'Nav' means 'nine' and 'ratri' means 'night'. Thus, 'Navratri' means 'nine nights' The festival which is devoted to the Mother Goddess known variously as Durga, Kali, Bhavani, Amba, and Chandika, has been celebrated in it's most unique and different nature in various parts of India and abroad with devotional songs, bhajans and cultural programs with the world renowned Garba or Dandiya Raas in the state of 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. A period of introspection and purification, Navratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures. Hinduism is the only religion in the world, which gives so much importance to the mother aspect of God because we believe that mother is the creative aspect of the absolute. Just as a child finds all these qualities in his or her mother, similarly, all of us look upon God as mother.
There are three Navratri as per the Hindu calendar. Sharad Navaratri, Vasant Navratri, Ashada Navaratri. Sharad Navratri is celebrated in the Sep –October and ends with the celebration of Dussera. Sharad Navratri is celebrated across the county. Vasant Navratri is celebrated during Vasant Ritu (beginning of summer) (March- April). This Navratri is celebrated mainly in North India. Ashada Navratri celebrated in July –August in the state of Himachal Pradesh. There is specific significance of celebrating Navratri twice in a year. Every year the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter are two very important junctures of climatic change and solar influence. Hindus believe that there is divine power that provides energy for the earth to move around the sun, causing the changes in the outer nature and that in this way we can thank the divine power for maintaining the correct balance of the universe.
These nine nights are dedicated to the three main goddesses of Hinduism - Parvati, Lakshmi and Sarasvati. 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. Durga is worshipped order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped for the next three days in her various aspects as the goddesses of peace, plenty and bliss. Last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. In order have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother; hence, the worship for nine nights.
In western part of India Garba or Dandiya Raas is the most significant feature during the festival of Navratri.In Eastern part of India Navaratri is known as Durga puja where beautiful idols of the Goddess are decorated and adorned, and worshipped for a period of nine days and immersed on the tenth day. In Northern India specially in Punjab and Delhi, even the name of the festival is changed, this becomes Navratras, here this is a period of fasting for seven days, and the people are said to keep their "Navratras" or fasts. On the eighth day or Ashtami, devotees break their fasts by calling young girls home and these girls are treated as the goddess herself. They are called "Kanjak Devis" in north India and Kanya puja in other parts of the country. 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. Generally, all Hindus do not eat non – vegetarian food during these nine days.
On the eighth day of this colorful festival, Yagna or Homam (holy fire) is performed. Pure Desi Ghee (clarified pure butter), kheer (rice pudding) and sesame seeds form the holy offering to Goddess Durga Maa (Divine Mother). Many people in north India worship the 8th day as ashtami. This colorful festival spreads a atmosphere of joy, purity and color in the whole atmosphere.This year Sharad Navratri starts on 19th Sep to Sep 27th 2009.I have tried to sum up this grand festivals in view lines, rituals may vary based on regional basis but the essence of worshiping mother goddess remains the same.
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