Navratri, which literally means “nine nights”, is a festival celebrated over nine nights. It is one of the most auspicious festivals celebrated by people in India. During this period the Mother Goddess is honoured in all her divine forms, including Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Festivity continues for 10 days as after nine nights of Navratri, the tenth day is Dussehra.
Navratri is celebrated twice a year and coincides with the change in season. The first Navratri of the year falls in the month of March or April and is known as “Chaitra Navratri”. The second Navratri of the year usually falls either in September or October and is called “Sharad Navratri”. The eighth day of Chaitra Navratri is known as “Ashtami” and the ninth day is called “Ram Navmi”. .
Devotees of the mother Goddess observe a fast for nine days, though some observe it for only two days. During the fast, one is to abstain from normal foodgrain, but one can have fruits, milk, tea, coffee, potatoes and one meal of sago food preparations, such as kuttu atta and special rice. Instead of regular table salt, sendha salt or rock salt is used for cooking.
Navratri Puja begins with prayers that are offered to the Goddess Durga. A puja thali (plate) containing five fruits is kept in front of the Goddess. Along with this, devotees also light an oil lamp with pure ghee which keeps on burning day and night for nine days. Morning and evening prayers are a must and one must stay at home to check that the oil lamp is burning. On the last day of the Navratri, which is observed either on the eighth or ninth day (depending upon the belief system) dry black channa, halwa and puri are prepared and given to at least seven little girls. The devotees then break their fast.
Why Navratri is Celebrated?
There are many interesting legends behind the celebration of Navratri.
According to one legend, there was a powerful Demon called Mahishasura, who by worshiping Lord Shiva got the power of eternity, which means he became immortal and could not be killed by any weapon. Because of this boon, he started killing innocent people on the Earth. Devi Durga was born to kill this demon. She was created by Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and all these Gods gave their powers to create Shakti, the divine feminine form of power and strength. Goddess Durga fought with the demon Mahishasura for nine days and on the tenth day she beheaded the demon. The battle between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura are symbolic of the nine days of Navratri.
It is also believed that Lord Rama worshipped all the nine forms of Goddess Durga before he killed Ravana. Lord Rama worshiped the Goddess for nine days to gain all her powers. During Sharad Navratri, which falls in autumn every year, the tenth day on which Lord Rama defeated and killed Ravana is known as Vijaya Dashmi or Dusshera.
There is another legend behing the celebration of Navratri, the legend of Goddess Sati. It is believed that the daughter of King Daksha, Uma, got married to Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father. One day King Daksha held a big yagna and for this event every God had been invited, except for Lord Shiva. Uma’s father spoke ill about Lord Shiva when she visited them for the Yagna and since she was not able to bear the insults directed at her husband, she jumped into the fire of the agnikund. This is the reason behind her name, Sati. Sati was then reborn and married to Lord Shiva, she also pacified her parents. The nine days for which Sati stayed at her parents’ home are known as Navratri.
Food Eaten During Navratri:
- Fried or boiled potatoes
- Kadhi prepared with Kuttu Atta and Sendha salt
- Aloo tikki
- Banana chips
- Makhane ki sabzi
- Fruits and fruit juices
- Sabudana kheer
- Kuttu atta roti with Kaddu sabzi or aloo sabzi
Happy Navratri to all of you.
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