NAVARATRI (SAMYA MUKHERJEE)
Navaratri is a Hindu festival that spans nine nights and ten days. Navaratri commences on the first day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month and ends with the celebrations on the tenth day of the fortnight (‘Dashami’). The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar and may have some slight regional variation. The festival is associated to the prominent battle that took place between Devi Durga and demon Mahishasura as well as the battle between Lord Rama and demon Ravana. Thus, the significance of Navaratri lies in the fact on the victory of ‘good’ over ‘evil’ and above all these auspicious nights are all about embracing the spirit of joy and oneness, and leaving behind all that is limiting and hindering our growth as spiritual being. Navaratri is considered to be the period for connecting the individual consciousness with the divine and auspicious collective consciousness.
The word ‘Navaratri’ is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Nava’ meaning nine and ‘Ratri’ meaning night. These nine days of Navaratri are solely dedicated to Goddess Durga and Her nine avatars – ‘the Navadurga’. Each day is associated to an incarnation of the goddess. The festival is also known as ‘Nauratan’ or ‘Navaratan’ or ‘Nauratri’. The festival is related to ‘Dussehra’, ‘Dashain’ and is observed by the Hindus. The celebration continues for 10 days, being featured in the ‘Shaktism’ tradition of Hindu religion. The observances of this festival are stage-setting, chanting of the scriptures of the Hinduism, plays, dramas, fasting, puja, image-immersion or bonfire. The nine days are also a major crop seasonal cultural event such as competitive design and staging of the pandals, family-visit to pandals as well as the public celebration of the classical and folk dances of Hindu culture. During Navaratri, non-vegetarian foods must be avoided. Besides having garlic, onion and alcohol are also not considered to be good. The Hindu-devotees celebrate Navaratri by fasting. Devotees who are observing the fast should avoid getting a haircut, cutting nails and doing shave during Navaratri. But fasting is not the correct way to please Devi Durga during Navaratri. Holy Bhagavad Gita has also denied fasting. It is clearly mentioned in Holy Bhagavad Gita at 16th shloka in the 6th chapter – “Yog Sadhana is not successful for those who sleep too much or don’t sleep, not for those who eat too much or do not eat at all (fasting)”. That is the reason for not getting the true fruits of worship. On the final day (Vijayadashami or Dussehra) - the statues are either immersed in a water-body or alternatively the statue symbolizing the evil is burnt with the fire-works, marking the destruction of the evil. The festival also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays ‘Diwali’ (the festival of light, which is celebrated 20 days after the ‘Vijayadashami’ or ‘Dussehra’ or ‘Dashain’). Any marriage ceremony is also forbidden during the days of Navaratri. Actually, Navaratri is considered as a festival of purity and worship of the Goddess. At the same time, during these nine days we worship 9 forms of Goddess and during this time, fasting is done by the devotees only for mental and physical purity.
Navaratri is observed for different reasons and is celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian cultural sphere but mostly important in Gujrat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Karnataka. In the eastern and the north-eastern states of India, the Durga puja is synonymnous with Navaratri wherein Goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon for restoring the Dharma. In the northern and western states, the festival is synonymnous with ‘Ram-leela’ and ‘Dussehra’, that celebrates the battle and victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana. In southern states, the victory of different goddess of Rama or Saraswati is celebrated. The programme ‘Ram-leela is celebrated by retelling the stories of Ramayana and ending in Dussehra , where effigies of Ravana are set on fire to signify Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana. In all cases the common theme is the battle and victory of ‘Good’ over ‘Evil’, based on a regionally famous epic or legend such as ‘The Ramayana’ or ‘The Devi Mahatyam’. Navaratri is actually celebrated twice in a year.
On each night of Navaratri, nine respective forms of Goddess Durga is worshipped. Here are the names as follows :
Day 1 : Devi Shailaputri;
Day 2 : Devi Brahmacharini;
Day 3 : Devi Chandraghanta
Day 4 : Devi Kushmanda
Day 5 : Devi Skandamata
Day 6 : Devi Katyayani
Day 7 : Devi Kalaratri
Day 8 : Devi Mahagaura
Day 9 : Devi Siddhidatri
Description of the nine forms of ‘Navadurga’
1) SHAILAPUTRI : Shailaputri literally means the daughter (putri) of the mountain (shaila). After performing the self-immolation in Her form as Sati, the mother Goddess took birth in the house of the ‘king of mountains’, as the daughter of Lord Himalaya – also known as Sati, Bhavani, Parvati or Hemavati. She is the absolute form of the mother nature and the embodiment of the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva. She is worshipped on the first day of Navaratri. Devi Shailaputri is depicted with two hands and has a crescent moon on Her forehead. She holds a trident in Her right hand and a lotus flower in the left hand. Devi Shailaputri rides on a bull (Nandi). Moon is the governing planet of Devi Shailaputri. Devi is prayed with the mantra – “Om Devi Shailaputrai Namah”.
2) BRAHMACHARINI : ‘Brahma’ means - the oneself existent spirit, the absolute reality, universal self, personal god, the sacred knowledge. ‘Charini’ means – occupation with, engaging, proceeding, behaviour, conduct, to follow, moving within, going after. She is the goddess of ascetism and penance, as Her name is the female equivalent of one who practices Brahmacharya. Brahmacharini is the Mother Goddess born unto Prajapati Daksha as His daughter Sati and later married to Lord Shiva. This is Her unmarried form. Her other names are Parvati, Aparna, Uma, Patlabati. She is worshipped on the second day of Navaratri. Devi Brahmacharini walks on bare-feet, carrying a japa-mala in Her right hand and a kamandulu in Her left hand. Mars is the governing planet of Devi Brahmacharini. Devi is prayed with the mantra - “Om Devi Brahmachariniyai Namah”.
3) CHANDRAGHANTA : Chandraghanta is made up of the words ‘Chandra’ meaning moon and ‘Ghanta’ meaning bell. Devi Chandraghanta is a powerful form of the mother goddess. She adorns Her forehead with a half-moon, shaped like a bell, which explains the origin of Her name. She is the Goddess who inspires courage in a person and is always ready for the war against demons. When provoked, she can be malevolent to those who invite her wrath, but She remains the embodiment of serenity to Her followers. Devi Chandraghanta is worshipped on the third day of Navaratri. Goddess Chandraghanta mounts on a tigress. She wears the semi-circular moon (Chandra) on Her forehead, looks like a bell (ghanta) and hence, Her name. Devi Chandraghanta is depicted with ten hands. Goddess Chandraghanta carries trishul , gada, sword, and kamandulu in Her left-sided hands and keeps the fifth left hand in Varadamudra. Devi Chandraghanta carries a lotus flower, arrow, danush and japa-mala in Her four right hands and keeps the fifth right hand in Abhaya Mudra. This form of Mother Goddess is always ready for war with all Her weapons, to protect the peace and welfare of Her devotees. It is believed that the sound of the moon-bell on Her forehead drives all types of evil away from Her devotees. Venus is the governing planet of Devi Chandraghanta. Devi Chandraghanta is worshipped with the mantra – “Om Devi Chandraghantayi Namah”.
4) KUSHMANDA : ‘Ku’ means a little , ‘Ushma’ means warmth or energy and ‘Anda’ is taken from the last three words of the Sanskrit word ‘Brahmanad’ which means the Universe. After taking the form of Siddhidatri, the Mother Goddess began to live inside the Sun, resulting in liberation of the Sun’s energy to the universe. Since then, this form of the Goddess has been known as ‘Kushmanda’, namely for Her power and capability to live inside the Sun. The glow and radiance of Her body is as luminous as that of the sun. Devi Kushmanda is worshipped on the fourth day of Navaratri. Devi resides on a lioness and has eight hands. She holds a kamandulu, dhanush, bada and kamal in Her right hands. Her left hands hold ‘amrita-kalash’ (pot of nectar), japa mala (prayer beads), Gada and Chakra- in that order. The goddess created the universe in the flash of Her smile and is believed to bestow siddhis (supernatural powers) and niddhis (wealth) to Her devotees. She is the avatar of Parvati. Sun is the governing planet of Devi Kushmanda. Devi Kushmanda is worshipped with the mantra - “Om Devi Kushmandayai Namah”.
5) SKANDAMATA : Devi Skanadamata is the mother of the war-god Skanda (kartikeya). Goddess Skandamata mounts the ferocious lion. She is also recognised as ‘The Goddess of Fire’. She carries baby Skanda (Kartikeya) on Her lap. Lord Skanda (also known as Kartikeya or Lord Murungan) is the brother of Lord Ganesha. Goddess Skandamata is depicted with four hands. She carries the lotus-flowers in Her two upper hands. She holds baby Skanda in right hand and keeps the left hand in Abhayamudra. She sits on a lotus flower and because of that, She is also known as Goddess Padmasana. The devotees who worship this form of Mother Goddess get the added benefit of blessings of Lord Skanda, the God of War (also known as Kartikeya). Mercury is the governing planet of Devi Skandamata. Devi Skandamata is worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri. Devi is worshipped with the mantra – “Om Devi Skandamatayi Namah”.
6) KATYAYANI : To destroy the demon Mahishasura, Devi Parvati was incarnated as the daughter of sage Katyayana, and help the devatas. She is known for Her anger, venegeeance and ultimate victory over the demons. She will bestow boons upon those who worship and revere Her with a pure heart if She is pleased. Devi Katyayani is worshipped on the sixth day of Navaratri. Goddess Katyayani rides on a magnificient lion and is depicted with four hands. She carries a lotus flower and sword in Her left hands and keeps Her right hands in Abhayamudra and Varadramudras. Jupiter is the governing body of Devi Katyayani. Devi Katyayani is worshipped with the mantra – “Om Devi Katyayani Namah”.
7) KALARATRI : This is the fiercest and the most ferocious form of The Mother Goddess, in which Parvati manifests to destroy the demons Sumbha and Nisumbha. Kalaratri, meaning the night of death (death-night). All time, light, emotions, life forms and others all blend into Her. She is the death of time and is also greater than Kala (time ) Himself. Her complexion is dark black and She rides on a donkey. She is depicted with four hands. Her right hands are in Abhayamudra and Varadamudra. She carries a sword and deadly iron hook in Her left hands. Devi Kalaratri is worshipped on the seventh day of Navaratri. Saturn is the governing planet of Devi Kalaratri. Devi is worshipped with the mantra – “Om Devi Kalaratrayi Namah”.
8) MAHAGAURI : Mahagauri is known as the goddess of purity and cleanliness. She is known as Devi Mahagauri due to Her extremely fair complexion. The man who pleases Her, by Her grace, all of His flaws, faults and mistakes will be burnt to ashes and He will be redeemed. She carries a tambourine or Damaru in one left hand and depicts the Varadamudra or kamandulu in Her other left hand. Devi Mahagauri is known as the forgiving goddess and forgives sinners and purifies them. Devi Mahagauri is worshipped on the 8th day of Navaratri. Rahu is the governing planet of this Goddess. Devi Mahagauri is worshipped with the mantra – “Om Devi Mahagauryai Namah”.
9) SIDDHIDATRI : In the beginning of the universe , Lord Rudra worshipped the unmanifested form of the Mother Goddess. Adi Parashakti, the Mother Goddess had no form, She thus appeared as Siddhidatri and from the left half of Lord Shiva. Goddess Siddhidatri sits on a lotus or rides on a tiger or lion. She is depicted with four hands. She has gada in the one right hand, a chakram in the other right hand, a lotus in the left hand and a shankha in the other left hand. Devi Siddhidatri bestows all types of siddhi to Her devotees and hence is worshipped by the human being, ghandarvas, asuras and devas alike. Devi Siddhidatri is worshipped on the 9th day of Navaratri. Ketu is the governing planet of Devi Siddhidatri. Devi Siddhidatri is worshipped with the mantra – “Om Devi Siddhidatrayai Namah”.
Four different types of Navaratri: There are four types of Navaratri festival, that happen in India throughout the year –
1) Vasanta Navaratri : Vasanta Navaratri falls on the Bengali month of ‘Chaitra’ (March - April, according to Gregorian calendar). It marks the starting of new year in Hindu lunar calendar. It is observed during the waxing phase (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Chaitra.
2) Ashad Navaratri : This Navaratri is observed during Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) of Asadha month (June – July).
3) Sharad Navaratri : This is the most important of the navaratris, which is celebrated from the ‘Pratipada’ (first day) of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the lunar month of Ashwin. It marks the beginning of winter (September – October) and is called ‘Maha-Navaratri’ or simply Navaratri.
4) Pausha Navaratri : This Navaratri is observed during Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) in the month of Pausha (December – January).
The two primary navaratris are at the beginning of summer and at the beginning of winter. The two navaratris are the two important junctures of the climatic change.
Navaratri and the day-light : Earth does not orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23.5 deegres. A pole star or polar star is a star preferably bright, closely aligned to the axis of the rotation of the earth. Two solstices occur annually, around June 21 and December 21. The seasons of the year are determined by the reference to both the solstices and the equinoxes. Scientists have known that the humans and the other mammals have an internal clock that governs our sleep-wake cycles among other daily functions. Light resets this internal clock, so our bodies are in synch with the time of day. Light provides us with non-visual cues that influence things like our pupil-dilation, alertness, melatonin levels and modulation of the heart-rate. Light receptors in the retina of the eyes used to reset our circadian rhythms. Navaratri is the period, when our circadian rhythms and other biological cycles going to readjust and change. Fasting and meditation during this period purifies the chakras and the naris in the body.
Navaratri and the colours : One of the major rituals among many is the ritual of Navaratri colour. Navaratri is a festivity of nine days and is denoted by different colours for each day. For nine days, nine different colours are adopted during the festival of Navaratri – the colours are as follows :
Day 1 : Grey
Day 2 : Orange
Day 3 : White
Day 4 : Red
Day 5 : Royal blue
Day 6 : Yellow
Day 7 : Green
Day 8 : Purple
Day 9 : Peacock green
Thus, Navaratri is celebrated with extreme zeal, passion, colour and enthusiasm by the devotees. The nine different colours mentioned above are held out on nine different days of Navaratri to worship Goddess Durga.
Three cycles of purification in nine days : There are three purification cycles during the nine days of Navaratri. Each cycle is symbolically divided into three cycles of three nights –
Cycle 1 : The first cycle is represented by Goddess Durga, symbolizing purification, taking place mostly in the physical world. This is connected with the physical body and the vital energy within the body. Fasting during this period purifies the physical body and the vital energy in the body.
Cycle 2 : The second cycle is symbolized by Goddess Lakshmi and promotes the purification of our emotions. This period is connected with subtle body or the astral body. Fasting and meditation during this period removes the emotional knots.
Cycle 3 : The third cycle is under Goddess Saraswati. This is primarily linked to the purification of our mind at the deepest level. It helps us to detach ourselves from our false beliefs, which limit us in our perception and prevents us to open ourselves to the recognition of the depth of the ‘Self’. This is connected with the purification of the mental and causal or spiritual body.
Prayer and Divine cosmic ‘self’ : Navaratri is the most suitable occasion for doing intense prayer and spiritual practices. Prayer during this period enlarge our heart until it is capable containing the grace and blessings of the ‘divine energy of love’. It is difficult to pray if we do not know how to pray, but we must help ourselves to pray. Essence of prayer is that it will not make us weak or dependent on anything. We are all praying to our ‘divine cosmic self’. Goddess Durga is our ‘divine cosmic self’. By prayer, we are expanding our divinity across the whole universe. The first means is to adore ‘the divine power of Goddess Durga in silence’. The second means is to remember ‘the essential presence of the divine energy’. The third means is to celebrate and chant ‘the mantra of Devi Durga – the divine cosmic self’.
Awakening of nine chakras : Navaratri is the time to awaken, integrate and harmonize the nine chakras in the mind-body and the spirit- system. Out of the nine chakras of our body, the seven chakras are inside the body and other two chakras are outside the body. Chakras are known as the ‘energy-centre’ or ‘energy-vortexes’. Each of the nine energy-centres line up along the central vertical axis of the human body. The nine chakras are associated with the nine divine power and consciousness. Navaratri is the time to integrate and harmonize the internal energy-centres with the external energy-centres. We must learn the laws of chakra grounding, closing, opening, balancing and connecting. We should not go to crowded locations or any locations with negative energies with open chakras.
Scientific analysis on Navaratri : From the context of Social Science, Navaratri is the period of mixing with people, creating new relationships and reviving the old relationships with new vitality. Our hormones regulates our physiological activities and maintains Homeostasis in the body. During Navaratri, our hormonal and inner transformations take place in different way, which affects different biological cycles. Awareness meditations about our biological cycles during this period can help us to de-clutter the mind and removes all mental toxins like fear, anger, hatred, addiction, attachment, anxiety and depressions. Celebration and meditation during the nine consecutive nights of Navaratri bring joy, bliss, happiness and fulfilment in an easy and natural way without much effort. The scientific reason behind fasting during Navaratri is to detoxify one’s body. By eating light for a week, one is supposed to give a little rest to the digestive system. Nutritionist Dr. Claire told, “Fasting allows the gut to cleanse and strengthens its lining”.
Navaratri starts when the season changes. Change in the seasons has different effects on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. The divine power controls the movement of celestial bodies. It makes the Earth to rotate and revolve around the Sun; causing day and night as well as the climatic changes; creating a perfect abode for sustaining life. Hence, this energy is worshipped as ‘M