Even as the magic of the ten-day Ganesh festival has not lost its fervour, people are charged again with the most famous and hugely celebrated festival called 'Navratri.' This festival occurs in the month of Ashwin and in September or October. It is a nine-day festival that celebrates nine different forms of Maa Durga. It ends on the tenth day which is celebrated as Dusara or Dussehra. This religious day is observed to commemorate the supreme divine power of Goddess Shakti.

Navratri Festival

The nine days of Navratri which means nine nights in Sanskrit is admired with complete devotion and purity by all the Hindus in India. This grand festival is equally participated and enjoyed by other communities as well. Throughout these nine days, lots of activities are witnessed in the form of worship and dance. The Garba and Dandiya held at this time is a craze among youngsters and kids. Even the elders enjoy themselves by watching children attired in traditional clothes and dancing to the tune of music.

Significance of Navrati

The nine days are celebrated in admiration of Maa Durga's shakti. As she is an incarnation of the Trinity, each form is worshipped in very three days. Starting with the worship of Goddess Shakti, the initial three days are celebrated to worship the goddess in her three different stages of womanhood - Kumari, Parvati and Kali. This represents the three different stages of a woman - child, young girl and mature woman. Maa Durga is also an incarnation of Maa Lakshi and as such she is worshipped in the form of the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity for the next three days. She is also adorned for the last three days as Goddess Saraswati to seek her blessings for knowledge.

In short, Navrati is the festival of shakti, prosperity, and knowledge. According to the Hindu Purana, there was once a buffalo-headed demon named Mahishasura. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva who bestows him with immense power. The demon capitalized the blessings from Shiva to kill innocent people and spread his kingdom from earth to heaven. To stop his tyranny, Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu created a divine power in the form to Ma Durga, the goddess of Shakti or Power. With all the power of the Trinity, Maa Durga declared a war against the demon. Since the demon has already been blessed with invincible power, the battle went on for nine days. Finally, after a hard and long battle, Maa Durga kills the demon on the tenth day. Hence, this victory is commemorated with nine-day festival.

Navratri Celebration

Though Navratri comes twice in a year, the one which is celebrated during the Dusshera time is very important and loving festival of the country. These nine days which are to celebrate Maa Durga's victory over Mahishasura is a grand festival in India. People observe fast and strict diet to avoid any wrong thoughts and feelings creeping in mind. Every morning and evening, regular bhajans and prayers are held at home from the day one.

This festival is not only confined within homes. In fact, it is a social gathering where different sects come together and enjoy the dance and other social activities. Mandals erect huge and decorative pandals. Skilled artisans start preparing big statues of Maa Durga much in advance. People purchase these idols and bring it to their home on the first day of Navratri. Mandals decorate chariot and take out processions to welcome the goddess of shakti.

Many follow the custom of planting barley seeds in their homes. After cleaning the place, devotees place a small wooden platform to rest the idol. After that, a medium-size platter filled with earth is arranged before the idol in which raw seeds are strewn on it. Then a few drops of water are sprinkled on it. A coconut is wrapped in a red thread and placed on lentil leaves and betel nuts near the idol by etching a read Swastik mark on it. Prayers and flower garland along with prasad is offered to the deity every morning and evening.

During these nine days, Dandiya and Garba competitions are organized in which young boys and girls participate in groups. Dandiya is played with two sticks and Garba is traditionally the Gujrati dance form played with bare hands. Both these dance forms start from evening 7 pm and go on till midnight. However, for the safety purposes, the local authority does not allow pandals to carry on music after 10 pm.

Besides Gujrati, Navratri is famous in Rajasthan, Mysore, Mumbai, Calcutta and many states in India. In Bengal, it is celebrated as Durga Puja. As this festival also commemorates Lord Ram's victory over Ravana, the last day of Navratri is observed as Dusshera. People also pay heed towards social cause since they believe doing charity during the festive period brings good luck.