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What is Navratri ?
" Navratri " literally means "nine nights." Navratri is celebrated twice a year, once at the beginning of the New Samvatsar (Hindu New year) in Summers and again at the onset of winter. Navratri or Navratra are therefore known as Chaitra Navratra and Shaardey Navratra on the basis of their occurrence.
Hinduism is the only religion in the world which has emphasized to such an extent the motherhood of God. To celebrate a good harvest and to propitiate the nine planets, women also plant nine different kinds of food grain seeds in small containers during these nine days and then offer the young saplings to the goddess.
The 9 nights festival of Navratri begins on the first day of Ashwina of the bright fortnight. Seeds are sown, sprouting is watched, the planets are consecrated, and on the 8th and 9th days, Goddess Durga, Vijay-ashtami and Mahanavami are worshipped.
- The festival of Navratri begins.
1st - 3rd day of Navratri
On the first day of the Navaratras, 'Kalash Shthaapna. is done in the puja room.These initial days are dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy. Her various manifestations, Kumari, Parvati and Kali are all worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman.
4th - 6th day of Navratri During these days, Lakshmi Maa, the Goddess of peace and prosperity is worshipped. On the fifth day which is known as Lalita Panchami, it is traditional, to gather and display all literature available in the house, light a lamp or 'diya' to invoke Saraswati Maa, the Goddess of knowledge and art.
Durga Ashtami Puja
These final days belongs to Saraswati Maa who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge. This in turn will free us from all earthly bondage. But on the 8th day of this colorful festival, yajna (holy fire) is performed. Ghee (clarified butter), kheer (rice pudding) and sesame seeds form the holy offering to Goddess Durga Maa.
Mahanavami Puja. Navratri concludes.
The festival of Navratri culminates in 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 food mainly consisting kala chana, halwa and poori. Then after new clothes or gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country.
Vijaya Dashmi (Not in Chaitra Navratri)
After the three days of Puja, in Dashami , in the last day, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijaya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country. This day also marks the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile
On the first day of the Navaratras, a small bed of mud is prepared in the puja room of the house and barley seeds are sown on it. On this Bed a Kalash made of Copper is kept and filled with water. Above the pot a bowl filled with rice is kept. A dry Cococunt wrapped with mango leaves is then kept over this kalash. This Kalash is believed to be a symbolic form of Goddess Durga. By keeping kalash one invocates the goddess in the Kalash.
On the tenth day, the shoots are about 3 - 5 inches in length. After the puja, these seedlings are pulled out and given to devotees as a blessing from god. This Kalash must not be touched during the nine days . One diya is lit close to this Kalash which is supposed to burn endlessly for nine days. This is known as Akhand Jyoti.
Many people believe that the length of the Shoots determines the Quantum of income that they will have in coming six months. This belief could have been because India was basically an agrarian economy wherein the productivity of the Land determined one's income.