Navratri Festival

India is a land of varying cultures and the rich cultural heritage of India in clearly depicted in the numerous festivals of the country. India is often termed as the “Land of Festivals”. There are festivals for every season and every state during which people all over the country indulge in the zeal and festivities of the events. All the festivals and celebrations depict the cultural unity and integrity of the country. During the festivals, people take part in the ceremonies and rituals irrespective of their caste, creed, age and status.
Navratri is one of the largest Hindu festivals celebrated every year. The exact dates of the festival are fixed by the movement of the moon according to the Hindu lunar calendar but approximately it takes place around September or October. The festival of Navratri is marked by the celebrations of nine days. On each day one of the nine incarnations of the Goddedd Shakti is worshipped. The nine incarnations of the Goddess can be listed as follows; “Maa Shailputri”, “Maa Brahamcharini”, “Maa Chandraghanta”, “maa Kushmanda”, “Maa Skandamata”, “Maa Katyayani”, “Maa Kalratri”, “Maa Mahagauri” and “Maa Siddhidatri”. The festival of Navaratri owes its origin to a number oh historic legends and stories. The festival is celebrated in various parts of the country along with different rituals but however the central idea remains the same. Apart from India the festival is celebrated with much pomp and rejoicings in different parts of the world wherever Hindu societies exists.

History & Origin Of Navratri 
In different parts of India, different legends describe the history of Navratri: 

North India: The legend in North India goes that Mahishasura, the mighty demon, worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained the power of eternity. Soon, he started killing and harassing innocent people and set out to win all the three lokas. The gods in swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva, to find a way to get rid of the demon. To protect the world from the atrocities of Mahishasura, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine female warrior, known as Goddess Durga. Mahishasura, when he saw the divine beauty of Goddess Durga, got mesmerized. So fascinated was Mahishasura by Goddess Durga's beauty that he approached her with the intention of marriage. The goddess agreed to marry him, but put forth a condition - Mahishasura would have to win over her in a battle. Mahishasura, proud as he was, agreed immediately! The battle continued for 9 nights and at the end of the ninth night, Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. The nine nights came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijayadashmi, the tenth day that brought the triumph of good over evil. 

Eastern Belief : As per the legend prevalent in East India, Daksha, the king of the Himalayas, had a beautiful and virtuous daughter called Uma. She wished to marry Lord Shiva, since her childhood. In order to win over the Lord, she worshipped him and managed to please him as well. When Shiva finally came to marry her, the tiger-skin clad groom displeased Daksha and he broke off all the relationships with his daughter and son-in-law. One fine day, Daksha organized a yagna, but did not invite Lord Shiva for the same. Uma got so angry at her father's rude behavior, towards her husband, that she decided to end her life by jumping into the agnikund of the yagna, where she was united with eternity (since then, she came to be known as Sati). However, she took re-birth and again won Shiva as her groom and peace was restored. It is believed that since then, Uma comes every year with Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati and Laxmi and two of her best friends or 'sakhis', called Jaya and Bijaya, to visit her parent's home during Navratri. 

Another Legend - Ram and Ravana: Yet another legend of Navratri relates to the Hindu epic Ramayana. It goes that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in nine aspects, for nine days, in order to gather the strength and power to kill Ravana. He wanted to release Sita from the clutches of powerful demon king Ravana, who had abducted her. Those nine nights became to be known as Navratri and the tenth day, on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, came to be called Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, signifying Rama's (good) triumph over Ravana (evil).

 Types of Navrartri Festivals:
Navratri festival is the joyous way of worshipping Goddess Durga. The festival is celebrated all over the country with joy and fervour. ‘Nav’ means nine and ‘Ratri’ means night. The festival is celebrated over a period of nine nights and 10 days. Navratri festival is celebrated 5 times in a year. But the main Navratri festival is celebrated in the month of October/ November. The different types of navrartri festival are:
1. Vasanta Navratri: - this is celebrated in the Chaitra month of Hindu calendar. This is generally the month of March according to modern calendar. It is the seasonal transition time. The winters had almost gone by this time and spring is greeted with enthusiasm. The 9th night of the festival is celebrated as ‘Rama Navmi’.
2. Gupta Navratri: - these navratri falls in the month of June/ July. The Hindu month is named as ‘Aashada’. These are also known as Gayatri navratri.
3. Sharad Navratri: - these navratri days fall in the month of October/ November. It is again the seasonal transition time. The winters are advancing during this time of year, bidding adieu to longer summer duration. According to Hindu calendar, the Navratri are celebrated in the month of Ashwini. The 9 forms of Durga are worshipped with fervour. The 8th day is quite significant in Bengalis as Durgashtami. The 10th day of the festival is celebrated as Vijaya Dashmi which is the Lord Rama’s victory over ‘Ravana’. On the 10th day Bengalis submerge the idols of Durga in water marking the completion of the festival.
4. Pausha Navratri: - these navratri festivals are celebrated in the month of Pausha according to Hindu calendar. Generally it falls on December/ January according to modern calendar.
5. Maagha Navratri: - these 9 days are celebrated in the Maagha month of Hindu calendar. This happens to be the month of January/ February according to modern calendar.
The first three days of Navratri festival are related to the worship of Goddess Durga. The next three days are related to worship of Goddess Laxmi and on the last three days worship of Goddess Sarswati is done with all rituals. Some people observe fast on all the nine days while consuming food only once a day. While some take only fruits and water and avoid even a single morsel.

Navratri Celebrations :

Apart from worship, dance and music forms an integral part of the cultural event and are carried out in various ways across the various parts of the country according to the regional traditions. The garba dance of Gujrat organized in various places of the state is an interesting event and people from all over the country and various parts of the world visit to experience the exotic celebrations. After the nine days of the worships, there comes the event of Ramnavami which is also a popular event of the country. The day is marked by the ritual of inviting young boys and girls and food is served to them who are considered as the incarnations of the great Lord himself. The initial day that is the 1st day of the festival of Navratri is also considered as the commencing day of the New Year as per the Indian traditional culture. The day is celebrated with much pomp and vigor and is considered to be a holy day for starting any new venture.
Thus to conclude, it can be said the Navratri is one of the biggest festivals of the country that not only brings its people together, but the event also symbolizes the national integrity and unity.

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