“ayi giri nandini, nandita medini,
visva vinodini, nandinute ||
giri vara vindhya shirodhini vasini
vishnuvilaasini jisnunute ||
bhagavati he shiti kanthakutumbini
bhoorikutumbini bhoorikrute” ||
People around the country are prepping up for the Navaratri festival which one of the most celebrated one in India. Although the way of celebration differs in each state, the spirit of the festival is the same everywhere. ‘Nav’ means nine and ‘rathri’ means night as a term meaning it is a nine-day celebration. The dates of the festival keep changing according to the lunar calendar but usually, fall in the month of September-October. Navaratri is a festival dedicated to the goddess of Shakti - Devi Durga. The Devi/ goddess is believed to have different forms.
The dauntless and invincible- DURGA
The auspicious and prosperous -BHADRAKALI
The mother of the Universe - AMBA/ JAGADAMBA
The provider of food and shelter- ANNAPOORNA
The source of joy all around - SARVAMANGALA
The terrifying - BHAIRAVI
The violent - CHANDIKA
The mesmerizing and beautiful - LALITHA
The source and provider of Life - BHAVANI
The listener – MOOKAMBIKA
The teacher – SARASWATHY
The goddess of fortune - LAKSHMI
Though the festival lasts for 9 days, the last three days of Navratri, i.e Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadashami is considered important. It is on Durga Ashtami that Ayudha Pooja is done. Ayudha Pooja is an important practice observed especially in the south of India, Kerala. The tools or materials used for job or books of education are offered to God for the blessing. The pooja arrangements are done at home or at the nearby temple where the tools and books are kept for two days of pooja rituals. In Kerala, most of the shops and place of business remains closed during Durga Ashtami and opens on the day of Vijaya Dashami. Vijaya Dashami is the most auspicious and ideal day for new beginnings. Be it education or job, Vijayadashami is the best day to start your education or any other cultural activities. Hence in every temple, they make arrangements for Vidyarambham on the day of Vijaya Dashami.
Why Fast during Navaratri?
Fasting is a common custom observed during certain festivals. Alcohol meat and grains etc are avoided during some religious occasions. But why do we fast during such occasions? The answer is simple! Every festival of India is connected to the seasonal changes/ harvest seasons happening around a year. It is believed that during these seasonal shifts there are certain negative energy/unhealthy elements present in the atmosphere of the earth. Such energies are absorbed by the plants and animals. Hence it is said that fasting during such days will help avoid this negative energy from entering our body. The fasting is called Navratri Vratham/ Navratri Vrath and observing Vrath through these nine days or at least during the last three days is a must.
As mentioned earlier, although Navaratri has different themes and way of celebration across different states of India. The idea and spirit behind the festival is the same. Navaratri is a celebration symbolic to the destruction of evil and the victory of good over evil. The story says that the evil Rakshasa Mahishasura was growing in power that even the Devas and the Gods were worried seeing the evil rakshasa getting stronger day after day. The Gods tried and failed to defeat the demon as he had received a boon from Brahma that he cannot be defeated by any man, god, devas or demons. Finally the Trimurtis – Brahma Vishnu and Shiva combined their powers to create an invincible goddess of Shakti called Durga.
The Trimurtis requested Goddess Durga to kill the demon Mahishasura and it was Durga who defeated the demon on the day of Vijayadashami. After the demon was defeated and the gods gather to celebrate, Mother Durga promises to return whenever any of her children are in distress. Hence Navratri is the homecoming of Goddess Durga to destroy the everything evil and dark that has affected the earth. The legend also has it that Lord Rama defeated the demon Ravana on the day of Vijayadashami.
No matter what the legend says, Navaratri is all about reminiscing the power of the most multi-dimensional Goddess who came into existence to destroy and remove the evil from the face of this earth. She is the goddess of divine justice, of unfathomable love and compassion and the fierce protector of her children with invincible power. A goddess who is the projection of the stronger and fiercer side of every woman and the most divine role model for womanhood.