Navaratri, also called Sharada Navarati, is a major Hindu festival that is celebrated by Hindus around the world over a span of nine nights post monsoon autumn. It is essentially a celebration of good over evil.
Navratri has a different significance all over India and is celebrated in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin.
This year Navratri started from October 17 with Shailputri and ends on October 26 with Vijay Dashami and Durga Visarjan (the immersing of the idol). The Ghatasthapana Muhurta falls on Pratipada Tithi and will start at 6:23 AM till 10:12 AM on October 17.
Navratri translates to Nav meaning nine and ratri meaning nights and honours the divine Goddess Durga who defeated the demon king Mahishasura in a battle.
Navratri is a very important and major festival in the western states of India: Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka during which the traditional dance of Gujarat called "Garba" is widely performed. This festival is celebrated with great zeal in North India as well, including Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and the northern state of Punjab.
Legend has it that the demon king Mahishasura was granted immortality by Lord Brahma, with the condition being that he could only be defeated by a woman.
Mahishasura attacked all the three spheres, Trilok, which includes Earth, Heaven and Hell, and nobody could defeat him. Then Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva combined their powers to create Goddess Durga.
What ensued was a 15-day log battle between Mahishasura and Goddes Durga, during which the demon king kept changing his form to confuse the goddess. When Mahishasura turned into a buffalo, Goddess Durga slayed him with her trishul. It was the day of Mahalaya when Mahishasura was killed.
Significance and celebration
Over the course of the nine days the different avatars of Goddess Durga are honoured.
Day 1 (Shailaputri): On this day, the first manifestation of Goddess Durga- Shailputri is worshipped.
Day 2 (Brahmacharini): On the second day, devotees worship Brahmacharini. It is believed that in this avatar, Goddess Parvati please Lord Shiva by meditation. This day brings purity and peace.
Day 3: (Chandraghanta): This day is observed to worship Goddess Chandraghanta. In this avatar, Goddess wears a crescent moon on her forehead and with eight arms she pledges to destroy evils. This day brings passion and love in devotees' life.
Day 4 (Kushmanda): The fourth day of Sharad Navratri has its own significance. On this day Devi Kushmanda- Goddess of creation is worshipped. This day brings elegance and panache in our lives.
Day 5 (Skandamata): On the fifth day (Panchami) of the Sharad Navratri, Goddess Skandamata is worshipped. This avatar of Goddess Durga brings prosperity and optimism.
Day 6 (Katyayani): On this day, Goddess Parvati takes the avatar of a warrior and shows her one of the most violent forms. This day also brings fertility and symbolizes new beginnings.
Day 7 (Kalaratri): The seventh day (Saptami) of the Sharad Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Kalratri. She is worshipped for her immense sacrifice and wars against demons. On this day, people are advised to wear grey clothes.
Day 8 (Mahagauri): Durga Ashtami (eighth day of Navratri) is of Goddess Mahagauri. On this day, Devi Parvati rides on a white elephant and holds Trishul and Damru. This avatar brings opulence and richness among devotees.
Day 9 (Sidhidatri): On the ninth-day of Sharad Navratri Goddess Siddhiratri is worshipped. Goddess Siddhiratri holds books in her hand which symbolises the importance of education. This day brings compassion and dedication.
All these nine names of Goddesses are decribed in "Devi Kavacha" of the Chandipatha scripture. Also called The Devi Mahatmyam or Devi Mahatmya ("Glory of the Goddess") it is a Hindu religious text describing the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura.
As part of the Markandeya Purana, it is one of the Puranas or secondary Hindu scriptures, and was composed in Sanskrit around c. 400-500 CE, with authorship attributed to the sage Markandeya. Devi Mahatmyam is also known as the Durga Saptashati or Chandi Patha.
The other important work that focuses on veneration of the divine feminine is Devi Bhagavata Purana, also known as Shrimad Devi Bhagvatam or the Devi Bhagavatam.