The word “Navaratri” is a conjunction of two words “nava” (meaning “nine”) and “ratri” (meaning “night”). Spread over 9 nights and 10 days, it is one of the most sacred festivals in Hinduism where we worship Goddess Durga or Shakti, which represents the energy of the universe, in her 9 beautiful forms with great reverence.
Theoretically, there are four seasonal Navratri. However, in practice, it is the post-monsoon autumn festival called Sharada Navratri that is the most observed in the honor of the divine feminine Devi (Durga). The festival is celebrated in the bright half of the Hindu calendar month Ashvin, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October.
In the eastern and northeastern states of India, the Durga Puja is synonymous with Navratri, wherein goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon to help restore Dharmam. In the northern and western states, the festival is synonymous with “Rama Lila” and Dussehra that celebrates the battle and victory of god Rama over the demon king Ravana. In southern states, the victory of different goddesses, of Rama or Saraswati is celebrated. 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 Mahatmya.
Dates and celebrations
According to some Hindu texts such as the Shakta and Vaishnava Puranas, Navaratri theoretically falls twice or four times a year. Of these, the Sharada Navaratri near autumn equinox (September-October) is the most celebrated, and the Vasanta Navaratri near spring equinox (March-April) is next most significant to the culture of Indian subcontinent. In all cases, Navaratri falls in the bright half of the Hindu luni-solar months. The celebrations vary by region, leaving much to the creativity and preferences of the Hindu.
- Sharada Navaratri: the most celebrated of the four navaratris, named after sharada which means autumn. It is observed the lunar month of Ashvin (post-monsoon, September–October). In many regions the festival falls after autumn harvest, and in others during harvest.
- Vasanta Navaratri: the second most celebrated, named after vasanta which means spring. It is observed the lunar month of Chaitra (post-winter, March–April). In many regions the festival falls after spring harvest, and in others during harvest.
The other two navratris are observed regionally or by individuals:
- Magha Navaratri: in Magha (January–February), winter season. The fifth day of this festival is often independently observed as Vasant Panchamior 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.
- Ashada Navaratri: in Ashadha (June–July), start of the monsoon season.
The Sharada Navratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvini. The festival is celebrated for nine nights once every year during this month, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. The exact dates of the festival are determined according to the Hindu luni-solar 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.
Significance of Each Day
Day 1: Shailaputri
Known as Pratipada, this day is associated to Shailaputri (literally “Daughter of Mountain”), an incarnation of Parvati. It is in this form that the Goddess is worshiped as the consort of Shiva; she is depicted as riding the bull, Nandi, with a trishula in her right hand and lotus in her left. Shailaputri is considered to be the direct incarnation of Mahakali. The color of the day is red, which depicts action and vigor.
Day 2: Brahmcharini
On Dwitiya, Goddess Brahmcharini, another incarnation of Parvati, is worshiped. In this form, Parvati became Sati, her unmarried self. Brahmcharini is worshiped for emancipation or moksha and endowment of peace and prosperity. Depicted as walking bare feet and holding a japamala and kamandalu in her hands, she symbolizes bliss and calm. The color of the day is Royal Blue which depicts calmness-cum-energy.
Day 3: Chandraghanta
Tritiya commemorates the worship of Chandraghanta – the name derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvati adorned her forehead with half-chandra(lit. moon). She is the embodiment of beauty and is also symbolic of bravery, and hence, the color of the day is yellow.
Day 4: Kushmunda
Goddess Kushmunda is worshiped on Chaturthi. Believed to be the creative power of universe, Kushmunda is associated to the endowment of vegetation on earth and hence, the color of the day is Green. She is depicted as having eight arms and sits on a Tiger .
Day 5: Skandmata
Skandamata, the goddess worshiped on Panchami, is the mother of Skand(or Kartikeya). The color grey is symbolic of the transforming strength of a mother when her child is confronted with danger. She is depicted riding a ferocious lion, having four arms, and holding her baby.
Day 6: Katyayani
Born to a sage, Katya, she is an incarnation of Durga and is shown to exhibit courage which is symbolized by the color Orange. Known as the warrior goddess, she is considered one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. In this avatar, the Devi rides a lion and has four hands.
Day 7: Kalratri
Considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga, Kalaratri is revered on Saptmi. It is believed that Parvati removed her fair skin to kill the demons Sumbh and Nisumbh. The color of the day is white. Her skin turns black.
Day 8: Mahagauri
Mahagauri symbolizes intelligence and peace. The color associated to this day is Pink which depicts optimism.
Day 9: Sidhidatri
On the last day of the festival also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidaatri(Ardanareeswara). Sitting on a lotus, she is believed to possess and bestows all type of Siddhis. Here she has four hands. Also known as Saraswati Devi.
While there are four seasonal Navratris, Sharad Navratri, the one observed post-monsoon, is considered the most auspicious. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated in the month of Ashvin, that generally falls in September and October. This year the festival will be celebrated from October 10 to October 18.