Navratri, the longest festival in the Hindu Calendar is celebrated in the honor of Shakti or the Goddess Durga in her nine different incarnations across the country. During the nine days of the Navratri, the nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped and the celebrations end with a grandiose worship on the last day or the tenth day, i.e., Vijayadashami or “Dussehra.”
During the nine days of Navratri, three forms of the goddess -Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi – are invoked and it is said that each of these 3 deities gave rise to 3 more forms and hence in all, these 9 forms together are known as Nav-Durga are worshipped over the nine days.
The Nine Forms:
- Amba or Jagadamba, Mother of the universe
- Annapoorna Devi, The one who bestows grains (anna) in plenty (Purna: used as subjective)
- Sarvamangala, The one who gives happiness (mangal) to all (sarva)
- Chandika or Chandi
History of Navratri:
According to the North Indian Belief:
Lord Brahma of the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, granted a boon to the “Buffalo Demon,” Mahishasura, which protected him from any man in the world . Empowered with this boon, Mahishasura set out on a murderous rage to conquer the earth and the heaven that also led to the defeat of the king of deities,Indra. At the pleading of Indra, the king of the Gods, or the Trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva created Devi Durga, by combining their own divine powers (Shakti).
Endowed with the trinity’s Shakti, Durga proved to be a formidable opponent and she fought against Mahisasura for nine days and nine nights, beheading him on the tenth. The nine nights known as Navratri, symbolize the nine days of battle between Devi Durga and Mahisasura, while the tenth day, which is Vijayadashami-literally means the victorious tenth day of the conquest of good over evil.
The Eastern Belief:
As per the legend prevalent in East India, Daksha, the king of the Himalayas, whose daughter Uma was married to Lord Shiva once organized a Yagna. However,he did not invite Lord Shiva for the same as he broke off all the relationships with his daughter and son-in-law displeased, with the tiger-skin clad groom.
Uma, ashamed by the behavior of her father towards her husband, committed Sati (the woman immolates herself in a burning pyre). Shiva angered over the incidents started his Tandav or the vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of create, sustain and destroy.
Narayana, (Lord Vishnu) one of the trinity, came forward as a saviour and used his ‘Chakra’ to cut the body of Uma into pieces to calm down Lord Shiva. It is believed that Uma was revoked to life and that she visits her father’s kingdom every year during Navratri.
Ram and Ravana:
Yet another legend has it that the Navratri festival is an observance that has its roots in the Hindu mythology Ramayana. It is believed that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga for around nine days in nine aspects, in order to gather the strength and the power needed to kill Ravana, the powerful demon king.
Those nine nights later came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day, on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, came to be called Vijayadashmi or Dusshera. The grand celebrations on the tenth day is meant to signify Rama’s (good) triumph over Ravana (evil).
Celebrations from across the Country:
In Kolkata, the Durga Pujo or Durga Puja is celebrated with great reverence and it is the most-sought-after festival in the Bengali culture. During these days, idols of Durga are worshipped in ephemeral marquees and then immersed in the river on the final day. While in the western part of the country, i.e.,in Gujarat, women perform Garba and Dandiya dances with percussion sticks. While down South, i.e., in Mysore, there is a pageantry organized in reminiscences of the medieval times.