Thursday, 19 September 2013

Navratri – The Festival of Nine Divine Nights and its Significance

What is Navratri Festival:
"Nava-ratri" literally means "nine nights." This festival is basically observed twice a year, once in the beginning of summer and again at the onset of winter though it comes five times in a year but we generally celebrate the above said two times. 

Navratri is the sacred and joyous festival of the Hindu community of India. Observed over a period of nine nights, the festival is famous almost throughout the country for its religious and social importance. It is devoted to the worship of the divine Mother in various forms under different names by different people.

Like any other Hindu festival, Navratri has a spiritual message for its observers. This nine-day festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil and exhorts mankind to wake up from the slumber of ignorance, remove all negativities, purify the mind and cultivate positive virtues. This alone can help one gain the necessary spiritual knowledge to transcend all earthly limitations and achieve salvation - the highest goal of human life. This in fact, is the underlying theme of the whole of the Vedas (the ancient Hindu religious texts).

'Nav' means 'nine' and 'ratri' means 'night'. Thus, 'Navratri' means 'nine nights'. There are many legends attached to the conception of Navratri like all Indian festivals. All of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of Hindu calendar, it holds special significance for Gujratis and Bengalis and one can see it in the zeal and fervor of the people with which they indulge in the festive activities of the season. Dandiya and Garba Rass are the highlights of the festival in Gujarat, while farmer sow seeds and thank the Goddess for her blessings and pray for better yield. In older times, Navratri was associated with the fertility of Mother Earth who feed us as her children.

There are different pujas and ceremonies performed on each of the nine days, most notably is fasting on the eighth day and then the immersion of Goddess Durga’s image in holy rivers on Dusshera, which falls on the day right after Navratri ends (the 10th day).

Indian tradition is one of the few traditions in which the Feminine aspect of the divine is worshipped with as much reverence as the Masculine aspect. Throughout India you will see thousands of temples dedicated to various manifestations of the Divine Mother. You will find hundreds of thousands of people who are “Shakti worshippers.”

durga-hindu-goddess
Significance of Navratri:
During Navaratri, we invoke the energy aspect of God in the form of the universal mother, commonly referred to as "Durga," which literally means the remover of miseries of life. She is also referred to as "Devi" (goddess) or "Shakti" (energy or power). It is this energy, which helps God to proceed with the work of creation, preservation and destruction.

In other words, you can say that God is motionless, absolutely changeless, and the Divine Mother Durga, does everything. Truly speaking, our worship of Shakti re-confirms the scientific theory that energy is imperishable. It cannot be created or destroyed. It is always there.

navdurga
The festival signifies the nine glorious aspects of the Divine Mother and is celebrated not only in India but in many parts of the world. Mother Goddess is also called Shakti, the energy of God. She is the energy of the trinity, as the creative aspect of Lord Brahma, sustaining aspect of Lord Vishnu and destructive aspect of Lord Shiva are all encompassed within Her.

Why Worship the Mother Goddess:
We think this energy is only a form of the Divine Mother, who is the mother of all, and all of us are her children. "Why mother; why not father?", you may ask. Let me just say that we believe that God's glory, his cosmic energy, his greatness and supremacy can best be depicted as the motherhood aspect of God. Just as a child finds all these qualities in his or her mother, similarly, all of us look upon God as mother.

In fact, Hinduism is the only religion in the world, which gives so much importance to the mother aspect of God because we believe that mother is the creative aspect of the absolute.

According to one story, Goddess Parvati went to her father's house to stay there for few days. On this occasion, to express love to her, King Himachal the father of Parvatiji announced celebration of her welcome as a festival. She started her journey on 1st day of full moon of Ashwin month, and she stayed at father's house for 3 days, i.e. 7th, 8th and 9th day of full moon of Ashwin month. And then she returned back. That's why last three days of Navratri are most important days for her worship.

Navratri Festival According to Devi Puran :
According to Devi Puran, during the battle of Lord Ram and Demon King Ravana, Lord Brahma as a Guru of Lord Ram awakened the Mother Goddess during her time of sleeping. It was 8th day of waning moon of Ashwin month. Goddess Durga wake up and stated the procedure of her worship during Navratri. She said that a devotee should awake her on 8th day (or ninth day with combination of Ardra Nakshatra) of waning moon of Ashwin month. He has to perform all general worship daily.

When Navratri starts from 1st day of waxing moon of Ashwin month, then he should do special worship for nine days, i.e. upto 9th day of waxing moon of Ashwin month. A devotee who perform this special worship during nine days of Navratri, and celebrated it as a festival, he becomes free from all bondages and gets all prosperity. In Navratri, Lord Ram worshipped her and successfully killed the Demon King Ravana on 10th day.

Navratri Festival According to Durga Saptashati :
Navratri Festival celebration is described by Goddess Durga in Durga Saptashati Granth. After killing Demon Kings Shumbh and Nishumbh, all deities praised Goddess Durga. Goddess Durga pleased and asked Deities to get a boon. Deities said, "O Mother Goddess! Please always remove our all obstacles and enemies like this to establish peace everywhere." Mother Goddess gave them this boon and said about her worship during Navratri Festival. She said that, a devotee must do her annual worship during Navratri, i.e. from 1st day of waxing moon of Ashwin month to 9th day of waxing moon of Ashwin month.

By doing so, She please as much as she please with worship for continuous one year, perfectly following methodology of her worship. By Celebrating Navratri Festival, she is so pleased that she removes all obstacles in life, protects everywhere, all enemies give up their enmity, a devotee doesn't has to suffer separation of his/her loved ones, gets all kinds of prosperity and finally goes to her adobe after leaving body.

One more scientific reason behind Navratri Festival is that it the new harvesting season. So farmers pray Earth as Mother Goddess to give good crop for the whole year.

When Navratri is Celebrated:
Navratri and Navratri Festival, these are two different things. According to Hindu Calendar, Navratri comes 5 times in a year, while two out of those five Navratris are celebrated as festivals, which comes in Ashwin month and Chaitra month. Five Navratris are as follows :
  • Chaitra Navratri : Chaitra Navratri comes in Chaitra month according to Hindu Calendar. This Navratri is also known as Vasanti Navratri because of the season Vasant (Spring, in month March-April). Chaitra Navratri is celebrated from 1st day of waxing moon to 9th day of waxing moon of Chaitra Month. This Navratri is celebrated as Navratri Festival. On it's 9th day, birthday of Lord Ram is celebrated. This Navratri is also known as Bodhan Navratri, because Goddess is awakened at this time.
  • Ashadi Gupta (Secret) Navratri : Ashadi Navratri is Gupta or Secret Navratri in which saadhak (devotee) perform very special rituals to attain some siddhi. Generally, this Navratri is not for all common people. Ashadi Navratri starts from 1st day of waxing moon of Ashad month and ends on 9th day of waxing moon of Ashad month (June-July month).
  • Shardiya Navratri : Shardiya Navratri is celebrated as annual festival. Shrdiya Navratri comes in Ashwin month, Sharad Ritu (Autumn season). This Navratri starts from 1st day of waxing moon of Ashwin month and ends on 9th day of waxing moon of Ashwin Month. It is also known as Shayan Navratri, because this the time of sleeping of Mother Goddess.
  • Paush Navratri : Paush navratri is also known as Shakambhari Navratri, dedicated to Goddess Shakambhari. This Navratri starts from 8th day of waxing moon of Paush month and ends on 15th day of waxing moon (poornima) of Paush month.
  • Magha Gupta Navratri : Magha Navratri is Gupta Navratri. This Navratri starts from 1st day of waxing moon of Magha month and ends on 9th day of waxing moon of Magha month. Similar to Ahsadi Navratri it is for all. Sadhak do special worship to attain Siddhis.
Why Celebrated Twice in A Year:
Every year the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter are two very important junctures of climatic change and solar influence. These two junctions have been chosen as the sacred opportunities for the worship of the divine power because:

  1. We believe that it is the divine power that provides energy for the earth to move around the sun, causing the changes in the outer nature and that this divine power must be thanked for maintaining the correct balance of the universe.
  2. Due to the changes in the nature, the bodies and minds of people undergo a considerable change, and hence, we worship the divine power to bestow upon all of us enough potent powers to maintain our physical and mental balance. 

 Why Nine Nights and Days :
Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to adore different aspects of the supreme goddess. On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects.

The next 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 the inexhaustible wealth.

The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother; hence, the worship for nine nights.

How is Navratri Festival Celebrated:
Navaratri festival celebration begins with the rituals of “Ghata Sthapana or installing Kalash of Holy Water”. On Navratri, all Durga (forms of Durga) temples are decorated beautifully with flowers, petals, leaves etc and kalash is installed near idol of Goddess Durga. Idols of Goddess Durga are decorated with beautiful ornaments, flowers etc.

Special Aartis and other devotional songs with love and devotion are sung by groups of devotees. On Navratri, all people at their home, worship Goddess Durga. All people start the Navratri festival with Ghat Sthapna at thier homes. Then devotees offers flowers, lamp, sweets, sacred water etc. to please Goddess Durga. Devotees keep fast during Navratri. They eat only one time for nine days.

There are Nine forms of Goddess Durga, that a devotee worships during Navratri. According to Hindu Mythology the Nine forms are:
  • First Day            : Shailputri
  • Second Day       : Brahmcharini
  • Third Day          : Chandraghanta
  • Fourth Day        : Kushmanda
  • Fifth Day            : Skandhmata
  • Sixth Day           : Katyayani
  • Seventh Day     : Kalratri
  • Eighth Day        : Mahagauri
  • Ninth Day          : Siddhidatri
nava-durga-omshivashakti-wordpress
Nine forms of Goddess Durga
The nine days of the festival also represent the three stages through which one passes on the spiritual path. During the first three days, the Goddess Dugra is worshipped in her powerful, destructive, terrifying aspect. Many people, when beginning the spiritual path, have an inherent fear of God; therefore this first phase of Navaratri represents the first stage of a spiritual path. 

During these three days, the devotee prays to the Mother to use Her destructive power to destroy his imperfections and his faults. He prays for Her to make him pure enough to receive the divine energy. Additionally, this terrifying aspect of the Divine is the one who protects the new spiritual seeker on his path. Thus, the first three days of Navratri are devoted to annihilating the negative tendencies of our minds and hearts.

The second three days of Navaratri are days in which the Mother is worshipped in Her prosperity-bestowing form.  Once the negative tendencies have been annihilated, one is ready to begin developing a positive, spiritual personality. These are the days that positive attributes replace the negative attributes which were removed. 

These days are the worship of Goddess Maha Lakshmi, the bestower of prosperity.  On the spiritual path, after people overcome the fear of God, they frequently pray for material wealth or external prosperity. They pray for success in their ventures and for the removal of obstructions in their path. The prosperity Maha Laxmi bestows is not merely material prosperity, but it is also all of the qualities which a sincere spiritual seeker craves - calmness, peace, equanimity, compassion, love.

During the last three days, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped as the bestower of true wisdom and understanding. Once the devotee has been purified by Goddess Durga and has had his vices annihilated, and once he has had the spiritual wealth of inner peace, calmness, compassion and love bestowed upon him by Maha Laxmi, then he is ready to receive the true light of understanding. This wisdom can not come unless the devotee has passed through the first two stages. Just as one would not pour divine nectar into an unclean, broken and impure cup, one can similarly not expect to have divine wisdom granted unless the vessel has been purified and made divine.

During Navratri, the Rasa (dance of joy) of Shree Krishna and the Gopis is also enacted. This dance symbolizes the dance of Realisation which represents the joy and happiness of the mind that becomes purer and calmer due to a greater understanding of the nature of the Inner Self.

The Ninth day of Navaratri is celebrated as Ayudha pooja which has a special significance. It is held to be the time when the Pandava brothers retrieved their weapons that they had stashed in a Shami tree during the last year of their 13 year exile. On this day, all articles that are used for progress and prosperity of mankind are worshipped. People worship their work-tools, household appliances and their vehicles on this day.

The festival concludes in Dusshera or Vijayadasami. According to popular belief, Dussehra celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the wicked demon Mahishasura who, according to legend, belonged to Mysore. It is also believed that the festival actually commemorates the killing of the great demon king of Lanka, Ravan, by Lord Rama. Both Mahishasura and Ravan are demons and their execution is a symbol of the destruction of the evil that resides within our mind. Navaratri represents the triumph of good over evil.


Goddess Durga Maa Photo                                                 Goddess Durga Killing The Demon Mahishasura
Conclusion:
Navarati should be a time of not only celebrating Goddess Durga’s triumph over the evil demon, but rather it should also be a time of praying to Goddess Durga to remove the evil from within us, not only the evil in the external world. We must pray to her to annihilate our inner enemies — our ego, our greed, our anger — just as she vanquished the evil demon.  These traits inside us are just as powerful, just as insidious, and just as deadly as any of the asuras or demons.

Let us note also that Goddess Durga wears red, which symbolizes divine action. The Goddess is never idle. She is always busy in the destruction of evil in the world. As we vow to remove the evil from our own hearts and our own lives, we must be just as vigilant, just as active and just as conscientious.   We must never become complacent; for anger, greed, ego, and lust are always present, always lurking, and always ready to make home in welcoming hearts.

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  2. Sharad navratri is the main navratri celebrated.Devotees offer durga pooja during this navratri. Prasing durga on the special occasion helps to eradicate all the evil things around us. Maa durga who safeguard her devotees from all the struggles. To know more about navratri puja

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