Dedicated to the Mother Goddess and the feminine energy, one of Hinduism’s most revered festivals, the Navaratri is a biannual festival spanning over nine nights and ten days, first in the month of Chaitra which translates to March/April of the Gregorian calendar and again in the month of Sharada which translates to September/October in the Gregorian calendar. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the country.
The word Navaratri means nine nights in Sanskrit, with nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. Navaratri, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga is all about the victory of good over evil. Goddess Durga fought the demon king Mahishasura for nine days and killed him, marking the triumph of good over evil. In the eastern and northeastern states of India, Durga Puja is synonymous with Navaratri, where Goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon Mahishasur to help restore dharma. In the southern states, the victory of Durga or Kali is celebrated. In all cases, the common theme is the battle and victory of good over evil based on a regionally famous epic or legend such as the Devi Mahatmya.
Celebrations include worshipping nine goddesses during nine days, stage decorations, recital of the legend, enacting of the story, and chanting of the scriptures of Hinduism. The nine days are also a major crop season cultural event, such as competitive design and staging of pandals, a family visit to these pandals, and the public celebration of classical and folk dances of Hindu culture. Many devotees often celebrate Navaratri by fasting. On the final day, called Vijayadashami or Dusshera, the statues are either immersed in a water body such as a river or ocean, or the statue symbolising evil is burnt with fireworks, marking the destruction of evil. During this time preparations also take place for Deepavali or Diwali which is the festival of lights which is celebrated twenty days after Vijayadashami.
The nine forms of Goddess Durga, collectively known as Navdurga, are celebrated during Navratri. Every day of the festival is dedicated to a different incarnation of the Goddess. There is a colour for every day that can be worn throughout the festival. These colours have a lot of importance and are considered auspicious.
On the first day, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Shailputri, the daughter of the king of mountains, or Goddess Parvati who is worshipped as the wife of Lord Shiva. This avatar embodies the combined power of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. The colour for the first day is red indicating strength. An individual who leads a frugal lifestyle, who is cheerful and bestows happiness, richness, tranquillity, and grace upon all of her devotees, Brahmcharini is worshipped on the second day. Brahmcharini is supposed to be the way to Moksha and royal blue is the colour for the day, associated with a calm yet powerful soul. On the third day, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Chandraghanta who is the epitome of grace and dignity. A symbol of peace and prosperity, she is a strong woman with a lot of power and so yellow is the colour for the day.
Kushmunda who is worshipped on the fourth day, is believed to be the founder of the cosmos and is said to have created the universe and enriched it with flora and fauna. This is why the colour of the day is green which symbolises the globe and greenery. Skand Mata, the commander-in-chief in their war against evil is worshipped on the fifth day. She is the representation of the vulnerability of a mother who can fight anyone when anyone troubles her children. The colour of the day is grey which represents a mother’s fear when her child is in danger and she is determined to do everything it takes to keep her child safe. On the sixth day, Katyayani is worshipped. She was born to the great sage Kata as an avatar of Goddess Durga. While clothed in orange, she emits immense courage and so orange is the colour of the day symbolising bravery.
Worshipped as Kalratri for her three eyes, dark skin, unkept hair and exuding a fearless attitude with her breath-producing flames, Kalratri resembles Goddess Kali, Goddess Durga’s most terrifying aspect. She wears white, the colour of peace and tranquilly and so the day’s colour is also white. On the eighth day, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Maha Gauri, representing intelligence, peace, prosperity and calm. Her hue was said to have changed from white to black after spending time in the deep Himalayan forests. After Shiva bathed her in the waters of the sacred River Ganga, her body regained its beauty, and she was given the name Maha Gauri, which means extremely white. Pink is the colour of the day, representing hope and a fresh start. On the last day, she is worshipped as Siddhidatri who has incredible healing abilities. She has four arms and looks to be in a cheerful mood. She blesses everyone as a manifestation of the Mother Goddess. The goddess is shown in a happy state as if she were a clear day’s sky. As a result, this day’s colour is sky blue, symbolising awe at nature’s splendour. In South India, on this day, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped who is the manifestation of learning, knowledge, music and the arts through the Ayudha Puja. On this day, everyone worships their tools of the trade so students pray to their books, musicians thank their instruments, office workers pray to their laptops etc. Students visit their teachers, express respect, and seek their blessings.
The festival ends with Dusshera on the tenth day when Goddess Durga was victorious over the demon Mahishasura. In some parts of India, Dussehra is associated with the victory of the God Rama over the demon-king Ravana. In northern India, the Ram Lila of the Play of Rama is the highlight of the festival with different episodes of the epic Ramayana dramatised on successive nights. On Dusshera, the actor playing Lord Rama fires a flaming arrow at an effigy of Ravana which is then burned. In many regions, Dussehra is considered an auspicious time to begin educational or artistic pursuits, especially for children.
Today, we are on the third day of Navaratri and my prayer is that may Goddess Durga and her various incarnations protect you from everything and remove all obstacles from your lives. May the divine feminine energy grant you all your wishes!