Navratri is a very important Hindu festival celebrated in India, which is devoted to Goddess Durga. The festival is celebrated with great reverence and faith across the country. It stretches over a period of nine days, with each of the nine days being dedicated to one of the nine forms of the Goddess. Talking about the history of Navratri festival, it can be explained through the stories mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. In case you want to know more about them, explore the information given below
History & Origin Of Navratri
In different parts of India, different legends describe the history of Navratri:
The legend in North India goes that Mahishasura, the mighty demon, worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained the power of eternity. Soon, he started killing and harassing innocent people and set out to win all the three lokas. The gods in swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva, to find a way to get rid of the demon. To protect the world from the atrocities of Mahishasura, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine female warrior, known as Goddess Durga. Mahishasura, when he saw the divine beauty of Goddess Durga, got mesmerized.
So fascinated was Mahishasura by Goddess Durga’s beauty that he approached her with the intention of marriage. The goddess agreed to marry him, but put forth a condition – Mahishasura would have to win over her in a battle. Mahishasura, proud as he was, agreed immediately! The battle continued for 9 nights and at the end of the ninth night, Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. The nine nights came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijayadashmi, the tenth day that brought the triumph of good over evil.
As per the legend prevalent in East India, Daksha, the king of the Himalayas, had a beautiful and virtuous daughter called Uma. She wished to marry Lord Shiva, since her childhood. In order to win over the Lord, she worshipped him and managed to please him as well. When Shiva finally came to marry her, the tiger-skin clad groom displeased Daksha and he broke off all the relationships with his daughter and son-in-law. One fine day, Daksha organized a yagna, but did not invite Lord Shiva for the same.
Uma got so angry at her father’s rude behavior, towards her husband, that she decided to end her life by jumping into the agnikund of the yagna, where she was united with eternity (since then, she came to be known as Sati). However, she took re-birth and again won Shiva as her groom and peace was restored. It is believed that since then, Uma comes every year with Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati and Laxmi and two of her best friends or ‘sakhis’, called Jaya and Bijaya, to visit her parent’s home during Navratri.
Another Legend – Ram and Ravana
Yet another legend of Navratri relates to the Hindu epic Ramayana. It goes that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in nine aspects, for nine days, in order to gather the strength and power to kill Ravana. He wanted to release Sita from the clutches of powerful demon king Ravana, who had abducted her. Those nine nights became to be known as Navratri and the tenth day, on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, came to be called Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, signifying Rama’s (good) triumph over Ravana (evil).
How Navratri is Celebrated in Different Regions……
The Navratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashwin. The festival is celebrated for nine nights once every year during the beginning of October, although as the dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar, the festival may be held for a day more or a day less.
Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. In North India, all three Navratris are celebrated with much fervor by fasting on all nine days and worshipping the Mother Goddess in her different forms. The Chaitra Navratriculmintes in Ram Navami and the Sharad Navratri culminates in Durga Puja and Dussehra. The Dussehra of Kulu in Himachal Pradesh is particularly famous in the North.
The last four days of Sharad Navratri take on a particularly dramatic form in the state of West Bengal in East India where they are celebrated as Durga Puja. This is the biggest festival of the year in this state. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahisasura are set up in temples and other places. These idols are then worshipped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day.
In Western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba dance. It is also popular throughout India and among Indian communities around the world including UK and USA.
In south India, people set up steps and place idols on them.This is known as golu. Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses.
First three days
The goddess is invoked as a spiritual force called Durga also known as kali in order to destroy all our impurities.
Second three days
The Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth, as she is the goddess of wealth.
Final three days
The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the goddess of wisdom, Sarasvati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.
In South India, Sarasvati pooja is performed on the 7th day. Eight day is traditionally Durgashtami which is big in Bengal. The 9th day is Ayudha Pooja when everyone gives their tools of the trade — pens, machinery, books, automobiles, school work, etc. a rest and ritually worships them. They start a fresh from the next day, the 10th day which is considered as ‘Vijaya Dashami’. Many teachers/Schools in south India start teaching Kindergarten children from that day onwards. Students also pay homage to their respective teachers as they are considered the third god (Maathaa, Pitha, Guru, Daivam – Mother, Father, Teacher & God). On this tenth day of Navratri in October – the holiday of Dussehra or Dasara, an effigy of Ravana is burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil.
During Navratri, some devotees of Durga observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and prosperity. A period of introspection and purification, Navratri is traditionally an auspicious and religious time for starting new ventures.
During this vowed religious observance, a pot is installed (ghatasthapana) at a sanctified place at home. A lamp is kept lit in the pot for nine days. The pot symbolizes the universe. The uninterrupted lit lamp is the medium through which we worship the effulgent Adishakti, i.e. Sree Durgadevi. During Navratri, the principle of Sree Durgadevi is more active in the atmosphere.
Navratri is celebrated in a large number of Indian communities. The mother goddess is said to appear in 9 forms, and each one is worshipped for a day. These nine forms signify various traits that the goddess influences us with. The Devi Mahatmya and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are cited.
During the eight or ninth day, Kanya Poojan, where virgin girls who have not attained puberty are worshipped, occurs.