During the Navratri various forms of Maa Shakti are worshipped. For this the Navratri is divided into sets of three days. Each set of three days is dedicated to a different form of Maa Shakti.
The First Three Days of Navratri
It starts with the worship of Goddess Durga, dressed in red clothes and sitting mounted on a lion. Maa Durga is worshipped and her blessings are seeked by the devotees to destroy all impurities, vices and problems of life. Each of the first three days is dedicated to her different incarnations.
First day is dedicated to Goddess as Kumari signifying little girl child.
The second day is dedicated to Goddess Parvati -- the embodiment of a young woman.
The third day is dedicated to Goddess Kali symbolizing triumph over evil.
The second set of three days
Fourth, fifth and sixth days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi - the Goddess of Wealth and prosperity. The Goddess is dressed in golden clothes and mounted on an owl.
The Last three days
The remaining Last three days- seventh, eighth and ninth are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) The Goddess is dressed in milky white sari and mounted on a pure white swan.
In order to have all-round success in life, we need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother; hence, the worship for nine nights.
There are certain religious norms of Navratri that must be followed.
Many people associate Navratri with fasting only. That is not so. Our Vedas & Shashtras are very practical and the rituals have taken many aspects of our life into consideration.
Fasts may be observed on all nine days or only for the first and the last day. It is believed that a single fast is not to be observed. Usually people fast in pairs or as a couple. Also it is believed that it is not good to observe fast only for the first and the last day. It is more appropriate to fast either on the first two days or on the last two days.
Whether fasting or not, people maintain strictly vegetarian diets. People who are fasting exclude the use of onion and garlic in preparation of food.
Important Customs & Rituals of Navratri
· The main ritual of Navratri is placing of images of Goddess Durga, in the homes and temples. The devotees offer fruits and flowers to the Goddess chanting hymns and prayers and a red color decorated Chunni offered to the Goddess.
· Goddess Durga is worshipped twice in the day, once in the morning and once in the evening. The Arti of the Goddess is also performed. Special puja sessions are conducted in the temples
· There is also a custom of planting barley seeds in a small vessel on the starting of Navratri Puja. The grown barley is distributed among the attendees, and is considered as a blessing from Goddess.
· The devotees light ‘akhand jot’ (diya that burns for these nine days)
· Fifth day is known as Lalita Panchami.
· The eighth day is called Ashtmi. Many people observe this as the last day of fasting. A yagna maybe performed. People worship the Goddess, prepare special food and offer it to the Goddess and then to the young girls and perform Kanchka –Kanya Puja. There after the devotees start eating grains and cereals.
· The ninth day is the culmination day of Navratri celebrations, also known as 'Mahanavami'.
· This nine day Navratra celebrations culminate with the immersion of the idols of Goddess Durga in water.
· Dandiya and Garba are the special dances performed on the evenings of Navratri, especially in Gujarat. Garba is performed before the 'aarti', as devotional performance in the honor of the Goddess, while Dandiya is performed after as part of the celebrations.
After the Sharad Navratri celebrations of nine days, the tenth day is celebrated as Dussehra which is celebration of the victory of good over evil marked by the burning of the effigy of demon king Ravana and his two brothers.
Jai Mata Di