One of the greatest specialty of Hindu Religion – It is a religion which offers the most number of festivals.
Yes, festivity is the second name to Hindu Religion.
It’s colorful, and grand festivals have made India “A Land of Festivals.”
One such auspicious festival which is celebrated throughout India is “Navratri.”
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The meaning of Navratri
Navratri which means “Nine Nights” is celebrated to honor the Mother Goddess Durga.
Throughout this period, Mother Goddess Durga is worshiped in all of her divine forms including Goddess Durga, Goddess Kali, Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Lakshmi.
It is one of the most significant Hindu Festivals which is celebrated twice a year.
One at the onset of summer in March or April which is known as “Chaitra Navratri.”
The second Navratri is celebrated in September or October and is known as “Sharad Navratri.”
Why is Navratri Celebrated?
There are spiritual, natural and mythological reasons why we celebrate Navratri for nine days and twice every year.
Navratris are celebrated at the juncture of seasonal changes. One at the beginning of summer and other at the beginning of winter.
At these seasonal junctures, Mother Nature undergoes a major change, and that is welcomed through the Navratris by celebrating Goddess Shakti, who is an embodiment of Nature itself.
Both the Navratris witness temperate weather conditions which is just perfect for big celebrations.
In Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Rama started the tradition of celebrating Navratri just before winter.
He performed Durga Puja before he left for Lanka and returned victoriously.
In both of these Navratri’s devotees invoke Mother Goddess Durga who represents the Supreme Energy of the Universe.
She is the inherent energy which propels the work of creation, preservation, and destruction.
The meaning of “Durga” is one who removes miseries.
People worship her with full devotion so that Goddess Durga can remove miseries from their lives and fill their lives with happiness, joy, and prosperity.
Why is Navratri Celebrated for Nine Days?
We worship various forms of Goddess Durga on Navratri with full devotion and dedication.
Navratri honors the three essential aspects of the Supreme Mother Goddess Durga in the form of Kali, Lakshmi, and Saraswati.
On the first three days, the Goddess is worshiped in the form of Kali who is the destroyer of all our impurities.
In the next three days, we adore Goddess Mother in the form of Lakshmi who is considered as the giver of inexhaustible wealth.
In the last three days, the Goddess is worshipped in the form of Saraswati, the giver of knowledge and wisdom.
The eighth day of the festival is popularly celebrated as “Ashtami” and the ninth day as “Maha Navmi” and even as “Ram Navmi” on Chaitra Navratri.
During the Navratri festival, people worship all nine avatars of Goddess Durga.
The nine avatars or forms of Mother Durga are known as Mata Shailputri, Mata Brahmacharini, Mata Chandraghanta, Mata Kushmanda, Maa Skanda Mata, Maa Katyayani, Mata Kalratri, Mata Maha Gauri, and Mata Siddhidatri.
- Mata Shailputri is worshipped on the first day of Navratri.
- Maa Brahmacharini is worshipped on the second of Navratri.
- Mata Chandraghanta is worshipped on the third of Navratri.
- Maa Kushmanda is worshipped on the fourth day of Navratri.
- Mata Skanda Mata is worshipped on the fifth day of Navratri.
- Maa Katyayani is worshipped on the sixth day of Navratri.
- Mata Kalratri is worshipped on the seventh day of Navratri.
- Maa Maha Gauri is worshipped on the on the eighth day of Navratri.
- Mata Siddhidatri is worshipped on the ninth day of Navratri.
Legends of Navratri
There are various legends attached with the celebration of Navratri.
According to one popular legend, there was an immensely powerful Demon with the name Mahishasura.
With the blessings of Lord Shiva, he became immortal, and no weapon can kill him.
He then started killing innocent people on the Earth. Goddess Durga was born to kill this evil demon.
Lord Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and all the other Devas combined powers created the Goddess Durga.
There was an intense war between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura for nine days, and on the tenth day, The Goddess beheaded the Demon.
The nine days of Navratri symbolizes the battle between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura.
According to another legend, Lord Rama worshipped all the nine forms of Goddess Durga to gain her blessings for killing the Demon Ravana.
He worshipped the Goddess for nine days. The tenth day of the Sharad Navratri on which Lord Rama defeated and killed Ravana, we celebrate this day as Dussehra or Vijay Dashmi.
The Hindu festival of Navratri is celebrated for 9 (nine) full days in almost every part of India. The Navratri festival honors and celebrates Maa Durga.
The festival chiefly celebrates the victory of good over evil wherein Devi Durga defeats and overpowers the buffalo demon in the form of Mahisasura.
The festival is also closely linked to the victory of Lord Rama over demon King Ravana.
In all the nine days of Navratri, nine different forms of Devi Durga are worshipped which are Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahaguari, and Siddhidatri.
Herein, we describe the stories related to each of these Goddesses.
Navratri Story of Mata Shailputri
We worship Ma Shailputri on the first day of Navratri.
She is also known as the daughter of Parvat Raaj (God of Mountains) Himalaya. She is also known as Parvati.
She is married to Lord Shiva and has two sons namely Ganesha and Kartikeya.
Her earlier incarnation was in the form of Sati.
Sati was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati.
Sati went against the wishes of her father Daksha and married Shiva. In fact, Daksha did not like Lord Shiva and considered him a dirty ascetic.
One day Daksha organized a grand Yagna and invited all the Gods.
However, he purposely did not invite Shiva and Sati to insult them.
In spite of all this, Sati wanted to attend the ceremony.
Lord Shiva requested Sati not to attend the Yagna ceremony.
But Sati attended the ceremony, all by herself.
King Daksha and all the other relatives were unhappy to see her except her mother, Prasuti.
Moreover, Daksha went on to insult Lord Shiva in the presence of all the guests.
Sati was not able to tolerate all this un-welcome behavior of her father.
She felt extreme grief and jumped into the sacrificial fire and immolated her.
When Shiva heard the news of Sati’s self-immolation, he became furiously angry and invoked his fearful form Veerbhadra to destroy Daksha.
Shiva carried the corpse of Sati after her death.
The body parts of Sati fell at various places in India and came to be known as Shakti Peethas. There are 52 Shakti Peethas in India.
In her next birth, Devi Sati was born as Shailputri, the daughter of God of Mountains.
The belief is that she is the embodiment of Shakti. She is married to Lord Shiva. She rides a bull (Nandi) and carries a trident and lotus in her hands.
Navratri Story of Mata Brahmacharini
Mata Brahmacharini is one of the nine avatars of Goddess Durga.
We worship Maa Brahmacharini on the second day of Navratri. Ma Brahmacharini is an embodiment of tapa or penance.
In fact, the name Brahmacharini is made up of two words – Brahma meaning tapa or penance and Charini meaning an ardent female follower.
After Sati immolated herself, she took birth as the daughter of Parvat Raaj, Himalaya, as Parvati.
When Parvati grew up, Sage Narad happened to visit her.
He told Parvati that she could marry Lord Shiva who happened to be her husband from the previous birth.
She was required to follow the path of penance.
Parvati was determined to marry Shiva.
She followed an immensely difficult regime of penance and devotion for several thousands of years.
She earned the name Brahmacharini or Tapascharini meaning one who follows the path of Tapa.
Mata Brahmacharini continued her penance without food and water for many years. Her body became extremely weak and fragile.
Finally, Lord Brahma appeared before Parvati and blessed her that she would have Lord Shiva as her husband in this birth.
Later Lord Shiva married Parvati.
Ma Brahmacharini holds a rosary in her right hand and a Kamandalu in her left hand.
Ma Brahmacharini is an embodiment of tapas, devotion, solitude, and restraint. She blesses devotees with peace, prosperity, happiness, and nobility.
Navratri Story of Maa Chandraghanta
Maa Chandraghanta is worshiped on the third day of Navratri.
She is an avatar of Goddess Durga. The crescent moon is decorated on her forehead.
In her next incarnation, Sati took birth as Parvati.
She undertook extreme penance to get Lord Shiva as her consort.
Seeing the resolve of Parvati, Lord Shiva agrees to marry her.
Lord Shiva took the most terrorizing form for the marriage and came with the strangest marriage procession.
His body was smeared with ash. He had matted locks of unkempt hair.
There were snakes around his neck. There were ghosts, ascetics, ganas, ghouls, and agoras in his marriage procession.
Everybody was in a state of shock.
Parvati took the terrorizing form of Chandraghanta.
She had golden complexion and possessed ten arms.
She wielded different weapons in nine of her hands and blessed her devotees with the tenth hand.
Her vehicle is a lion.
In the form of Chandraghanta, she prayed to Lord Shiva to take the form of a handsome prince and transform the marriage procession into a noble one.
Lord Shiva agreed to this request and reappeared as a charming prince dressed in jewels and ornaments.
The marriage ceremony completed according to the custom.
We celebrate the day of their marriage as Maha Shivratri.
Ma Chandraghanta eradicates all the sins, distresses, mental tribulations, ghostly hurdles, and physical sufferings of the devotees.
She is a kind and compassionate mother who showers love, peace, and prosperity on her devotees.
By worshiping Goddess Chandraghanta, one can achieve success in every part of the life.
Navratri Story of Maa Kushmanda
Maa Kushmanda is known as the Smiling Goddess. She is an avatar of Adi Shakti and worshiped on the fourth day of Navratri.
Her name is composed of three distinct words. The first word is “Ku.” The second word is “Ushma.” And the third word is “Anda.” “Ku” means little. “Ushma” means energy. “Anda” means egg.
So, Kushmanda means the creator of the little cosmic egg.
In fact, Goddess Kushmanda is the happy manifestation of the goddess. Maa Kushmanda produced the Universe with her smile.
She is the source of all the energy in the Universe. She is the core of the Sun and provides direction to Surya, the Sun God.
Navratri Story of Maa Skandamata
We worship Maa Skandamata on the fifth day of Navratri.
She is the fifth avatar of Goddess Durga.
She is the mother of Kartikeya.
So, Skandamata is another form of Parvati.
She holds Kartikeya is one hand and blesses devotees with the other. She rides a lion and sits on a lotus.
Kartikeya overpowered and killed the fearsome demon Tarakasura.
Worshiping Skandamata one is blessed with peace, prosperity, and salvation.
Navratri Story of Maa Katyayani
Ma Katyayani is the sixth avatar of Goddess Durga.
We worship her on the sixth day of Navratri.
She has four hands.
Mata Katyayani holds a long sword and a lotus.
She blesses the devotes and protects them from all evils.
Maa Katyayani took birth as the daughter of Sage Katyayan and so she named as Katyayani.
Goddess Katyayani was born as a fighter to end the sins committed by the demons.
Different Gods gifted her lots of weapons to kill Mahisasura.
Her vehicle is a lion.
There was a fierce battle between Ma Katyayani and Mahisasura. Maa Katyayani defeated Mahisasura and cut off his head with a sword.
Navratri Story of Maa Kaalratri
Maa Kaalratri is worshiped on the seventh day of Navratri.
She is the Goddess who dispels darkness and ends with ignorance.
Kaalratri is the most terrorizing form of Goddess Durga.
She is dark in complexion with untied hair.
Mata Kaalratri has four hands.
She carries a scimitar and a thunderbolt in two of her hands. The other two hands are used for ‘giving’ and ‘protecting.’
She has three eyes and breathes out flames from her nostrils.
Her mount is a donkey.
Ma Kaalratri always brings auspicious results for her devotees.
Ma Kaalratri overpowered and killed the demon Raktbeej.
Thus, Ma Kaalratri destroys evil-doers and ends all cruelty.
She removes sorrow from the lives of the devotees.
Navratri Story of Maa Mahagauri
The incarnation of Mata Mahagauri is worshiped on the eighth day of Navratri.
She has four arms and carries a trident and damaru. She is the Goddess of kindness and morality. Her mount is a white bull. She is said to be nine years old.
After killing all the demons, the skin of Parvati turned dark. Lord Shiva nicknamed her as ‘Kali.’
Parvati wanted to regain her fair skin. So, she did severe penance and prayed to Brahma. Pleased, Brahma advised Parvati to take a dip in the Holy Mansarovar River.
Parvati did as told by Brahma and regained her white complexion and beauty. She came to be known as Mahaguari meaning extremely fair.
Navratri Story of Maa Siddhidatri
Maa Siddhidatri is regarded as the ninth avatar of Goddess Durga.
She is the giver of supernatural power or meditative ability. Maa Siddhidatri is worshiped on the ninth day of Navratri.
Maa Siddhidatri fulfills all the divine aspirations of her devotees. She removes ignorance and provides the divine light of knowledge to realize the Supreme Brahman.
She blesses her devotees with abundance. Mata fulfills all the desires of her devotees.
She is portrayed as sitting on a lotus. Mata Siddhidatri has four-arms. She holds a mace, Shankha, lotus, and Sudarshan Chakra. She wears a divine garland around her neck. The lion is her main vehicle.
The Devas (Gods), Siddhas, Yakshas, Gandharvas, and Asura worship her.
It is said that the Supreme Goddess of Power, the Adi Shakti is the left half of Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Siddhidatri.
Maa Siddhidatri grants success and powers. She protects devotees from diseases and fears. Goddess Siddhidatri is the dispeller of pains of whosoever takes refuge in her.
She is the empress of the whole Universe. Siddhidatri is the very source of creation.
According to Durga Saptashati, Maa Siddhidatri overpowered the great demon Shumbha.
The Goddess took her trident and pierced his chest. This mighty attack killed Shumbha. With the death of the demon, the world became happy and stable again.
The basic theme behind the nine-day long Navratri festival is the victory of Good over Evil. There are primarily two legendary stories which form the basis of the history of this divine Indian festival.
The first story is from the Northern and Western parts of the country.
It is the story of Lord Ram who overpowered the demon king Ravana, the one who had abducted his wife, Sita.
The nine days of Navratri witness the recital and enactment of the epic ‘Ramayana.’
On the tenth day, there is the final fight between Rama and Ravana. Rama kills the ten-headed Ravana by shooting an arrow in his navel.
It was the source of Ravana’s power, and he dies.
The Ramlila concludes with the killing of Ravana and this day is known as Dussehra.
The celebration concludes with the burning of effigies of Ravana, Meghanatha, and Kumbhakarna.
The second story is mainly from the Eastern states of India. It is related to Goddess Durga.
Goddess Durga defeated and killed the demon Mahisasura.
Her success is celebrated every year through Durga Pooja.
The story is described in the epic “Devi Mahatmya.”
The Southern States in India observe the Navratri festival by worshiping different goddesses. They celebrate their victory.
How is Navratri Celebrated?
Navratri Festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm throughout India. It is celebrated in different ways in different parts of India.
In North India, Navratri is celebrated with much devotion by fasting on all nine days accompanied with worshipping the Mother Goddess in all her nine forms.
The Chaitra Navratri concludes in Ram Navami, and the Sharad Navratri concludes in Durga Pooja and Dussehra.
All temples are specially decorated with flowers and adorned with ornaments.
In Uttar Pradesh and other northern states, nine days fair are organized where people come in large numbers.
The Kullu Dussehra of Himachal Pradesh is particularly famous in the northern part of India.
In Western India especially in Gujarat and Mumbai people celebrate the festival with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Raas dance.
“Navratri Festival Celebrations” are organized by Government of Gujarat to mark the Navratri Festival.
People from different parts of India as well as abroad come to participate in the nine-day celebration.
In Maharashtra, “Ghatasthapana” is celebrated where ladies perform elaborate rituals and cultural traditions. Kaali, Lakshmi and Saraswati Pujan are also held by many families.
In South, people set up steps and place idols on them which is known as “Golu.”
Elaborate Puja ceremonies are performed, and the Goddess is worshipped with all devotion and dedication.
The Utsava Murthy is decorated, and Vedic offerings are performed followed by Chandi Yagna (Homa).
Ayudha Puja is also performed where people worship implements which are used in daily life such as utensils, kitchen tools, vehicles, books, and computers.
Goddess Durga blessings are invoked for success in coming years. People start new ventures and purchase new household items on these festive days of Navratri.
In the East, Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja which is the biggest festival of the Bengalis.
People observe fast and worship all the nine forms of Goddess Durga especially Kaali, Lakshmi, and Saraswati.
Puja Pandals are organized from the seventh day of the Navratri fill the tenth day where big idols of Goddess Durga are placed and worshipped.
People sing, dance and celebrate the festival with great joy, and enthusiasm.
Other Rituals during Navratri
Although rituals and modes of performing Puja differ from region to region but generally a Puja Thali (Plate) is kept in front of Goddess Durga.
It usually contains five fruits, flowers, and an oil lamp with pure Ghee.
This oil lamp is kept burning on all the nine days of the Navratri Festival.
Aarti (Devotional Song dedicated to the Goddess) is sung, mantras are chanted, and prayers are performed in the mornings and evenings throughout the Navratri Festival.
On the last day, devotees break their fast. ‘Kanya Pujan’ is performed in which nine little girls are worshiped with great devotion.
These nine girls represent the nine incarnations of the Divine Mother Goddess. They are offered Prasad and new set of clothes by the devotees.
Mantra for invoking Goddess Durga
“Yaa Devi Sarya Bhuteshu Shakti Rooperna Sanstitha. Namastasyei, Namastasyei, Namastasyei Namoh Namah!!”
All-in-all, Navratri has the status of being one of the foremost festivals of India which is celebrated to honor Goddess Shakti or Durga– the Cosmic Power of God.