Hinduism’s nine most holy days, Navratri festival

This year it started September 21 and will end on September 29

Navratri–or the nine sacred days–mark the most auspicious days of the lunar calendar according to Hinduism. Celebrated with fervour and festivity all over India, and every Hindu community the world over, these nine days are dedicated solely to Maa Durga (goddess Durga) and her nine avatars.

The prominent story associated with Navratri is the battle that took place between goddess Durga and the demon Mahishasura, who represents egotism. All the nine days of the festival are dedicated to each distinct avatar of the goddess; and each of these days has a significant colour attached to it, which devotees are expected to wear while taking part in the festivities.

The festival is celebrated four times a year but only two are considered as important.

They are called:

  • Vasanta Navaratri – celebrated in the beginning of spring
  • Ashadha Navaratri
  • Sharad Navaratri – celebrated in the beginning of winters
  • Magha Navaratri

Here are all the days and their attachments:

  1. Day 1: SHAILPUTRI: She is the embodiment of the collective power of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. It is in this form that the goddess was worshipped as the wife of Shiva. The colour of the first day is red – it depicts action and vigour.Referred to as Sati, Bhavani, Shakti Parvati and Hemavati, Goddess Shailputri is believed to be the daughter of the Himalayas and the better half of Lord Shiva. With a trishul in one hand, and a lotus in the other, Shailputri has Nandi the bull as her vehicle.Considered to be the most important manifestation of Durga, Shakti is known to combine the powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. As per the Art of Living, “When the mind is wavering, chanting the name of this Devi helps the mind to be centred and committed. It gives us strength, courage, and composure.”
  2. Day 2: BRAHMCHARINI: The one who practices devout austerity. She is blissful and grants happiness, peace, prosperity and grace upon all devotees who worship her. Filled with bliss and happiness, she is the way to release or moksha. The colour of the second day is royal blue, since it’s synonymous with a calm-yet-powerful energy.Brahmacharini who’s worshipped on the second day exudes power, dedication, devotion, suffering and radiance.The second most powerful manifestation of Goddess Durga, Brahmacharini is believed to have undergone penance for over thousand years to please Lord Shiva. Her dedication pleased both Shiva and Brahma and subsequently, she was granted the wish of marrying Lord Shiva.
  3. Day 3: CHANDRAGHANTA: She represents beauty and grace and is worshipped on the third day for peace, tranquillity and prosperity in life. She is the apostle of bravery and possesses great strength. The colour of the day is yellow.
  4. Day 4: KUSHMUNDA: She is considered the creator of the universe. It is believed that Kushmunda created the universe through a bout of laughter and made it verdant with vegetation. Hence, the colour of the day is green.
  5. Day 5: SKAND MATA: She is the mother of Skanda, or Karthikeya, who was chosen by the gods as their commander-in-chief in the war against the demons. She is accompanied by Skanda in his infant form. The colour of the day is grey, as it indicates the vulnerability of a mother who can turn into a storm cloud when the need arises to protect her child.
  6. Day 6: KATYAYANI: Katyayani was born to the great sage, Kata, as an avatar of Durga. Dressed in orange, she exhibits immense courage. Hence, the colour of the day is orange.
  7. Day 7: KALRATRI: She has a dark complexion, dishevelled hair and a fearless posture. She has three eyes that shine bright, with flames emanating from her breath. She is black like the goddess Kali. She is the most fierce form of goddess Durga, and she is dressed in white, a colour that represents peace and prayer. Thus, the colour of the day is white.
  8. Day 8: MAHA GAURI: Maha Gauri is intelligent, peaceful and calm. It is said that due to her long austerities in the deep forests of the Himalayas, her colour transformed from white to black. However, later, when Shiva cleaned her with the waters of the Ganga, her body regained its beauty and she came to be known as Maha Gauri, which means extremely white. The colour of the day is pink, denoting hope and a fresh start.
  9. Day 9: SIDDHIDATRI: She has supernatural healing powers. She has four arms and is always in a happy state of mind. She blesses all gods, saints, yogis, tantriks and all devotees as a manifestation of the mother goddess. The goddess is shown to be in a blissful state, just like the sky on a clear day. Thus, the colour of the day is sky blue, representing wonderment about the beauty of nature.

The nine days festivity ends on the 10th day with Dussehra or Vijayadashami.

The festival is celebrated in different ways all over India. It is celebrated as:

  • Garbha-Dandiya, dance festival – in west
  • Ramlila, the victory of King Rama over King Ravana – in north
  • Golu, they create various settings that portray their culture and heritage – celebrated in Tamil Nadu
  • Durga Puja, the victory of truth and the greatness of feminism. The legend says that Goddess Durga had agreed to marry Mahishasura if he won her over in the battle. The battle continued for 9 days and on the 10th night Goddess Durga beheaded him.- celebtated in east
  • In the state of Karnataka the festival is celebrated as royal festival. The Mysore palace is also decorated

Most devotees of goddess Durga observe a fast for nine days, though some observe it for only two days. During the fast, one is meant to abstain from everyday grains like wheat, but can consume fruits, milk, tea, coffee, potatoes and one meal of sago food preparations–such as kuttu (singhada) atta and special rice. Instead of regular table salt, sendha (sea) salt is used for cooking.