An important festival of India is Navratri. The word Navratri is a amalgamation of two words, “Nav” and “Ratri.” Nav means 9 while ratri means nights. Thus, the word Navrtri literally translates to 9 nights.
True to its name, the festival is celebrated over 9 consecutive nights. It is celebrated to worship 9 forms of Shakti. Each day of the festival is dedicated to a particular form of Shakti. Metaphorically speaking, the festival celebrates womanhood and the different roles women play in our society.
According to Hindu religion, a woman brings prosperity, wealth, knowledge and happiness in the world. It is also a destroyer of evil, which relates to Goddess Durga, one form of Shakti.
Significance of Navratri
Other than the significance of worshipping womanhood, the festival also celebrates Mother Nature. The falls during a period when solar influence on our lives is particularly high. Navratri is celebrated at 5 different times in an year. The five different kinds of Navratris are:
- Vasanta Navratri
- Gupta Navratri
- Sharada Navratri
- Paush Navratri
- Magha Navratri
Out of those 5, Sharada Navratri is the biggest of them all and is also known as Maha Navratri. Vasanta Navratri is also celebrated by a significant number of people. While Vasanta Navratri marks the beginning of the spring season and it falls in the months of March or April, Sharada Navratri marks the beginning of winter season and falls in the months of September or October.
Maha Navratri/Sharada Navratri
It is the Sharda Navratri which is the biggest of them all. Sharda Navratri commences immediately after Shrada, which is a period of cleansing for the Hindus. During the period of Shrada, Hindus abstain from alcohol and meat, and devote their prayers to their deceased loved ones.
Thus, in a way, Maha Navaratri marks the arrival of light after a period of darkness, or arrival of joy after a seemingly macabre period.
How is Maha Navratri celebrated?
Maha Navratri is celebrated differently in different parts of the year. In the eastern parts of India, particularly in the state of West Bengal, one can see beautiful pandals being set up during the period. Happy music is played and people can be seen feasting on drinks and meat. A day after Navratri, the festival of Durga Puja is celebrated in the eastern parts of the country.
In the northern parts of the country, people usually fast on all 9 days. The day after the Navratri is celebrated as Dussehra, where an effigy of Ravana is burnt. Dussehra signifies the triumph of good over evil.
However, the most colorful celebrations of Navratri can be seen in the western parts of the country, especially in the state of Gujarat. Gujarat is well known for its colorful dandiya and garba dance during the period of Navratri. Several celebrities from different walks of life can be seen gracing the occasion as well, and being a part of the revelry.
In Kerala though, the festival takes on a more mellow form. The period of Navratri is celebrated as Saraswati puja in Kerala, when books are published. According to Hindu religion, Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of learning and worshipping her bestows one with knowledge.