What is Navratri? What do these nine days of festivities mean?

Hinduism’s nine most holy days, Navratri is much more than just symbolism and spirituality

Navratri in India

Hinduism regards Navratri or the nine (Nau) days as the most sacred days. The festival celebrates Durga’s victory over the demon, Mahishasura, after an intense battle that lasted for nine days and nights. A unique aspect of Hinduism, is Navratri, in which God is worshipped as Mother (Maa), it is the only religion in the world, in fact, that emphasizes the motherhood of God to this extent.

Women lead the festival, as it is a festivity of feminine qualities such as dance, decoration, art, and music. It is celebrated diversely in India’s various regions—for some, it’s a period of meditation and fasting, and for others, it’s a time for feasting, dancing, and colorful celebration.

The festival’s nine nights are dedicated to the divine feminine form, Shakti and her avatars. Offerings and rituals are dedicated to these avatars, as well as to their individual aspects.

The Nine Nights of Navratri are essentially divided into three sections of three nights each.

The first three nights are dedicated to Durga, the warrior princess.

Durga Ma

Durga Ma

To destroy and cleanse away all our baggage at the very beginning. The goddess was created by Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva who were unable to overcome this demon individually. Durga symbolizes the collective power of the three, and is thus, greater than all of them.

The Second three nights are dedicated to Lakshmi.

Lakshmi poster

Hindu goddess of wealth

To fill ourselves with wealth, not riches. The wealth of fortune, virtues and character. She is the wife of Vishnu, and over the course of history has taken many avatars.

The last three nights are dedicated to Saraswati.

Saraswati – Goddess of Learning

Divine Mother Goddess Saraswati with her Veena, Vedas and other sacred embellishments

To imbibe the understanding of knowledge and arts. She sits on a goose of pure white, and holds veena, vedas and other sacred embellishments. Students and artists of all kinds pay respects to her.

Navratri Practices across regions

Sowing of wheat seeds on the onset or the very first day of the festival in a terracotta pot which is watered for nine days. At the end of this period, seeds sprout and become long which are worshiped for the duration of the festival. This ritual is known as “Khetri” and fertility is worshipped.

Kanya Puja, which usually falls on the eighth day, also known as Asthmi. During ashtmi celebrations, nine young girls are worshipped as the nine goddesses and are honored with ritual washing of their feet and offerings of food (Puri, Chana & Halwa) and clothing.

Also, Durga, particularly, is celebrated for her aforementioned victory during the three days and on the final day of the celebration, they are taken in processions to nearby rivers for immersion in water. Durga Puja often takes the form of community celebrations that brings people together from all communities for dances and nightly feasts.

Starting a new venture on the last day of this festival is said to be most blessed, and so it happens to be the time of new beginnings. The essence of the festival, though, is triumph — over evil, over bad fortune, and over hardships. It represents a removing all that holds a person back, and an embrace the personal power to move forward and enjoy life.

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Written by Nishant Awasthi

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