Navratra is a Hindu festival that is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga and her nine divine avatars for a period of nine days.
There are four seasonal Navratra. The other two are 'Gupt Navratra' meaning hidden Navratra in English.
Sharada Navratra: the most celebrated of the four Navratra, named after Sharada which means Autumn. It is observed in the lunar month of Ashv in which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. Sharada Navratra, it is the most observed and celebrated in the honour of the divine feminine Devi (Durga).
Chaitra Navratra: the second most celebrated Navratra. Chaitra is the first month of Hindu lunar calendar and because of it , this Navratra is known as Chaitra Navratra. It is observed the lunar month of Chaitra which typically falls in the Gregorian months of March and April.
Magha Navratra: in Magha (January–February), Winter Season. The fifth day of this festival is often independently observed as Vasant Panchami or Basant Panchami, the official start of Spring in the Hindu tradition wherein Goddess Saraswati is revered  through arts, music, writing, kite flying. In some regions, the Hindu God of love, Kama is revered. This is Gupt (hidden) Navratra.
Ashada Navratra: in Ashada (June–July), the start of the monsoon season. This is Gupt(hidden) Navratra.
The exact dates of the festival are determined according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar, and sometimes the festival may be held for a day more or a day less depending on the adjustments for sun and moon movements and the leap year.
The word Navratra is an amalgamation of two words: “Nav” + “Ratra”, which means nine nights in English. Each letter has a meaning :
N = Nav Chetna
A = Akhand Jyoti
V = Vighna Nashak
R = Ratjageshwari
A = Anand Dayi
T = Trikal Darshi
R = Rakhan Karti
A = Anand Mayi Maa
This festival is celebrated throughout India and all over the world with Hindu Community with lots of excitement and joy. Devotees express their gratitude towards Maa Durga, carry out Durga Puja and pray for good health, life and mind
During all these nine nights and ten days, nine different forms of the Goddess are worshipped. It's almost as if we're giving ourselves the time and space to rejuvenate and cleanse from within.
Navadurga – The nine Goddesses worshipped in Navratra
Day 1 – Shailaputri
Day 2 -Brahmacharini
Day 3 - Chandraghanta
Day 4 –Kushmanda
Day 5 – Skandamata
Day 6 - Katyayani
Day 7 - Kalaratri
Day 8 -Mahagauri
Day 9 – Sidhidatri
The importance of each day and the Goddess associated:
● Day 1: Shailputri: Goddess Shailputri, an incarnation of Maa Parvati, is worshipped on this day. In this form, she can be seen sitting on Nandi the bull with a Trishul in her right hand and Lotus flower in her left one. Colour of the day remains Red, which represents courage, vigor and action.
● Day 2: Brahmacharini: On second day of Navratra, Goddess Brahmacharini is worshipped. She is said to be one of the many incarnations of Maa Parvati, the pure one. One worships the Goddess to attain moksha or salvationand peace. Colour of the day remains Blue, which depicts calmness and positive energy. In this form, she can be seen holding a kamandalu and japmala in her hands while walking bare feet.
● Day 3: Chandraghanta: Goddess Chandraghanta is worshipped on the third day of Navratra. The name was derived after Maa Parvati got married to Lord Shiva and adorned a half-moon on her forehead. Yellow, the colour of the day, depicts bravery.
● Day 4: Kushmanda: Goddess Kushmanda is worshipped on the fourth day of Navratra. She can be seen sitting on a Lion with eight hands. She is said to be the one endowing vegetation and greenery on Earth, which is why colour of the day remains Green.
● Day 5: Skandmata: The mother of Lord Kartikeya or Skanda, Goddess Skandamata, is revered on the fifth day. She can be seen having four arms, holding her small baby and riding a fierce lion. She depicts the mutating power of a mother when she realizes her child is in danger. Colour of the day remains Grey.
● Day 6: Katyayani: A violent incarnation of Goddess Durga and daughter to Sage Katya, Goddess Katyayani is worshipped on the sixth day. She represents courage and is seen having four hands and riding a lion. Colour of the day remains Orange.
● Day 7: Kalratri: Maa Kalratri is known to be the ferocious form of Goddess Durga and worshipped on Saptami. Colour of the day remains White. It is believed that Maa Parvati’s fair skin got transformed into Black in order to kill Sumbha and Nisumbha, two demons.
● Day 8: Mahagauri: Maa Mahagauri is worshipped on the eighth day of Navratra and symbolizes peace and intellect. Colour of the day remains Pink, which represents positivity.
● Day 9: Siddhidatri: The ninth day is known to be Navami, and Maa Siddhidatri, also called as Ardhanareeswara, is worshipped. She is said to possess all kinds of Siddhis (Power). She can be seen sitting on a Lotus and has four hands.
Navratra is a very important and major festival in the western states of India: Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka during which the traditional dance of Gujarat called "Garba" is widely performed.
It is a folk dance, where people of different background and skills join and form concentric circles. The circles can grow or shrink, reaching sizes of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, dancing and clapping in circular moves, in their traditional costumes, at the same time. The garba dance sometimes deploys dandiyas (sticks), coordinated movements and striking of sticks between the dancers, and teasing between the genders . Post dancing, the group and the audience socializes and feasts together.
Navratra in Gujarat is one of the state's main festivals. The traditional celebrations include fasting for a day, or partially each of the nine days such as by not eating grains or just taking liquid foods, in remembrance of one of nine aspects of Shakti Goddess. The prayers are dedicated to a symbolic clay pot called garbo, as a remembrance of the womb of the family and universe. The clay pot is lit, and this is believed to represent the one “Atman” (soul, self).
The period of nine days of Navratra is considered to be very holy for Hindus, People wake up and bathe early morning and pray to the Goddess. They perform special Pujas and Havans to welcome Goddess Durga to take shelter in their homes. Offerings in terms of delicious “Bhog” (food made for Goddess) fruits and flowers are also made to
the deity.Devotees also observe ritualistic fasts as a mark of showing their devotion for the Goddess.
People wish for a good life, healthy mind and body, and pray for spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. The Puja rituals are observed for nine days straight[ , with each day signifying the importance of one “Avatar” (incarnation) ofGoddess Durga.
For many people it is a time of religious reflection and fasting; for others it is a time for dancing and feasting. Among fasting customs ar observing a strict vegetarian diet (consumption of alcohol, meat, onion and garlic are strictly prohibited) and abstaining from alcohol and certain spices. Dances performed include Garba, especially in Gujarat.
May the 9 Avatars” (incarnation) of Maa Durga bless you with 9 qualities: Power, Happiness, Humanity, Peace, Knowledge, Devotion, Name, Fame and Health.
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 (the 10th day) Navratra ends.
On the last day of the festival also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidhatri. Sitting on a lotus, she is believed to possess and bestows all types of Siddhis. Here she has four hands. Also known as SriLakshmi Devi.
In the end, Navratra is really about reconnecting with something much bigger than us and these rituals are tools that help us do that. Plus, these nine days have been given to us to rest, rejuvenate and connect with ourselves which, in turn, helps us connect better with our loved ones and celebrate life.Navratrais also a festival for feasting with friends and family.
After ninth day, tenth day is celebrated as Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashmi, which marks the victory of Lord Ram over King Ravana.
The festival also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays, Diwali, the festival of lights, which is celebrated twenty days after the Vijayadashami or Dussehra or Dashain.
Author: Rajeshwari Mewawala
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