made with grains and common salt. The ninth day is called the ‘Visarjan’ day, or the day when Maa Durga, after winning her battle against the evil, goes back to her place. All the arrangements made for her worship are displaced.
After this nine-day festival, the tenth day is yet another fest known as ‘Dussehra’ or ‘Vijayadashami’. On this day, during the day time, all the sculptures and statues of Maa Durga that were established during Navaratri in every street, lane and colony, are taken in a rally or ‘Jhanki’. Thousands of people accompany these Jhanki and while on their way to the river, they keep on shouting the ‘Jaykara’ of Maa Durga. After reaching the river, all the sculptures are very carefully submitted to the waves of the river and Maa Durga is waved goodbye, with the hope that she’ll return soon next year. During the evening time, people gather in a ground where a statue of ‘Raavana’ is to be burnt. A fair is organized in the ground by the local bodies and authorities. The Vijayadashami festival is also the symbol of victory of good over evil. This is celebrated in the memory of the killing of ‘Raavana’, thedemon king of ‘Lanka’ by Lord ‘Ram’. This story goes back to the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’ or 'Ramcharitmanas'. In the evening, people (especially the princely Kshatriya and the Rajput clans) clean their weapons and worship them. At midnight, the ten-headed statue of ‘Raavana’ is set on fire in the public ground. This festival is actually the announcement of the upcoming winter and several other Hindu festivals including the grand one – “Diwali”- the festival of lights.
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