Navaratri- Dussehra Festival

Navaratri, also known as Dussehra, marks the triumph of the Goddess over evil forces. Special Durga Puja ceremonies are held, during which elaborate idols of the Goddess are worshipped for ten days. At the end of the celebrations, these idols are taken in grand processions for immersion into rivers or the sea.

Navaratri, meaning “nine nights,” is a special celebration spanning nine consecutive nights dedicated to honoring and celebrating the Feminine Principle. This festival typically occurs during the autumn season, known as Sharad Ritu. It commences with the new moon day, Bhadrapada Amavasya or Mahalaya Amavasya, falling between late September and mid- or late October. The subsequent nine nights, known as the Shukla Paksha or waxing moon period, constitute the Navaratri festival.

Shakti, the encompassing term for Divine Feminine power, manifests in various forms, including Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati. Durga is revered as the ultimate mother goddess and protector of all beings, offering refuge to those seeking shelter. She embodies the dynamic energy of the universe as Parvati. The radiant Lakshmi symbolizes prosperity and beauty, bestowing material comforts upon her devotees. Sarasvati, the goddess of learning and perception, imparts the gift of intellect and consciousness, wielding the power of knowledge.

Collectively, these three divine energies epitomize the entirety of the feminine principle, representing aspects of strength, abundance, beauty, wisdom, and creativity. During the nine-day celebration of Navaratri, each set of three days is dedicated to a specific aspect of the Divine Feminine, represented by three goddesses.

  1. The first three days are dedicated to worshipping Goddess Durga, who embodies Kriya Shakti, the powerful force that annihilates negative energies and vanquishes obstacles.
  2. The following three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, symbolizing Ichcha Shakti, the divine energy that fulfills all material desires and bestows prosperity and abundance upon her devotees.
  3. The final three days are dedicated to Goddess Sarasvati, representing Jnana Shakti, the power of knowledge and wisdom. Sarasvati empowers individuals with intelligence, creativity, and the ability to unlock their latent potential through learning and enlightenment.

Vijaya Dashami, also known as the tenth day of victory, marks the culmination of Navaratri. It commemorates the triumph of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura after a fierce battle. Her victory symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. This day serves as a reminder for us to persist and confront our challenges in life with determination, knowing that victory is assured with perseverance.

Regional Variations in Celebration

During Navaratri, the festive spirit fills the air across India, with distinct celebrations in different regions. In the villages of North India, the rhythmic beat of the kol or dandia resonates through the night as villagers come together to dance in pairs to the lively tunes of the dhol.

In the South, streets and homes are lit up. Large crowds visit temples and exchange visits with neighbors, renewing social bonds and goodwill. Women, in particular, visit each other’s homes, exchanging greetings, sweets, and gifts, strengthening social support systems and fostering community.

Navaratri: Celebrating the Divine Feminine and Empowering Women

In our society, worshiping Goddess Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati during Navaratri reflects our profound reverence for women and their multifaceted roles.

Women are regarded as embodiments of Durga, symbolizing the protectors of the family with their inherent powers of fertility, regeneration, and endurance. They are esteemed as the bringers of good fortune and are revered as the Lakshmi of every home, representing prosperity and cultural richness.

Furthermore, we deeply respect education and acknowledge our mother as primary and most significant teacher, as reflected in the saying “Matru Devo Bhava” (Mother is Divine). Women are equated with Sarasvati, embodying the divine aspect of learning, wisdom, and creativity.

Through the practice of kanya poojas, where young girls are revered as manifestations of the Devi during all nine nights of Navaratri, we inspire them with the belief that they are divine beings with immense potential who deserves respect and reverence from society. This tradition empowers them to believe in their capabilities and worthiness. They grow up feeling cherished and valued, knowing they have a significant place in society.

This nurturing and honoring of femininity is a distinctive feature of our culture, setting it apart from many other cultures around the world. It underscores the deep-rooted respect and recognition accorded to women in our society, highlighting their invaluable contributions and innate qualities.

In various countries and faiths, women’s roles and perceptions differ widely. In some, women are viewed primarily as objects meant to serve men, while in others, they may be characterized as assertive and bold, often adopting traditionally masculine traits and lacking nurturing instincts.

However, in our culture, there exists a harmonious balance. Women are celebrated for their boldness and fierceness, yet they are also revered as the source and embodiment of wealth, knowledge, and learning. Despite their strength and assertiveness, they retain their nurturing instincts and are regarded as intensely and perfectly feminine.

Navaratri Tradition

Navaratri is steeped in various traditions. One prominent tradition observed in some communities is the practice of setting up a kalasha, symbolizing the fertile womb as the presiding deity. Additionally, households create elaborate displays known as kolu, featuring traditional clay dolls arranged on odd-numbered tiers. 

During this time, guests are invited to admire the kolu displays and showcase their talents. Sweets and special treats are offered to guests as a gesture of hospitality and goodwill. Navaratri also serves as a time for women to strengthen social and familial ties by honoring and celebrating each other’s presence.

During Navaratri, each night is a special occasion when the Goddess is revered with fresh neivedya offerings and prayers praising her power. It’s believed that divine energy, once invoked in an idol or object, is strengthened through veneration. Prayers, offerings, and adoration sustain this divine energy until it is respectfully requested to depart from the object.

Families honor the Goddess throughout the festival by venerating a young prepubescent girl each day. She receives new clothes, enjoys a lavish home-cooked lunch, and is pampered, reinforcing her femininity and connection with the Goddess. This practice reflects the belief in women’s equality with men, recognizing their unique strengths and powers complementing each other.

The traditional South Indian neivedya for Navaratri is a dish called Shundal. This neivedya is a high-protein, low-oil dish made from steamed or boiled whole peas and gram. The basic recipe can be customized with several options to make it taste different and delicious every time.

This highly nutritious offering is symbolic of women’s ability to regenerate. Whole peas and gram sprout easily and are extremely enriching. The legume’s very fertile property makes it an apt symbol of the essence of womanhood during Navaratri.

On Navami, the ninth day of Navaratri, we honor Sarasvati, the goddess of learning. Books, musical instruments, tools, and other items symbolizing knowledge and livelihood are placed before her for blessings. We seek her talents, abilities, and intellect, reflecting on our strengths, goals, and needs.

This day, also known as Aayuda Pooja, traces back to ancient times when kings placed their weapons before Sarasvati for blessings. We value self-improvement through learning, consecrating offices, vehicles, and tools for daily life.

Vijaya Dashami, the tenth day, celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. It signifies overcoming challenges in life with determination. After Sarasvati Pooja, Vijaya Dashami marks a new beginning. We start anew, using the tools blessed by the goddess, and honor teachers with gifts while students receive new skills and lessons.

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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