Navratri is a nine-night, ten day festival celebrated by Hindus with all the days representing the nine manifestations of the powerful and benevolent Goddess Durga (Maa Durga). During this period, the Divine Mother is honored in various forms. In Hinduism, she is recognized as the Mother of the Universe and believed to be the power behind the work of creation, preservation and destruction of the world. In order to understand why the Divine Mother is worshipped, you must first understand who she is.
Goddess Durga is one of the most popular goddesses in Hindu religion. She is a multi-dimensional Goddess, with many personas, many names, and many facets and through all her forms. In Sanskrit, the word “Durga” means fort, or a place which is difficult to overrun. “Durgatinashini,” another meaning of Durga, translates to mean “the one who eliminates sufferings.” Hindus believe that the Goddess Durga protects her devotees from the evils of the world while also removing their miseries. She embodies sacrifice, purity, knowledge, salvation, truth and self-realization. Goddess Durga is a warrior who wields weapons of the gods, is the slayer of demons and is an incredibly invincible force.
Goddess Durga is believed to be incarnated in many forms, including: Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kundalini, Java, Rajeswari. As the united power of all divine beings, she is said to have offered the required physical attributes and weapons to kill the demon “Mahishasura.” According to Hindu mythology, Mahishasura was a combination of both an Asura and a Mahisha with trident. He intended to annihilate all the Devas since they were the arch-enemies of Asura. His legend is important in Hindu mythology since the goddess Durga was born in order to slay him.
Navratri is derived from the Sanskrit words “nave” which means nine and “ratri” which means night. The nine incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped for nine days to get blessing of Maa Durga. There are three days dedicated to Goddess Durga, three days for Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity and abundance, and three days for Saraswati, who brings beauty and wisdom. The festival ends on the tenth day, which is the day of victory, when good triumphs over evil. It is believed that people who worship, do fasting and chanting mantras during Navratri will be blessed with prosperity, health and wisdom in their life.
The Navratri celebration and worshipping style varies in every state in India; however, the devotion is the same: to seek the blessings of the Divine Mother. Devotees worship the Divine Mother with great enthusiasm with a different name of a Goddess. For example, in Gujarat, devotees worship as Goddess Jagdamba while in West Bengal it is named Durga puja.
How do devotees worship Goddess Durga, you might ask? You can use both idol as well as the picture of Goddess Durga. It’s important to keep in mind that you must also worship Lord Ganesha. In Hinduism, he is blessed to be the first Deity that must be worshiped. In the early days, many people worshipped her at home, but nowadays, the Goddess Durga is usually worshipped in community or temples during Navratri since the celebration is so elaborate. While she is worshipped during Navratri, Goddess Durga can also be worshipped apart from the festival. In West Bengal, only idols of Goddess Durga are used for worship. But in other parts of the country images of Goddess Durga are used. In the evening of the day when you do the Goddess Durga puja, you must ensure that you also do a Chandi path. This is the reading of books and stories of Goddess Durga. You are required to recite the mantra of the Goddess Durga: “Om Dum Durgayei Namaha.” This mantra means “Om and Salutations to that feminine energy which protects from all manner of negative influences.” Om is the sound of the universe; the essence of everything; the root of Hindu itself. Om usually begins and ends Hindu prayers. Dum is the seed mantra (sound) of Mata Ji Durga. Durgayei is the complete, formal Sanskrit pronunciation of Maa Durga’s name. Nahama means in your essence, we bow to you; in your presence, only you are recognized. This mantra invokes her name and her compassion to protect against all manner of harm.
Dancing is also a huge part of Navratri celebrations. During this time you will find one of the world’s largest and longest dance festivals taking place not only in India, but also across the world, including in Africa, New Zealand, London, Canada, Singapore and parts of the U.S.
Sri Prem Baba, a master teacher in the Sachcha spiritual lineage of northern India explains that this special attention is called during this celebration. “It is a time to withdraw as much as possible, avoiding any type of distraction. It’s a good time to fast or to at least do an intelligent austerity related to the tongue. It is a time to be with your own self, dedicating yourself to the practice of japa, the repetition of mantras. During this period, transformation is intensified, since the layers of the lower self are focused on and brought to the surface with the objective of purifying your actions, your tongue, your mind and your heart.”
During this period, devotees will fast. They avoid abusing or binge eating because it is believed that a lot of energy passes through the body and if they ear in excess, they tend to suffer and feel bad. This is a time when the body is nourished in a frugal manner with fruits and vegetables. According to tradition, non-vegetarian food, alcohol, all grains (including rice, quinoa, wheat, barley, oats, bread, cereals, flax seeds), spices and salt are avoided.
It is without a doubt that Navratri is one of the most important celebrations in Hindu religion. The Divine Mother is beyond all material attributes. She is omniscient and eternal and her nature is pure consciousness. During Navratri, you pray to Maa Durga, the Universal Mother, asking her to use her destructive power to remove the vices within you, particularly anger, selfish desires, greed, ego, imperfections and faults in an effort to be purified. When you do this, her unlimited blessings will be revealed.