Navratri: 9 Nights Festival

'Nav' means 'nine' and 'ratri' means 'night'. Thus, 'Navratri' means 'nine nights'. There are many legends attached to the conception of Navratri like all Indian festivals. All of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of Hindu calendar, it holds special significance for Gujratis and Bengalis and one can see it in the zeal and fervor of the people with which they indulge in the festive activities of the season. Dandiya and Garba Rass are the highlights of the festival in Gujarat, while farmer sow seeds and thank the Goddess for her blessings and pray for better yield. In older times, Navratri was associated with the fertility of Mother Earth who feed us as her children.

The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations - Kumari, Parvati and Kali - are worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. Next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and mounted on an owl and finally, last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. Sweetmeats are prepared for the celebrations. Children and adults dress up in new bright-colored dresses for the night performances.

In some communities, people undergo rigorous fasts during this season that lasts for the nine days of Navratri. The festival culminates on Mahanavami. On this day, Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed as a mark of respect for the Goddess and then they are offered new clothes as gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country. With commercialization, the festival has moved on to be a social festival rather than merely a religious one. However, nothing dampens the spirit of the devout followers of Goddess Durga, as they sing devotional songs and indulge in the celebrations of Navratri, year by year..

Importance of Chaitra Navratri

Chaitra Navratri is one of the most important festival of Hindus. Devotees worship Maa Shakti, Goddess of cosmic power, during this time and wish to be bestowed by divine benediction from Goddess. Fasting and praying mark the Navratri celebrations. Goddess Shakti manifests herself in three different dimensions as Goddess Laxmi, Saraswati and Durga. Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses.

On the first three days Durga or Goddess of Energy is worshipped.The next three days are devoted to Lakshmi or Goddess of Wealth and the last three days for Saraswati or Goddess of Knowledge. On the eighth and ninth day, Yagna (sacrifice offered to the fire) is performed to honor Durga Mata and bid her farewell. On these days Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls (those who have not reached at the puberty stage) representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. In some regions a young boy also accompanies them who symbolizes Bhairav, who is considered as protector against all evils. Those who worship Goddess without any expectation or desire being fulfilled receive her blessings as ultimate freedom from all bondages

The period of Navratri is considered to be very significant and fruitful from view point of Tantric practices. It is said that one achieves greater Tantric powers during these period of Navratras. The cosmic motherly power blesses the worshipers who fathom mysterious ways of Tantra and practice it correctly. Those who worship Goddess in or around Shakti Peetha (Special Shakti Temples) harvest great rewards even faster. 
Navratri, besides being a period of introspection and purification, is also considered an auspicious time for starting new ventures.

The Hindu festival of Navratri, which extends for nine days, is celebrated with gusto in different regions of the country. In the eastern state of West Bengal, the festival takes the shape of Durga Puja, when the devotees of the deity celebrate the triumph of good over evil. There, Ma Durga is worshipped as Goddess Shakti. In north India, Maharashtra and Gujarat, people observe a seven day fast during Navratri and break their fast on Ashtami (the eighth day of the festival) by worshiping young girls. However, some people observe fast until the Ashtami and break their fast only on Navami (the ninth day). If you want to know more about Navratri fast, then explore the article.

Navratri Fasting Procedure
On the festive occasion of Navratri, fast is observed by people for seven or eight days, depending upon when they want to conduct the Kanchika Pujan (when young girls are worshipped). The devotees, who have observed fast, would get up early in the morning, take bath and offer prayers to the deity. People follow a specific diet for Navratri, if they haven't observed a nirahar (waterless) fast. Most people nowadays perform partial fasting. They would abstain from non-vegetarian food, alcohol and those dishes that are made of common salt or any kind of spice. Singhare ka atta (kuttu ka atta) is used to prepare rotis or puris, for the fast. 

One may drink beverages like tea, coffee and milk, on Navratri. Dishes made of sago and potato is generally consumed by the people, when they observe fast on Navratri. Sendha namak (rock salt) is used instead of common salt, for cooking on the festival. All fruits and foodstuff made of fruits are eaten during the seven days. Nowadays, ready-to-eat snacks are available in the stores, especially prepared for Navratri. In addition to this, certain restaurants in the northern parts of India would offer special menu for the people, who have observed fast on Navratri. 

After seven days of fasting, people would break their fast on the eighth day - Ashtami - by worshipping young girls. The ritual of offering prasad to the young girls is called Kanchika Pujan. As per the tradition, puris (deep fried Indian bread), halwa (sweet dish made of suji) and Bengal gram curry are served to the young girls, called upon by the people who have observed fast. After seeking the blessings of the young girls (kanchikayen), the devotees would break their fast by consuming the prasad (puri, halwa and sabzi) that they have prepared for them. While this is the tradition followed by majority of people, Navratri fast is also broken on ninth day (Navami), wherein the fast is observed until Ashtami. The same procedure is followed in that case as well.

Navratri Katha( EPIC )

The festival of Navratra is celebrated twice in India. Once in the Hindi month of Chaitra which is the month of March-April according to the Gregorian calendar and again in the month of Ashwin i.e. September-October according to the English calendar. It is a nine days long festival in which the Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine different forms. People all over the country celebrate this festival with immense joy and enthusiasm. Devotees of Maa Durga observe a rigorous fast of nine days during this period. This festival in Hindu religion is considered to be an eternally enlightening festival. Like most of the Hindu festivals this worship also involves reading or hearing Katha or stories related to the festival. Explore an interesting story about Navratri here, in this article.

Navaratri Story( EPIC )
The story associated with Navratri can be found in various Hindu religious texts like Markandeya

 Purana, Vamana Purana, Varaha Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Devi Bhagavatam and Kalika Purana. The story of Navratra is the symbolic message of the fact that however glorious and powerful the evil become, at the end it is the goodness that wins over all of the evil. The story is associated with Maa Durga and Mahisasura, the buffalo headed demon. 

The story begins from the life of two sons of Danu called Rambha and Karambha who performed austerities by to gain extreme power and authority. When their prayers became deeper and austerities became exceptional, the King of the heaven God Indra got perturbed. Out of fear, he killed Karambha. Rambha, who came to know about his brother’s death, became more stubborn to win over the Gods. He increased the intensity of his austerities and finally got several boons from gods like great brilliance, beauty, invincibility in war. He also asked a special wish of not being killed by either humans or Gods or Asuras.

He then considered himself immortal and started freely roaming in the garden of Yaksha where he saw a female-buffalo and fell in love with her. To express his love, Rambha disguised in the form of a male-buffalo and copulated with the female buffalo. However, soon after that a real male buffalo discovered Rambha mating with the she-buffalo and killed him. It was due to Rambha’s inflated ego that killed him, out of which he has not asked his death to be spared from the wrath of animals. As the pyre of Rambha was organized, the female-buffalo, who was copulated with him jumped into the funeral pyre of Rambha to prove her love. She was pregnant at that time. Thus, demon came out of the with the head of a buffalo and human body and he was named Mahisasura (the buffalo headed demon).

Mahishasura was extremely powerful. He defeated the gods and the demons and acruierd power over the entire world. He even won over the heaven and threw devtas outside it. He captured the throne of Indra and declared himself to be the the lord of the gods. The gods led by Brahma approached Vishnu and Shiva and evaluated them of the situation. In order to save the Gods, the three supreme deities emerged a light of anger, which combined to the take the shape of a terrible form and this was Durga. All the gods then granted this Goddess of power with all the supreme weapons they had. This is why; Durga is called the brilliance of all the Gods.

When the goddess was seen by Mahishasura, he was mesmerized by her beauty. Her then fell in love with her and proposed to marry her. The goddess said she will marry him, if he defeated her in the battle. Then began a scary and terrible battle between both of then which continued for nine days. Finally, on the last day, Durga took the form of Chandika and stood over the chest of Mahishasura and smashed him down with her foot. She then pierced his neck with her spear and cut off his head off with her sword. It is the day when Vijayadashmi is celebrated.

Navratri is a very important Hindu festival celebrated in India, which is devoted to Goddess Durga. The festival is celebrated with great reverence and faith across the country. It stretches over a period of nine days, with each of the nine days being dedicated to one of the nine forms of the Goddess. Talking about the history of Navratri festival, it can be explained through the stories mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. In case you want to know more about them, explore the information given below

History & Origin Of Navratri
In different parts of India, different legends describe the history of Navratri:
Navrathri dance
North India 
The legend in North India goes that Mahishasura, the mighty demon, worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained the power of eternity. Soon, he started killing and harassing innocent people and set out to win all the three lokas. The gods in swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva, to find a way to get rid of the demon. To protect the world from the atrocities of Mahishasura, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine female warrior, known as Goddess Durga. Mahishasura, when he saw the divine beauty of Goddess Durga, got mesmerized. 

So fascinated was Mahishasura by Goddess Durga's beauty that he approached her with the intention of marriage. The goddess agreed to marry him, but put forth a condition - Mahishasura would have to win over her in a battle. Mahishasura, proud as he was, agreed immediately! The battle continued for 9 nights and at the end of the ninth night, Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. The nine nights came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijayadashmi, the tenth day that brought the triumph of good over evil. 

Eastern Belief 
As per the legend prevalent in East India, Daksha, the king of the Himalayas, had a beautiful and virtuous daughter called Uma. She wished to marry Lord Shiva, since her childhood. In order to win over the Lord, she worshipped him and managed to please him as well. When Shiva finally came to marry her, the tiger-skin clad groom displeased Daksha and he broke off all the relationships with his daughter and son-in-law. One fine day, Daksha organized a yagna, but did not invite Lord Shiva for the same. 

Uma got so angry at her father's rude behavior, towards her husband, that she decided to end her life by jumping into the agnikund of the yagna, where she was united with eternity (since then, she came to be known as Sati). However, she took re-birth and again won Shiva as her groom and peace was restored. It is believed that since then, Uma comes every year with Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati and Laxmi and two of her best friends or 'sakhis', called Jaya and Bijaya, to visit her parent's home during Navratri. 

Another Legend - Ram and Ravana
Yet another legend of Navratri relates to the Hindu epic Ramayana. It goes that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in nine aspects, for nine days, in order to gather the strength and power to kill Ravana. He wanted to release Sita from the clutches of powerful demon king Ravana, who had abducted her. Those nine nights became to be known as Navratri and the tenth day, on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, came to be called Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, signifying Rama's (good) triumph over Ravana (evil).

  1. ॐ First Day  - The first day is dedicated to the Goddess Durga is called Shailputri, the daughter of the Himalayas. She is a form of Shakti, the companion of Lord Shiva.
  2. ॐ Second Day - The second day is dedicated to the Goddess Durga is known as 'Brahmacharini'. The name is derivative of the word 'Brahma', which means 'Tapa' or penace. She is also a form of Mata Shakti.
  3. ॐ Third Day  - The third day is dedicated to the goddess Chandraghanta, the symbolic representation of beauty and bravery.
  4. ॐ Fourth Day  - The fourth day is dedicated to the goddess Kushmandas, the creator of the entire Universe. 
  5. ॐ Fifth Day  - The fifth day is dedicated to the Goddess Skand Mata, the mother of the chief warrior of the Gods army the Skanda.
  6. ॐ Sixth Day  - The sixth day is dedicated to the goddess Katyayani with three eyes and four hands. 
  7. ॐ Seventh Day  - The seventh day is dedicated to the Goddess 'Kalratri', meant to make the devotees fearless. 
  8. ॐ Eighth Day  -The eight day is dedicated to the Mata Rani or 'Maha Gauri', represents calmness and exhibits wisdom.
  9. ॐ Ninth Day  - The ninth day is dedicated to Durga also referred as Siddhidatri. It is believed that she has all the eight siddhis and is worshipped by all the Rishis and Yogis.
ॐ Chaitra Navratri ends – Ram Navratri Day 9 – April 19/20, 2013 The day is observed as Ram Navami. Ramnavami or the birthday of Lord Rama falls on the 9th day of the bright fortnight. Since Rama is the 7th incarnation of Vishnu having born at noon, temples and family shrines are elaborately decorated and traditional prayers are chanted together by the family in the morning. Also, at temples special havans are organized, along with Vedic chanting of Vedic mantras and offerings of fruits and flowers.

The day is also celebrated as the wedding anniversary of Sri Rama and his consort Sita.

Navratri Bhajans
There are two Navratri celebrations in India. The first Navaratri is called the Chaitra Navratrai and the second is called Ashwin Navratri. The first one is celebrated in the month of March- April and the second is celebrated in the month of September – October according to the Gregorian calendar. The celebrations of both these Navratri is full of devotion, joy and passion in the country. The nine days festive celebrations fill the entire atmosphere with colors of devotion and love for the deity. Devotees of Maa Durga observe fast for the nine days. They fill the surroundings with mantras, sholkas and bhajans dedeicated to Mata Rani and make the entire atmosphere pious and sanctified. Lyrics of few of the popular Navratri devotional songs are given below, you can sing them in the coming Navratri celebrations.

Bhajans For Navratri ( MANTRAS )

Jaya Aadya Shakti

Jaya Aadya Shakti
Ma Jaya Aadya Shakti
Akhand Brhamand dipavya
panave pragatya ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Dwitiya Mehsarup Shivshakti janu
ma shivshakti janu
brahma ganapti gaye
brahma ganapti gaye
hardayi har ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Trutiya tran sarup tribhuvan ma betha
ma tribhuvan ma betha
daya thaki karveli
daya thaki karveli
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Chouthe chatura malaxmi ma
sachrachal vyapya
ma sachrachal vyapya
char bhuja cho disha
char bhuja cho disha
pragtya dakshin ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Panchame panchrushi panchami gunpadma
ma panchami gunpadma
panchtatv tya soshiye
panchtatv tya soshiye
panchetatvo ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Shashthi tu narayani mahishasur maryo
ma mahishasur maryo
narnari na rupe
narnari na rupe
vyapaya saghale ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Saptami sapt patal sandhya savitri
ma sandhya savitri
gau ganga gayatri
gau ganga gayatri
gauri geeta ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Ashthmi ashtha bhujao ayi ananda
ma ayi ananda
sunivar munivar janamya
sunivar munivar janamya
dev daityoma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Navmi navkul nag seve navadurga
ma seve navadurga
navratri na pujan
shivratri na archan
kidha har brahma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Dashmi dash avtaar jay vijyalaxmi
ma jay vijyalaxmi
rame ravan marya
rame ravan marya
ravan maryo ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Ekadashi agiyar tatyanikama
ma tatyanikama
kaldurga kalika
kaldurga kalika
shama ne vama
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Barase kala rup bahuchar amba ma
ma bahuchar amba ma
asur bhairav souie
kal bhairav soiye
tara chhe tuj ma
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Terase tulja rup tu tarunimata
ma tu tarunimata
brahma vishnu sadashiv
brahma vishnu sadashiv
gun tara gata
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Shivbhakti ni aarati je koi gaye
ma je koi gaye
bhane shivannad swami
bhane shivannad swami
sukh sampati pashe
har kaileshe jashe
ma amba dukh harashe
Om Jayo Jayo Ma Jagdambe

Maa teri mamta

Maa teri mamta kitni pyaree, Kitna pyar jagaate hai
Swaas swaas ke raksha karti, Pag pag praan bachati hai
Tu maato say bhaag jagaaday, Bhaagi Bhaagi aati hai
Tu Kali Maha Kali Durga, Tu hai baal Bhavani hai
Tu puran kaa saar Saradaa, Tu Vedo ki baani hai
Tu baalak goad may lay Kar, Jeewan geet sunaati hai
Tu Rishiyo ke Riddhi Siddhi, Tu Brahma ke bhaktu Maa
Tu Vishnu ke mayaa devi, Tu Shankar ke Shakti Maa
Maa teri mamta kitni pyaree, Kitna pyar jagaate hai

Navratri Special slokas & mantras with meaning
Maa Durga slokas or Navratri mantras. The word ‘Mantra’ is derived from Sanskrit word “mantrana”, which means advice or suggestion. Mantras are a method to connect to our innerself by reciting a particular mantra again and again. Chanting mantras continuously symbolically effects the chanter & listener both. The chanting of these mantras & slokas during Navratri puja will definitely give you health, wealth, prosperity and would help solve all your problems. Here we go…

Lets begin with the sacred & most loved Sanskrit verses for the Goddess…
Sarva mangala mangalye shive sarvaartha saadhike
Sharanye trayambake Gauri
Narayani namosthute
Many of us must be knowing this verse but not the meaning.
Sloka meaning
sarva mangala mangalye – To auspiciousness of all auspiciousness
shiva -to the Good
sarvarrtha saadhike – to the accomplisher of all objectives
sharanye – to the Source of Refuge
tryambake – to the mother of the three worlds.
Gauri – to the Goddess who is Rays of Light
Naaraayani – Exposer of consciousness
Namostute- We bow to you again and again. We worship you.
Ya devi sarva bhutesu, shanti rupena sansitha
Ya devi sarva bhutesu, shakti rupena sansthita
Ya devi sarva bhutesu, matra rupena sansthita
Namastasyai, namastasyai, namastasyai, namo namaha!
Sloka meaning: The goddess who is omnipresent as the personification of universal mother
The goddess who is omnipresent as the embodiment of power
The goddess who is omnipresent as the symbol of peace
I bow to her, I bow to her, I bow to her again & again.
Durga Stutti: Yaa Devi Sarva Bhooteshu Buddhi Roopena Samsthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha
Sloka meaning: OH Goddess (Devi) who resides everywhere in all living beings as intelligence and beauty
I salute to you. Take my salutations again and again.
Namoh devyai mahadevyai shivayai satatam namah
Namah prakrutyai bhadraayai niyataah pranataahsma taam
Jagdamb Vichitramatra Kim Paripoorna Karunaasti Chenmayi I
Aparadha Parampara Param Na Hi Mata Samupekshate Sutam II

O mother of the world Jagdamba, you are the one who looks after her children. Your love and kindness towards me is no surprise O mother goddess. Being a mother you forget all our sins and correct us without abandoning your children.

One of the most sought after mantra for Goddess Chamonda…

Mantra or sloka for Devi Annapoorna (Goddess Food)
Annapoorne sadapoorne shankarah praanavallabhe
Njana vairaagya sidhyardham bhikshaam dehi cha parvati
Om Durge Smritaa Harasi Bheeti Masesha Jantoehoe
Swasthai Smritha Mathi Matheeva Shubhaam Dadaasi
Daaridrya Dukha Bhaya Haarini Kaa twadanyaa
Sarwopakaara Karanaaya saaardra Chthaaha

Sloka or mantra for overcoming problems:
Om Sharanaagata Deenaartha paritraana paraayaney
Sarwa syarthi harey devi Naraayani Namostutey

Mantra for Shakti (POWER):
Om Sarwa swarupey sareshey sarwa shakthi samanwithey
Bhayebhya Straahinoe Devi Durgey devi namostuthey
Durga Stutti
Yaa Devi Sarva Bhooteshu Vishnu Maayethi Sabdita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha 
Sloka Meaning: Salutations again and again to the Devi (Goddess) who dwells in all living beings as power and maya of Lord Vishnu.
Mantra for warding off all the evils & mishappenings:
Jayanti Mangala Kali, Bhadrakali Kapalini Durga Kshama Shiva Dhatri Swaha Swadha Namoastute.

                        !Om Sri Durgaya Namah!! Happy Navratri !


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