Friday, 30 September 2016

Navratri - Goddess Durga festival | Celebrations -Importance

Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of a Hindu deity Shakti ,Goddess Durga,.The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights.During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The 10th day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or "Dussehra."

 It is one of the important Hindu festivals. It is dedicated to the worship of the deity of Power. Like other festivals of India, Navratri also has a significance and meaning attached to it. Each day of the nine-day festival are dedicated to the worship of different forms of Goddess Durga, which unfolds the religious importance of the occasion. It comes twice on a year, once around March-April and the second time, around September-October. The nine days and nights of Navratri are entirely devoted to Mother Goddess. Throughout this period, fasts, strictly vegetarian diets, japa (chanting mantras in honor of the Goddess Shakti), religious hymns, prayer, meditation and recitation of sacred texts related to Devi Maa (Mother Goddess) form the order of the day. The festival is celebrated with true devotion and purity all over the country. People from various sections of the society irrespective of caste and creed celebrate this festival by visiting temples and offering pujas at the Mother’s feet.
According to the Hindu calendar, Navratri begins from the first day of the bright fortnight of Ashwin which usually coincides with the end of the rainy season.The nine days have great religious significance as Goddess Durga, the divine mother, had destroyed the evil force (in the form of the demon Mahishasura) during this period.
Significance of Navratri
The First Three Days of Navratri
The first three days of Navratri are devoted to the worship of the Goddess Durga. This is the period, when her energy and power are worshipped. Each day is dedicated to a different appearance of Durga. Kumari, which signifies the girl child, is worshipped on the first day of the festival. Parvati, who is the embodiment of a young woman, is worshipped on the second day. The destructive aspects of Goddess Durga symbolize the commitment to acquire triumph over all the evil tendencies. Hence, on the third day of Navratri, Goddess Kali is worshipped, who represents the woman who has reached the stage of maturity.
Fourth to Sixth Days of NavratriWhen a person acquires triumph over evil tendencies of ego, anger, lust and other animal instincts, he/she experiences a void. This void is filled with spiritual wealth. For the purpose, the person approaches Goddess Lakshmi, to acquire all the materialistic, spiritual wealth and prosperity. This is the reason why the fourth, fifth and sixth day of Navratri are dedicated to the worship of Lakshmi - the goddess of prosperity and peace.
Although the individual has acquired victory over evil tendencies and wealth, he is still deprived of true knowledge. Knowledge is required to live the life of a humane, even though he/she is prospered with power and wealth. Therefore, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped on the fifth day of Navratri. All the books and other literature materials are gathered in one place and a 'diya' (earthen lamp) is lit in front of the deity, to invoke the goddess and seek her blessings. Till the time the books are kept at the puja room, the students would not study.
Seventh and Eighth Day of Navratri
The seventh day is dedicated to worshipping Saraswati, the goddess of art and knowledge. Prayers are offered with an aim to seek spiritual knowledge. A 'yagna' is performed on the eight day. This comprises of a sacrifice honoring goddess Durga as well as bids her farewell. The sacrifice or offering is made out of clarified butter (ghee), rice pudding known as kheer and sesame seeds.
Ninth Day of NavratriThe ninth day is the final day of Navratri celebrations. It is also known as 'Mahanavami'. On the day, Kanya puja is performed to worship nine young girls, who have not yet reached the stage of puberty. These nine girls symbolize one of the nine forms of goddess Durga. The feet of girls are washed to welcome the goddess and show respect to her. The girls are offered a set of new clothes as a gift from the devotees at the end of the puja.

Navaratri Celebrations

During Navratri, Bengalis in India worship huge idols of the Goddess, perform devotional songs and dances and finally take out grand processions on the tenth day, when the idols are immersed in water. The last four days of the festival are most important for them. People worship pre-pubescent young girls, known as 'kanyas', as the embodiments of Goddess Durga. 'Ayudha Puja' is performed on the ninth day, where one worships the tools, implements of their livelihood and places it on the altar of the Goddess for her blessings of success and prosperity. Even children place their study books and writing tools on the altar and the families spend whole day in contemplation of the Goddess. On the tenth day of Dussehra, devotees perform 'Saraswati Puja' for blessings of knowledge and mental peace. During Navratri, thousands of devotees visit Dakshineswar Kali Temple in Kolkota, West Bengal

In Gujarat, Navratri is a community event, where people perform devotional songs and dances that are popular by the names of 'Dandiya Raas' and 'Garba Raas', and observe Jaagran (waking through the night), to please the Goddess. Amba Mata Temple at Junagarh, Gujarat, is a favorite pilgrim for devotees, during Navratri. Here, painted earthen pots are used to represent the Goddess and Garba dances are performed by the Gujarati women around those pots, in circles. The pots are valued as the abode of the Goddess. The Rasa has its origin in the life scenes of Lord Krishna and is associated with the agricultural rites, while Garba is performed only by men and is related with the agricultural fertility.

In Maharashtra, Goddess Durga is worshipped continuously for nine days of Navratri. On the tenth day, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped and on this day, school-going children worship the tantrik symbol of the goddess for her blessing in their studies. This day is also considered auspicious to begin any new thing or to buy new ornaments. Puja is performed on each day of Navratri and devotees offer the flower garland to the idol or image of the goddess Durga.
In Kashmir, Hindu minorities of Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Navratri. People generally observe fast for nine days and stay on water and fruits or eat the food specifically made for the fast, only in the evening. They usually visit the temple of their guardian goddess Kheer Bhawani, on all nine days of Navratri. Aarti is held on the last day of Navratri at the temple and it is only after which, people break their fast. Many devotees also go to the mountain cave of the Vaishno Devi Temple, during Navratri.
In Kerala, there is a tradition of beginning of formal education for every child aged 3-5 years on the auspicious occasion of Durga Puja. On Ashtami, according to the custom, tools are not used and are worshiped on this day. Goddess Saraswati is honored by worshiping the books and records at home, on Navami. Thousands of devotees visit Saraswati temple at Kottayam, during Navratri, to take a dip in the mysterious holy pond. People also visit the famous temples at Thekkegram (Palghat).
Mysore, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh
In Mysore, Chamundi, the royal deity of the Mysore royalty is worshipped during Navratri, with pomp and pageantry. There is a magnificent procession of elephants, horses, chariots and costumed attendants on the tenth day, when Maharaja goes to worship the hilltop temple of the goddess. In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, women arrange 'Bommai Kolu', a special placing of dolls decorated with flowers and ornaments on specially prepared steps. Nine young 'kanyas' or virgins are offered new clothes and sweets. The married women share flowers, kumkum and snacks among themselves. Thus, Navratri is celebrated in almost every region of India, with little difference.

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