Navratri, in hindi Navratri -= Nav + Ratri= 9 + Nights..so it is a festival of nine nights. During these nine days whole country worships Goddess Durga (Maa Durga) with their heart & soul. Navratri in India follows the lunar calendar and is celebrated in March/April as Chaitra Navratri or Ram Navami to commemorate the birth of Lord Rama and in September/October as Sharad Navratri to celebrate Lord Rama victory over evil king Raavan. This year Rama Navami 2015 is on 28th March 2015 (Saturday).
On Rama Navami, Lord Ram was born. He was born on Navami Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Chaitra month and each year this day is celebrated as Rama Navami, birthday of Lord Rama. It is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the Chaitra-Navaratri or Vasant Navaratri.
During Navratri, people from villages and cities gather to perform ‘puja’ on small shrines representing different aspects of Goddess Durga, including Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati. Chanting of mantras and renditions of bhajans and folk songs usually accompany the puja rituals for nine consecutive days of Navratri
Chaitra Navratri is celebrated in the first month of Hindu lunar calendar and Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama, falls on the ninth day during Navratri.
During nine days of Navratri Festival Goddess Durga is worshipped for all nine days. It’s best to conduct the Puja at a particular time each day, sunrise is considered as the best time. On the first day Sthapana of idol of Goddess Durga and the Kalash with mango leaves and coconut is done on the chowki. Also barley seeds are sown in the clay pot and watered. Offer the prayers to Maa Durga and conduct Aarti. To worship Goddess Durga one
may recite the Durga Saptshati each day of the Navratri.
During fasting in Navratri, only fruits, milk, potato and other root vegetables should be eaten. Grains are said to be avoided as it is assumed that grains absorb negative energies. Sendha namak (rock salt) is a significant ingredient used instead of common salt. Throughout the Navratri vrat (fasting), devotees evade non vegetarian food as Navratri is considered as a period of purity.Fasting in Navratri follows a practice of cleansing, and purifying one’s body and soul, which is believed to result in blessing a person with virtue.
The devotees observe fasting for seven to eight days, and break their fast on the eighth day (Ashtami) or ninth day (Navami) of the festival, by carrying out ‘Kanya Pujan’ or ‘Kanchika Pujan’. This involves worshipping and seeking blessings of nine young girls, representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga. The feet of the girls are washed, to welcome and pay reverence to the goddess. Then, the girls are offered food and gifts from the devotees.
Navratri in India witnesses myriad forms of devotion across the country while retaining the common underlying theme of good over evil. In Jammu, the Vaishno Devi shrine sees a huge rise in the number of devotees making their way to the pilgrimage during Navratri. In Himachal Pradesh, the Navratri Mela marks the auspicious occasion of Navratri. In West Bengal, men and women celebrate ‘Durga Puja’ with great devotion and reverence and worship Goddess Durga destroying the demon ‘Mahishasura’. ‘Ramlila’, wherein people enact scenes from Ramayana is performed in big grounds. ‘Dussehra’ which coincides with the tenth day of Ashwin (Sharad) Navratri sees nation-wide celebration.
North India: In North India it is believed that once there was a might demon Mahishasura who performed penance for Lord Shiva and gained unlimited power. Drunk with power he started terrorizing heaven and earth, terrified Gods asked Lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva asked all Gods to combine their powers and create a divine female warrior Goddess Durga. Goddess Durga fought demon Mahishasura for nine days and nights and at the end of the ninth night She beheaded the demon.
East India: In East India it is believed that Maa Uma, the daughter of king Daksha, the king of the Himalayas was a devotee of Lord Shiva and wanted to marry Him. To win over Lord Shiva Maa Uma performed severe penance and managed to please Lord Shiva. But king Daksha wasn’t pleased with his daughter choice and once when he organized a Yajna he didn’t invite Lord Shiva. Angered with Her husband’s insult Maa Uma ended Her life by jumping into the agnikund of the Yagna. Thus Maa Uma came to be known as Goddess Sati, Maa Uma took re-birth and again won Lord Shiva as her groom. It is believed that during Navratri, Maa Uma comes down to earth every year with Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati and Laxmi and two of her best friends Jaya and Bijaya.
South India, during Navratri, people arrange idols in a step pattern and invoke the name of God. In Mysore, the nine-day Navratri festival coincides with ‘Dasara’ Festival involving folk music renditions and dance performances, wrestling tournaments and tableau participation. The procession of tableaux along with embellished elephants, camels and horses starting from the brightly-lit Mysore Palace is a famous one. ‘
West Bengal: People of West Bengal commence their navratri celebrations by worshiping huge idols of the Goddess, replete with devotional songs and dances, until, till the tenth day when they take out a finally take out an opulent procession, that concludes with the immersion of the idols in water. Of prime importance in Bengal are the first four days of the puja, the distinction being the worship of pre-pubescent young girls, known as ‘kanyas’, which are believed to be the living embodiments of the Goddess Durga. The ninth day is the day of the ‘Ayudha Puja’, the items of worship being tools, placed at the altar of the goddess for her benedictions. Dashmi or Dussehra, the ‘Saraswati Puja’ is consummated, the purpose being the desire for knowledge and inner peace. Also worth mention is the Dakshineswar Kali Temple in Kolkata, thronged by devotees during the navratras.
Gujarat: Gujarat is the focus of Navratri celebrations with all night-long dance and festivities. ‘Garba’ is a devotional dance form that derives from the folklore of Lord Krishna singing and dancing with the gopis using ‘dandiya’ or slim wooden sticks. ‘Raas Garba’ has also evolved to include steps like ‘Dodhiyu’, ‘Trikoniya’, ‘Lehree’ and several others. What’s more, with time, Navratri festival has seen changes in celebrations with well-choreographed dance performances, high-end acoustics and people dressed in made-to-order, bright costumes. Tourists flock to Vadodara in Gujarat to enjoy a mix of high-energy band music performances, singing and dancing.
Maharashtra: Maharashtra, true to the indomitable spirit of its people, celebrates Navratri with great fervour, Goddess Durga being worshipped for nine days at a stretch. The tenth day sees the worship of Goddess Saraswati, with the tantric symbol of the goddess revered by school children for her blessings for their studies. This day is also considered auspicious to embark on any new task or for the purchase of jewellery.
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