Navratri festival, dedicated to Goddess Shakti, is the festival of nine divine nights and is considered to be one of the most important festivals in India for Hindus. Goddess Shakti manifests herself in three different dimensions as Goddess Laxmi, Saraswati and Durga. It is celebrated two times in a year, generally in March-April celebrated as “Chaitra Navratri” and September-October celebrated as “Sharad Navratri”.
The period of Navratri is considered to be very significant and fruitful. The entire Navratri Festival ceremony is carried out with the chanting of mantras. It is also the occasion for all artisans to lay down their tools before the goddess and seek her blessing upon their trade. Going to the end of the festival, eighth and ninth day of the Navratri, yagnas are performed in a final act of farewell of Maa Durga Puja. The yagna is an act of sacrifice by which matters most precious and valuable to us are placed into the holy flames as an act of renunciation. However this year Navratri 2013 is starting from Thursday, 11th April and will be celebrated till 19th April, Friday.
History of Navratri
The immemorial custom of goddess worship has been prevailing in India since ancient times. There are many myths and legends attached to the history of Navratri. In different parts of India, different legends describe the history of Navratri.
The Mighty Demon Mahisasur worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained the power of eternity, so he wouldn’t be killed by weapons. He started to kill and harass innocent people and set out to win seven lokas. In order to kill Demon Mahisasur, Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva created Devi Durga, by combining their own divine powers (shakti). Durga proved to be a formidable opponent who fought Mahisa for nine days, beheading him on the tenth. The nine nights known as Navratri, symbolize the nine days of battle between Devi Durga and Mahisasura, while the tenth day, which is vijayadashami-literally means the victorious tenth day of conquest of good over evil.
Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in all her nine forms, for nine days, in order to gather all the powers required to vanquish Ravana the demon, and release his wife Sita from his clutches. Those nine days imply Navratri, and the tenth day when he killed Ravana, came to be known as Vijaydashmi and is celebrated as Dussehra.
One more story is dedicated to Goddess Sati also known as Uma, the daughter of King Daksha. Uma married Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father. One day Daksha organized a huge yagna and invited all the gods and deities except Lord Shiva. When Uma visited her parents to take part in the yagna, her father offended Lord Shiva. Unable to bear the insults meted on her husband, Uma jumped into the agnikund, which is why she is also known as Sati. In her rebirth, she married Lord Shiva and also made peace with her parents. It is said that Sati comes to stay with them for nine days, which is celebrated as Navratri.