Navratri (literally “nine nights”) is one of the most important festivals of Shaktism and Hindus in general. The festival lasts 9 days and nights, nights are especially important: according to tantra, the night is the best time to worship the Goddess. The first three days and nights of Navratri are dedicated to Kali, the second to Lakshmi, and the last to Saraswati.
After the autumn Navratri (on the tenth day of the bright half of the month of Ashvin), Dussehra is celebrated, also this day is called Vijayadasami (victorious tenth day). The tenth day after the spring Navratri is Ram Navami.
According to the Puranas, the Great Goddess Durga, the embodiment of Shakti of all the gods, fought with the demons for nine days and nights, finally defeating the most powerful of them Mahishasura. The description of this story is found in the Markandeya Purana, Devi Bhagavata Purana, Chandi Purana, and other scriptures.
Observing the precepts and honoring Durga during Navratri leads to new knowledge, improvement, and health throughout the year. For spiritual practice, this time is especially favorable, both for the implementation of Shakti mantras and sadhanas and for the transmission of initiations. Sadhana performed on these days usually has a powerful and lasting result.
There are two main Navratri – Ashvina Navratri (autumn) and Vasanta Navratri (spring), as well as two hidden Gupta Navratri, celebrated in winter and summer. However, some bhaktas of the Goddess, who constantly worship her, perform Nitya-sadhana, worshiping her every month, starting from the first lunar day. The specific dates of the holiday are calculated according to the lunar calendar, therefore they are not fixed:
Autumn Navratri is celebrated starting from the first day of the bright half of the moon (Shukla-pakshi) of the month of Ashvin.
Spring Navratri – starting from the first day of the month of Chaitra and ending with Ram Navami.
Summer Gupta-Navratri – starting from the first day of Shukla-paksha in the month of Asada. On this Navratri, worship of Varaha, one of the seven Matrikas in Devi Mahatmya, is especially favorable.
The winter Gupta Navratri is celebrated from the first day of Shukla Paksha in the month of Magha.
The exact dates of Navratri can always be found on the Panchang website (for a specific region):
There are also Navratri dedicated to other deities, for example, Datta Navratri, Banashankari Navratri, Shakambari Devi Navratri, and others, but they are not so popular and are not celebrated everywhere.
The Meaning and Symbolism of the Navratri
During Navratri, we perform puja to Goddess Durga and her various aspects of retsitiruyutsya mantra stotra, Kawachi, and other devotional texts. However, special attention is paid to the reading of Devi Mahatmya (The Legend of the Greatness of the Goddess), which is part of the Markandeya Purana. Other names for this text are “Durga Saptashati” (Seven-hundredths of Durga), “Chandi Patha” (Reading about Chandi), and “Sri Chandi” (Good Chandi). Devi Mahatmya consists of 13 chapters and 700 slokas and describes the essence of the teaching about the Great Goddess, her victory over powerful demons. The text is conventionally divided into 3 parts, and each of them is traditionally devoted to one of the aspects of Devi.
The first part (Prathama charita) is devoted to Mahakali, the second part (Madhyama Charita) is devoted to Mahalakshmi, and the third part (Uttama Charita) is devoted to Mahasaraswati. The 9 nights of Navratri are also divided into 3 periods of 3 days each, with an emphasis on honoring the corresponding aspect of the Goddess.
The first three days, worshiping the Goddess in the form of Kali, the sadhak removes in his heart gross defilements concerning ignorance, laziness, inertia, anger, negative tendencies of the mind.
In the second three days, Lakshmi fills the purified personality with joy and virtues, developing divine qualities – compassion, purity, the stability of the mind, while symbolizing the creative process after the destruction of everything old and negative.
The last three days and nights have been dedicated to the worship of Saraswati, who bestows wisdom and enlightenment, showing the greatness and radiance of our consciousness, and opens up creative abilities.
The final 10th day of the Navaratri is called Vijaya-dashi, is the final victory of Durga over all demons and spiritually symbolizes the Highest realization of the Self, on this day a particularly magnificent puja is held and guests are treated.
9 forms of Shakti or Maa Durga:
The goddess sits on a bull, holding a trident and a lotus flower in her hands.
Maa (mother) Shailaputri known as Parvati or Hamavati. It is this form that is associated with the wife of Shiva. First, the goddess incarnated in Sati, the daughter of King Daksha. She became the wife of Shiva and then burned herself in the fire for the honor of her husband, who was insulted by her father. Parvati – the second incarnation – again became the wife of Shiva and is already firmly next to him in all legends.
The goddess holds a rosary in her right hand and a kamandalu (water vessel) in her left hand.
Brahmachari (also known as Aparna and Uma). This is Parvati, a practitioner of penance and austerity, personifying love and devotion. The legend says: the sage Narada predicted to the girl, seeing her palms, that she would marry Lord Shiva since in her previous birth there was Sati. But in order for the marriage to take place, she needs to repentance. During her repentance, Parvati withdrew from the world and gradually gave up food and water.
The third form of Shakti is Chandraghanta. She is worshiped on the third day of Navratri. This avatar gives peace and protection. The goddess wears a crescent moon on her forehead, has ten arms and three eyes, golden complexion. She is aggressive and always ready for war. Rides a tiger and wears a bell necklace that frightens demons.
Kushmanda (also known as Ashtabhuja) is the fourth form of Shakti. She is worshiped in sickness and sorrow, which she removes, granting believers long life, strength, and health.
Kushmanda rides a lion. Her body shines, she has eight hands in which she holds a kamandalu, a bow, an arrow, a lotus, a jug of nectar, a mace. In the eighth hand, she holds a rosary, which is able to give eight siddhis – supernatural powers.
The fifth form of Shakti is called Skandamata (or Padmasana). She is the mother of the god Kumara (his other names are Skanda or Kartikeya), who was chosen by the gods as the leader in the war against the asuras. The demon Tarakasur asked Brahma for immortality. Brahma refused and offered to ask for something else. Tarakasur asked to do so that only the son of Shiva could take his life.
The cunning Tarakasur thought that Shiva, as a yogi, would forever observe the vow of celibacy. Brahma complied with the request, and Tarakasur began to torment the world, thinking that he was invincible. The gods got scared and asked Shiva to create a son. Shiva adopted a human avatar, married Parvati, and Kartikeya was born, who killed Tarakasur. Skandamata rides a lion has three eyes and four arms. Her two hands hold lotuses, and the other two are folded into mudras.
On the sixth day of the festival, the divine Durga Shakti is worshiped in the form of Katyayani. Katyayani rides a lion, has golden skin, three eyes, and four arms. In her left hands, she holds a weapon and lotus flowers. The other two hands are folded into mudras of protection and blessings. Legend has it that a man named Katyayana wanted to have a daughter. At this time, the army of the powerful demon Mahishasura, whom I have already mentioned as the main enemy of Durga, reached heaven to overthrow the gods from their abode. The gods created Durga and she was born as the daughter of Katyayana. The father was the first who could worship the goddess, so she received the name Katyayani.
Kalaratri, which is translated from Sanskrit as Black Night, is a warrior, destroyer of darkness and ignorance, also known as Shubhamkari. She gives the devotees calmness and courage. “Her color is like a dark night, she is covered with hair and has four arms. With her left hands, she holds a blade and a torch, and the right two are folded into the mudras of protection and giving. She has three eyes, from which rays emanate, and her gaze is like lightning. The flame appears through her nostrils when she inhales or exhales air. She rides a donkey “
Mahagauri is a goddess in the form of an 8-year-old child, “as beautiful as the moon and a jasmine flower.” Gauri became polluted during her repentance, but Shiva washed her with water from the Ganges. The girl became clean and shiny like lightning. After that, she became known as Mahagauri. All the sins of the devotees are washed away by worshiping this form of Mother. Her clothes and jewelry are white and clean. She has three eyes and four arms. Her upper right hand is in mudra, which allows you to dispel fear, in her right lower hand she holds a trident-trishula. The upper left-hand holds a tambourine, and the lower one is in the blessing mudra.
The last of the nine forms of Shakti is the goddess Siddhidatri, who is worshiped on the last day of Navratri.
Siddhi means perfection. Goddess Siddharatri can give believers all kinds of occult powers, her worshiper acquires all siddhis and nothing remains unattainable for him in the Universe.
According to legend, Shiva worshiped the goddess Shakti, received all the siddhis, and took the form of Ardhanarishvara – a god whose body is half male, half female. Goddess Siddhidatri has four arms. She holds the chakra in her lower right hand, a club in the upper, in the left lower conch, and in the upper left a lotus flower. She sits on a lotus flower and is depicted in iconography with a lion, her mount.
On the days of the holiday, it is recommended to fast, eliminate tea, coffee, and other intoxicants, and practice dhyana, since this is an auspicious time for purification. In Navratri, the sadhaka consistently removes the defilements associated with the three Gunas – tamas, rajas, and sattva.
In the Natha, Sampradaya Navratri is celebrated in many temples and ashrams, but especially in Shakti Pithas such as Devi Patan or Jvalamukhi. On these days special pujas are held there all night and all day. On certain days of Navratri in some pith also conducted Yoga Maya Balasundari puja, with the participation of nathas from different panthah.
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