Navaratri: Explore Nine Auspicious Avatars of Maa Durga and their Significance

The two words that make up Navaratri are “Nav,” which means “nine,” and “Ratri,” which stands for “night.” The festival of Navaratri is celebrated four times a year with each having its own significance. All Maa Durga manifestations get worshipped one after another during these nine days of Navaratri.

The names of the four Navaratri’s correspond to the Hindu months and seasons in which they occur. These are Chaitra (Spring), Ashadha (Monsoon), Sharad (Autumn) and Magha (Winter). The one being celebrated in October is also called Maha Navaratri.

For Hindus those who worship Maa Durga, this festival holds paramount importance. The Supreme Shakti, Maa Durga is worshipped with utmost devotion during these 9 days and nights of reverence. She is considered divine and an epitome of positivity, courage and hope for every individual alive on earth. The first three days are denoted by the name Shukla Paksha or the bright fortnight. The dark fortnight that follows lasts for the next four days and is better known as the Krishna Paksha in India.

Why is Navaratri Celebrated?

Navaratri usually extends beyond nine days and Sharad Navaratri usually takes place during the month of Ashvin, or Ashvina (lying somewhere in between September and October). Sharad Navaratri ends with the Dussehra celebrations, more often symbolised as Vijayadashami in various parts of India.

As part of Navaratri, Durga Puja is observed in various regions of East and Northeast India. Dolls of every colour, size, and shape are displayed on a decorated altar for nine days as part of the Navaratri Bommai Golu or Kolu celebrations. This is the manner in which Navaratri is celebrated in the southern part of India with lights and decorative fabric. Additionally, the ninth day of Navaratri is marked with the event of Ayudha Puja, which is another significant aspect of the festival.

Navaratri is celebrated in the wake of the legendary conflict and battle fought between Goddess Durga and the powerful demon Mahishasura. Therefore, each year, on each day of Navaratri, an incarnation of “Goddess Durga” is worshipped to celebrate her victory over the demon Mahishasura and the supreme victory of “Good Over Evil.”

Each of the Nine days of Navaratri is dedicated to the nine avatars of Goddess Durga, namely- Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayni, Kalaratri, Mahagauri, and Siddhidatri.

Navratri Festival Celebration Infographic
Navratri Festival Celebration Infographic

Customs & Rituals

People all over India celebrate this festival with great joy, zeal, and zest. As per the Hindu tradition, along with the Kalash and Ghatasthapana, Jawar (i.e. barley or wheat) is sown in a plastic or an earthen pot in Navratras and kept in front of the Kalash. This pot is also kept in the pooja and worshipped for nine days. Usually, 7 Grains are preferably used for Navaratri Ghatasthapana Puja – Jau, Til, Dhan, Moong, Kangana, Chana and Gehun.

A red dupatta is usually worn around the idol or offered to the deity. People also offer saree to the Goddess. The Navaratri celebrations begin with a ritual known as Ghatasthapana or Kalash Sthapana. For this custom, a Kalash or Ghat is set up in the temple to invite Maa Durga into our lives and in the home. Ganga Water is used to fill the Kalash. Following this, some mango leaves are placed on the top of the Kalash.

A coconut wrapped in red cloth with moli tied (red sacred thread) around it is placed on top of these leaves. The Kalash is said to be symbolic of auspiciousness, good fortune, energy and power. It is indicated that one should blow the ‘shankh’ or ring the bell every day before beginning his or her prayers. Singletons are advised to offer one paan leaf with a clove on it, whereas married couples must offer two paan leaves during their pooja of Goddess Durga.

You cannot leave the house vacant for nine days after lighting the Akhand Jyoti on the first day of Navratras. It is also believed that more the barley sown grows till Maha Navami, Maa Durga has showered her blessings on your home in abundance. This is considered a sign of happiness and prosperity for every Maa Durga worshipper. Devotees usually sing songs in honour of the goddess, chant mantras, and fast during this time. People in different places decorate the pandals of Goddess Durga. They distribute sweets, clothes, household items and various other gifts to the needy as well as relatives.

Fasting and Pooja

Hindu devotees fast for nine days during Navaratri to please and seek the blessings of Goddess Durga. The number of fasting days, on the other hand, can vary. While many people fast for the entire nine days, there are some devotees who keep fast in jodas (couple).

In other words, they keep the fast for the first two or last two days of the Navaratri. The fasting pattern is also accompanied by many variations. Some people drink only water during these nine days, while some eat fruits throughout the day and consume one meal a day. They completely abstain from non-veg, smoking, eggs and alcohol consumption. Edible Navaratri foods include Kuttu Ki Puri, Sabudana Vada, Singhade Ka Halwa, Singhare Ke Pakode, Sabudane Ki Khichdi and more.

On Ashtami (the eighth day of this sacred festival of Navaratri), all devotees of Maa Durga worship Goddess Mahagauri. On this day, both men and women read the Goddess Durga Vrat Katha and Durga Chalisa before performing Kanya Puja on this day. The Kanjak (Kanya) Pooja is a very important ritual for people who are on the Navaratri Fast, as they break it by feeding young girls.

Mostly, young girls aged between 5-9 years of age are mostly worshipped with the traditional Satvik Bhog prepared in the kitchen. This consists of halwa, puri, copra and chane. Ideally, Girls are invited in odd numbers such as 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 for this ritual. Going barefoot for the entire nine days of Navaratri—whether at home, on the road, even in the office or on trains seems to be in trend especially during these nine days.

The first offering is prepared for Maa Durga, known as Athavari, which becomes a Prasad that is then turned into prasad and later offered to the girls. This dish consists of 8 puris stacked together with Halwa and Chana on top. Some money is also kept within this stack. A small serving of Puri, Halwa, and Chana is offered in the agnee lit in front of Devi Maa.

According to the Devi Bhagwat Puran, the young girls worshipped on this day are considered to be the form of Goddess Durga. This is the reason behind nine girls, along with a boy (Langur) worshipped and fed well on this day. Finally, the girls are asked to bless all members of the family before bidding them goodbye.

Kanya Pooja is carried out in the following manner –

  • All members of the family wash the feet of the girls that have come to their home and then dry them.
  • Tilak, Kumkum, or Roli are applied to their foreheads along with rice.
  • Sacred red-coloured threads called Mauli/Kalawa are tied around their right wrists.
  • Kanya Aarti is performed in the clockwise direction.
  • The girls are served satvik bhojan with utmost love and devotion.
  • People also give money and different kinds of gifts to express their gratitude towards the Kanya for visiting their homes on this day.

Navaratri Celebration Ideas

The celebration of Navaratri varies from region to region in India. During this festival, many people will meditate, fast and introspect while others dance, feast and participate in public events. Let me get you acquainted with various scintillating aspects of Navaratri Celebrations in India:

👉 Garba songs, dance, and lehenga choli form the essence of this festival. The word Garba originates from the Sanskrit word ‘garbha’ meaning the womb and is played in honour of the Hindu Deity of Divinity, Goddess Durga.

👉 In addition to family observances, the Puja, or the rituals, people in huge numbers participate in plays, fairs, recitation competitions and public concerts.

👉 Everyone warmly decorates and light-up their homes to make them more welcoming.

👉 It’s time to prepare delicious food and multiple dishes for Maa Durga.

👉 Consider purchasing the “16 Shringar” or cosmetic items during Navratras, in addition to lighting an “Akhand Jyoti” for the Goddess. It is always advised to keep them in the pooja room to seek the blessings of the divine.

One must keep the following items at home during Navaratri to attract health, wealth and good luck in their lives –

📌 It is said that keeping a fresh lotus flower in your temple every day during Navaratri will please Goddess Laxmi. As she is contented, Maa Lakshmi will bestow all the individuals of the family with good health, wealth, and fortune.

📌 Purchasing a gold or silver coin with images of Laxmi and Ganesh embossed on it is considered extremely auspicious during Navaratri. This practice is said to bring out the best results if carried out on the first day of Navaratri. It is recommended to keep the coins in your temple or in your household locker.

📌 Purchasing idols, investing in property, and buying new things for your home are considered highly auspicious during these nine days of Navaratri.

📌 Goddess Saraswati keeps Peacock close to her. Keeping a peacock feather in your temple is said to attract positive vibes and cure the Vastu Dosha in your area.

📌 6 plants are suggested to be planted for goodness & prosperity during these nine days of Navaratri – Tulsi (Basil), Kela (Banana), Bargad leaf (Banyan leaf), Harshringar (Night flowering Jasmine), Shankhpushpi & Datura.

📌 All kinds of equipment, including tools, books, musical instruments, machinery, and automobiles are worshipped alongside Goddess Saraswati to seek her blessings.

Navaratri Decoration Ideas for School, Office and Home

Decorating homes, offices, schools and so on becomes absolutely essential when it comes to Navaratri. Your home and office automatically get transformed into temples filled with prayers to thank Goddess Durga for the next nine nights and ten days. Here are some creative Navaratri decoration ideas for you to try:

  • Fairy Lights
  • Cane Crafts
  • Paper Lamps
  • Scented Candles
  • Torans (Hanging Decorations)
  • Real Pots and Dangling Plants
  • Add Bouquets of Fragrant Flowers
  • Decorate Your Home with Rangolis
  • Painted Diya Decorations
  • Golu or Ethnic Doll Exhibitions are a Typical Ritual During the Navaratri Festival, Honouring Historical Occurrences from Literature.
  • Garba Pot and Garba Sticks
  • Decorating Aarti Thalis in Creative Ways

Navaratri Gifting Ideas

Gifts are an essential part of Navaratri celebrations as well as Kanjak pooja. Friends and relatives are always greeted with a box of dry fruit, sweets, and a decorated pooja thali.

To seek the blessing of little girls during Kanya Pujan, we have already enumerated a pretty impressive list of Navaratri gift items for you to choose from which includes –

These nine days are also considered quite auspicious for shopping for clothes, decor, furniture, electronics, jewellery, and appliances.

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Shubh Navaratri!
Jai Mata Di!