India is a country rich with culture, religion and traditions. Every week or two, Indians get the unmatched opportunity to celebrate a festival in style and rejoice along with their loved ones. India is also a case in point for unity in diversity as here one can easily find a Hindu celebrating Eid, a Christian celebrating Diwali or a Muslim rejoicing on Christmas. Indians are all set and gearing up to have some more fun and celebrate as the much awaited Navratri festival is almost upon us.
Nav’ means ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ stands for ‘night’, therefore, ‘Navratri’ literally means ‘nine nights’. There are plenty of legends attached to the inception of Navratri like all other Indian festivals. Almost all of them are directly related to the divine Goddess Shakti i.e. Hindu Mother Goddess and her various other forms. Navratri is one of the most celebrated festivals of the Hindu calendar, it holds very special significance for Gujratis and Bengalis amongst others and one can see it in the fervor and zeal of the people with which they indulge in during the festive activities of the season. Colourful and brilliant Dandiya and Garba Rass are the key highlights of the festival in Gujarat, while the hardworking farmers sow seeds and thank the almighty Goddess for her blessings and pray for better a yield any and every time. In older times, Navratri was mainly associated and related with the fertility of Mother Earth who feeds one and all, all over the world as her very own children.
The initial three days of Navratri are dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga dressed in a magnificent red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations – Kumari, Parvati and Kali – are worshipped during these 9 days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood i.e. the child, the young girl and the mature woman. The next 3 days are fully dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, dressed in pretty gold and mounted on an owl and finally, the last 3 are dedicated in honour of Goddess Saraswati who is dressed in a milky white dress and mounted on a pure white swan. Delicious sweets are prepared for the celebrations. Adults and children dress up in new bright-coloured dresses for various night performances.
A few communities religiously undergo rigorous fasts during this season which lasts for nine days of the Navratri fest. The festival concludes on Mahanavami. On this day, Kanya Puja is performed where nine young girls, representing the nine divine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed with water as a mark of respect to the Goddess and subsequently they are offered new clothes and sweets as gifts by the worshipers. This ritual is performed in almost every part of the country. With commercialization setting in, the festival has moved on to become a social festival rather than merely a religious one. However, nothing whatsoever can dampen the spirit of devout followers of the Goddess Durga, as they sing aloud devotional songs and indulge in celebrations of Navratri every year.
Navratri’s 2015 dates are from October 13 to October 22, 2015. Chaitra Navratri 2015 will commence from March 21 to March 28 as per the Hindu calendar. But undoubtedly the most important Navratri of the year is the Sharadiya Navratra which starts on the very first day of the bright half of Ashvin or Ashwayuja (September-October) according to the traditional Hindu calendar. So get absolutely ready to eat, dance, enjoy, pray and frolic this colourful and divine festive season.