Customs and Rituals forms an important part of Navratri celebrations around the world. Explore customs and rituals of Navratri festival.
Navratri - Performing rituals of Navratri is the most significant way of experiencing the essence of this Hindu festival. In the auspicious and awe-inspiring occasion, divine love pervades through all devotees who emerge more courageous and wiser through the nine-day rigor. In the vein of all vedic traditions, Navratri customs help to inculcate spiritual habits. Hence, prayers, chants, 'bhajans' and reading of important religious texts make up a significant portion of this festival. Devotees pay obeisance to this feminine divine energy that is believed to maintain the balance of the universe.
Navratri is one of the most anticipated festivals in India with social and spiritual connotations. Navratri Hindu festival is spread out over nine consecutive days in the Chaitra and Ashwin months to consecrate the divine aspects of Ma Shakti as Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati. The festival is associated with their symbolic connotation as epitome of courage, wealth and skill respectively.
Broadly, on the first three days, devotees venerate Goddess Durga as she represents power in its divine form that removes negativity and proclivity towards immoral behavior. She is, invoked as Kumari, Parvati and Kali which are aspects of Ma Durga and represent her adolescence-to-maturity stage. During the next three days, Goddess Lakshmi blessings for material and spiritual prosperity are sought with puja and powerful mantra chantings. Over the next three days, Goddess Saraswati is invoked to seek blessings for erudition and skills in the arts. The devotee puts books and musical instruments near the deity to acquire true knowledge and wisdom to see him/her through this life and beyond. The ninth day of 'Mahanavami' , the concluding day of Navratri puja, is considered an auspicious day for conducting pujas such as 'Aparajita' puja and 'Kanya Puja'. The tenth day celebrates the momentous events associated with Lord Rama as well as Ma Durga, who killed the demon 'Mahisasura'.
Customs & Rituals of Navratri
Customs of Navratri which stand out prominently in terms of strict observance include the following:
- On the very first day, barley or 'jowar' seeds are sown in a decorated clay pot and by the tenth day, the tender shoots are distributed among the devotees. A photograph or an idol of the eight-armed Goddess seated on a lion, along with the 'yantra' is installed.
- 'Kalash Sthapna' is done which involves installing a water pot or 'kalash', sprinkled with holy water and filled with mango leaves and coconut.
- The morning 'puja' is performed after a bath, and the day-long fast is broken after doing the evening puja.
- During the puja, 'shankh' is blown, fresh flowers, 'doob' or sacred grass, 'paan' and fruits are offered to the deity, chapters from the sacred 'Durga Saptshati' and 'Chandipath' are recited, followed by 'arti' and prasad distribution.
- A very significant ritual is performing 'Kanya Puja' on 'Ashtami' and 'Navami', which involves worshipping nine young girls, in pre-puberty stage, representing the nine forms of goddess Durga. Each girl is treated to a meal comprising puri, sweet bread, halwa, a sweet dish, made of semolina and Bengal gram curry. After washing their feet, the devotees break their fast.
- Ayudha or Astra Puja is held on the eighth/ninth day. Tools, vehicles and equipments are worshipped on this day.
- Among some communities, it is also considered an auspicious time to initiate learning for children by invoking Goddess Saraswati. Hence, Lalita-puja and Saraswati-puja is done ritualistically to start formal education of children.
- A Garba performance precedes 'aarti' conducted in honor of Maa Durga.
- Fasting or 'vrat' from sunrise till sunset is undertaken for night days.
- In the Navratri Hindu festival, the devotee should observe abstinence and austerity.
- On the eight day, a 'yagna' is performed with offerings of ghee and til for mental and spiritual cleansing.
- Lemon or bhasma or ash is used for cleaning substances for 'abhishek'.
- In Gujarat, a garbh-deep or a lamp is lit within an earthen pot with several perforations representing the unison of body and soul.
Customs of Navratri
Since all the nine days are dedicated to different incarnations of Ma Durga, it is customary to wear colors that symbolize the qualities of the deity. The first day venerates Shailputri Devi who embodies aspects of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. On this day, red clothes are worn. The second day is dedicated to Brahmacharini Devi who represents a life of abstinence. Wearing blue colored clothes is considered auspicious on this day. On the third day, Chandraghanta Devi, the bestower of glory and beauty, is invoked. On the fourth day, Kushmanda Devi is worshipped and yellow is the color to honor her. The fifth day is in honor of Skandmata Devi. Grey is the color to be worn on the sixth day and is dedicated to Katyayani Devi, while orange is the color for protection symbolized by Kalratri Devi on the seventh day. On the eighth day, pink clothes are worn to honor Mahagauri Devi. The ninth day is dedicated to Siddhidatri Devi, whose blessings earn devotees all 'siddhis'.
On all these nine days, devotees should meditate on the different forms of Ma Durga and seek her grace.
Some of the Navratri customs carry a lot of significance for married women. This Navratri Hindu festival sees heavy involvement of married women who seek blessings of prosperity and a long married life. Some of the customs of Navratri include showing complete devotion through actions such as doing 'bhajans' and 'japa', eating vegetarian food and staying away from negative influences to be able to soak in the wisdom and inner strength gained thus.