Navratri 2018 – Date, Significance and the Deities to be worshipped
Navratri is a Hindu festival dedicated to the Goddess Durga. All Hindu Goddesses, as per the belief, are different manifestations of one Goddess who is the Durga (Sakthi). Devi Durga or Sakthi symbolizes the omnipresent energy of the Universe and Navratri festivals are occasions dedicated to worshipping this Universal energy. The festival lasts for 9 nights and ten days; hence the name ‘Navratri’ which in Sanskrit means nine nights (‘nava’ means nine and ‘ratri’ means night).
During this occasion, the nine different manifestations of Devi Shakthi are worshipped. The festival of Navratri falls 4 times in a year – Vasanta Navratri in the March-April period, Ashad Navratri in June-July, Sharad Navratri in September-October and Magha Navratri in the January-February period. Out of these, the Sharad Navratri observed at the beginning of autumn or the onset of winter is considered the most significant one and is popularly known as the Navratri. Vijayadashami and Dussehra – the festivals dedicated to Devi Durga coincide with the tenth day of Sharad Navratri.
The legend behind Sharad Navratri:
The common myth associated with this festival is the Goddess Durga’s triumph over Mahishasur. It is believed that during this time Goddess Durga defeated the buffalo-headed demon Mahishasur signifying evil and ego. Another legend is that of Lord Ram’s victory over Ravan. It is also believed that Lord Ram killed Ravan on Dashami – the tenth day.
The Astrology behind Navratri:
The Navratri festival dates are determined according to the Hindu lunar calendar. All the four Navratri festivals fall on the waxing phase (Shuklapaksha) of luni-solar months, starting on Pratipada (first lunar day) and ending on Navami (ninth lunar day).
Sharad Navratri – the most important among the four Navratris is celebrated in the lunar month of Ashvin. It falls near the Autumn Equinox (September-October) and hence the name Sharad or Sharada which means autumn. Sharad Navratri or Maha Navratri marks the beginning of winter and it coincides with the autumn harvests.
Vasanta Navratri in the month of Chaitra (March–April) marks the beginning of the new year in Hindu lunar calendar. The word Vasanta means spring and it falls near the Spring Equinox. It is the second most significant Navratri and it coincides with the spring harvests.
Ashad Navratri is observed in the month of Ashada (June–July) and it signifies the beginning of monsoon season.
Magha Navratri is observed in the month of Magha (January–February), during the winter season. The fifth day of this festival is often independently observed as Vasant Panchami.All these Navratri festivals are 9-day long observances with each day dedicated to a distinct form of Durga. The beginning of autumn and the beginning of spring are considered more sacred for worshiping the Mother Durga or Sakthi – the omnipresent energy of the Universe.
The 9 forms of Maa Durga:
The nine days of Navratri are dedicated to nine distinct forms of Goddess Durga. Though this notion is common to all Hindus, the significance of the days and the observations followed vary with different regions in India, leaving much to the creativity and preferences of the regional cultures. According to some scholars, the nine manifestations of Durga to be worshipped are Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. While some others consider it to be Bhadrakali (the auspicious and fortunate), Amba or Jagdamba (Mother of the Universe), Annapoorna (the giver of food), Sarvamangala (the giver of joy all around), Bhairavi (the terrifying), Chandika (the violent), Lalita (the beautiful), Bhavani (the giver of life) and Mookambika (the one who listens).
Date, Significances and Observations on Maha Navratri 2018
The 2018 Maha Navratri festival begins on 10th October – Shuklapaksha Pratipada (1st lunar day) of Ashvin month. The festival culminates with the Mahanavami (9th lunar day) celebrations on 18th October and Vijayadashami/ Dusshera (10th lunar day) celebrations on 19th October.
How to Celebrate Day 1 of Navratri : Pratipada (10th October 2018)
The deity of the day is Shailaputri. She is the daughter of Himavan and the name literally means daughter of mountains. She is also known as Parvati or Hemavati and is the manifestation of the power behind Trimurtis. She is depicted as riding a bull and carrying a trident and a lotus.The colour to wear on this day is Royal Blue.
The day marks the beginning of Navratri celebrations. Some devotees start observing the Navratri fasting on this day. In regions of Maharashtra, Goa and Punjab, devotees sow varieties of seeds/food grains on a pot. They water it for the next nine days and let them sprout. This practice indicating fertility is known as Ghatasthapana or Khetri. In Tamil Nadu, devotees set the Kolu – a display of dolls and idols on a step-like arrangement. The Kolu will be dismantled only on Vijayadashami day.
How to Celebrate Day 2 of Navratri: Dwidiya (11th October 2018)
The deity is Brahmacharini which means one who practices devout asceticism. She is the way to moksha and is depicted as barefooted and carrying a rosary and a water utensil. The colour to wear on this day is Royal Yellow.
How to Celebrate Day 3 of Navratri: Tritiya (12th October 2018)
The deity is Chandraghanta who gives the strength to fight all evils. She is shown as having a golden complexion with 3 eyes and 10 hands. She rides on a lion or tiger and carries weapons in her hands. She wears a Chandra (crescent) on her forehead and hence the name Chandraghanta. The colour to wear on this day is Green.
How to Celebrate Day 4 of Navratri: Chathurthi (13th October 2018)
The deity is Kushmanda – the Goddess of the cosmic egg and the creator of the Universe. She is depicted as having 8 hands holding weapons, rosary, lotus etc. and riding on a tiger or lion. The colour to wear is Grey.
How to Celebrate Day 5 of Navratri: Panchami (14th October 2018)
The deity is Skandamata: She is the mother of war god Skanda or Kartikeya and hence the name Skandamata (‘mata’ means mother). She is depicted as having four arms and three eyes. She holds the infant Skanda on her lap and rides on a ferocious lion.The colour to wear is Orange.
How to Celebrate Day 6 of Navratri: Shashti (15th October 2018)
The deity is Katyayani. She is the warrior Goddess and is one of the most violent forms of Devi. She rides on a lion and has four hands. The name derives as she was born to Rishi Katya. The colour to wear is White. The famous Durga Puja celebrations in West Bengal begins on this day.
How to Celebrate Day 7 of Navratri: Saptami (16th October 2018)
The deity is Kaalratri – a fierce form of Durga incarnated to kill demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. She is depicted as having a dark complexion, disheveled hair and burning bright eyes. She rides on a donkey and carries a blood-drenched weapon. The colour to wear is Red.
How to Celebrate Durgashtami: Day 8 (17th October 2018)
The deity is Mahagauri – the Goddess who is white in complexion and very beautiful. She is depicted as riding on a bull. Her upper right arm is in the pose of allaying fear and lower right hand holds a trident. She holds a damaru (tambourine) in her upper left arm and the lower left arm is in the form of giving blessing. The colour to wear is Sky Blue.
This day marks the beginning of Saraswati Puja in some regions and is also one of the most auspicious days of Durga Puja festival. In Punjab regions, there is a tradition of honouring kanyakas or young girls on this day. The devotees observing the fast from the first day (Pratipada) will break it by inviting young girls to their homes. These girls are called Kanyak Devis and are treated as the Goddess herself. The devotees ceremonially wash their feet, worship them, offer traditional delicacies, bangles etc. and give a token amount of money called Shagun.
How to Celebrate Mahanavami: Day 9 (18th October 2018)
The deity is Siddhidatri. The word Siddhi means supernatural power and Dhatri means the giver. She possesses and bestows all Siddhis. She is depicted as seated on a lotus, holding a lotus, mace, Sudarshana Chakra and conch shell on her four arms. It is believed that Lord Shiva worshipped her and was blessed with all 8 siddhis – Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakambya, Ishitva and Vashitva. The colour to wear is Pink.
Mahanavami is the most important day of the 9-day Navratri festival. In many regions viz. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra, this day is noted for the worship of Goddess Saraswati and Ayudha Puja. Saraswati is the form of Devi symbolizing knowledge. It is a common practice on this day to worship Saraswati at home and in temples as an act of honouring her for the knowledge she bestows.
Students place their books and other study materials in front of a picture or idol of the Goddess and conduct pujas in the morning and evening. Mahanavami is also an occasion to honour the tools and instruments with which one does his work and hence the name Ayudha Puja (Ayudham means tool or weapon). It is common in these regions to clean the tools, vehicles and other work equipment and to worship them with a picture or idol of the Goddess. The industries and mechanical shops conduct Ayudha Puja with great passion and devotion.
How to Celebrate Vijayadashami: Day 10 (19th October 2018)
The festival of Mahanavami culminates with the celebrations on the 10th lunar day (Dashami). This is a day of intense celebrations. In Karnataka, Maharashtra and some northern states, this day is celebrated as Dusshera. The Durga Puja celebrations in West Bengal also culminates on this day.
The day of Vijayadashami is very important in the regions where Saraswati Puja or Ayudha Puja is observed. It is considered as the most auspicious day for beginning the learning or initiating new ventures. The books, tools and equipment kept for worship are taken back on this day after a ceremonial puja.
The most remarkable observation on Vijayadashami is the Vidyarambham ceremony of initiating children into the world of knowledge. In Kerala, millions of children are thus initiated into learning every year on this auspicious day. The Vidyarambham events are conducted at homes and temples where a priest or an elderly person initiates the child to write ‘Om Harisree Ganapathaye Namah’ on a plate filled with rice. This marks the ceremonial beginning of the child’s education, with the blessings of the Goddess.
Customs and practices for Navratri or Durga Puja.
The 9 days of Navratri festival are dedicated to 9 different appellations of Goddess Sakthi with each day having its own distinct observations. Yet, if we travel across India, we will find variations in festival names, observances and in the forms of Goddess worshipped.
In some regions as in parts of Maharashtra and Telangana, the Tridevis – Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati are worshipped. Goddess Durga or Kali symbolizing the destruction of evil is worshipped in the first 2 or 3 days, Goddess Laxmi who bestows wealth and affluence is worshipped on the next 3 days and Goddess Saraswati who bestows knowledge is worshipped on the last 3 or 4 days.
In places where Dusshera is celebrated, the observations are meant to commemorate the victory of Lord Ram over Ravana. Also, in the regions where it is harvest time, the Navratri observations are related to activities like cropping and sowing; while in some other regions, the focus is on the ceremonies like Vidyarambham and Ayudha Puja.
Thus, we can find significant variations in Navratri celebrations. Yet, the core concept behind this festival remains the same throughout which is the worship of various manifestations of the divine femininity or supreme Goddess.
The Hindu concept of Durga or Sakthi itself is a manifestation of the omnipresent energy of the Universe. We give much importance to the mother aspect of the God – the energy behind creation, preservation and destruction. The Universe or the world we live in has the qualities of a mother. It sets the celestial bodies in motion, creates day & night and brings about periodic changes in climate, maintaining a perfect abode for preserving life.
Our ancestors have chosen this Navratri occasion as a sacred opportunity to worship the Mother Goddess or the divine energy. Also, our worship of various aspects of this universal energy agrees with the scientific fact that energy can neither be created nor be destroyed.
NB: For more clarification on dates please follow your local lunar calendar.