Updated: Oct 6, 2019
Navratri is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India. It is a Hindu festival that spans nine nights and is celebrated every year in the autumn. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian cultural sphere.
Navratri, (Sanskrit: “nine nights”)in full Sharad Navratri; Navratri also spelled Navaratri; also called Durga Puja held in honour of the divine feminine. Navratri occurs over 9 days during the month of Ashvin, or Ashvina (in the Gregorian calendar, usually September–October). It often ends with the Dussehra (also called Vijayadashami) celebration on the 10th day. In some parts of India, Dussehra is considered a focal point of the festival, making it effectively span 10 days instead of 9.
Typically the festival’s nine nights are dedicated to different aspects of the divine feminine principle, or shakti. While the pattern varies somewhat by region, generally the first third of the festival focuses on aspects of the goddess Durga, the second third on the goddess Lakshmi, and the final third on the goddess Sarasvati.
Offerings are often made to the goddesses and their various aspects, and rituals are performed in their honour. One popular ritual is Kanya Puja, which takes place on the eighth or ninth day. In this ritual nine young girls are dressed as the nine goddess aspects celebrated during Navratri and are worshiped with ritual foot washing and given offerings such as food and clothing.
The significance of each stage of worship has clear parallels in the different stages of sadhana (spiritual practices): first, negative tendencies need to be controlled; Second, virtues need to be ingrained; third, after gaining the necessary mental purity, spiritual knowledge needs to be acquired. Only then will the sadhak (spiritual aspirant) attain spiritual illumination. It is significant that Vijaya Dashami is considered auspicious for mantra initiation; advanced spiritual aspirants are also initiated into Sannyasa (vow of renunciation) on this day.
May the light of divinity and blessings of the goddess shower on all.