In Sanskrit, the term ‘Navaratri’ translates to ‘nine nights,’ where ‘nava’ signifies ‘nine,’ and ‘ratri’ denotes ‘nights.’ This festival is widely celebrated across India, involving the worship of nine different goddesses over nine days. The festivities encompass various activities, including the design and display of pandals, family visits to these adorned structures, and public presentations of dances encompassing both classical and traditional styles. Navaratri is often observed with fasting, believed to bring joy, prosperity, and health, as well as the strength to overcome life’s challenges and adversaries.
This celebration is based on the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga, each associated with a specific day of the festival:
Day 1 – Shailaputri, Day 2 – Brahmacharini, Day 3 – Chandraghanta, Day 4 – Kushmanda, Day 5 – Skandamata, Day 6 – Katyayani, Day 7 – Kaalaratri, Day 8 – Mahagauri, Day 9 – Siddhidatri.
Shailaputri: Shailaputri, the manifestation of the first day (Pratipada), is known as the daughter of the mountain king. She is often depicted holding a lotus in her left hand and a trident in her right. Her forehead bears a crescent moon, and she is also referred to as “Vrisha Roodha” as she rides a bull. She was formerly Sati, the daughter of King Daksha, and her worship is believed to bring healing from ailments.
Brahmacharini: On the second day (Dwitiya), devotees honour Brahmacharini, whose name signifies “one who practices ardent austerity.” She is characterized by her serene strength and grace. She wears a white saree and holds a water utensil and a rosary, symbolizing marital joy and Hindu prayers. Worshippers believe she bestows happiness, tranquillity, wealth, and grace. Sugar is offered to her for the family’s longevity.
Chandraghanta: Chandraghanta, worshipped on the third day (Tritiya), derives her name from the bell-shaped crescent moon on her head. She rides a tiger and boasts ten hands, each holding various weapons. Her worshipers offer Kheer (rice pudding) for protection from evil.
Kushmanda: The fourth day (Chaturthi) is dedicated to Kushmanda, the “Creator of the universe.” She radiates the brilliance of the Sun and has eight hands, symbolizing strength and courage. Devotees offer Malpua for sharpened decision-making skills.
Skandamata: On the fifth day (Panchami), Goddess Skandamata, the mother of Skanda (Kartikeya), is venerated. She is depicted as seated on a lotus with four arms and three eyes. Worshippers believe she can grant strength, salvation, wealth, and prosperity and offer bananas as her favourite fruit.
Katyayani: Katyayani is revered on the sixth day (Shashti) and is known as the warrior goddess. She has a fierce appearance, with 18 limbs holding weapons. Her devotees offer honey for her blessings.
Kalaratri: Considered the most ferocious form, Kalaratri is venerated on the seventh day (Saptami). She adopted a dark complexion to defeat demons and rides a donkey, holding a sword, trident, and noose. Jaggery is offered to alleviate suffering and provide bliss.
Mahagauri: On the eighth day (Ashtami), Maha Gauri, the goddess who erased past, present, and future misdeeds, is worshipped. Dressed in white, she possesses four hands, holding a trident, damroo, kamandalu, and a rudraksha mala. Devotees present coconuts to her.
Siddhidatri: On the ninth day (Navami), Goddess Siddhidhatri, “provider of extraordinary strength,” is prayed to. Siddhidhatri is depicted with four hands, riding a lion, and worshipped for wisdom and insight. Sesame seeds are offered for safety and security from unnatural events.
The worship and reverence of these nine incarnations constitute the essence of Navaratri, a festival deeply rooted in India’s rich cultural and spiritual traditions.