Navratras, Navratris, Durga Puja, Goddess Durga,  Mother Goddess, Shakti

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NAVRATRAS

Navratras

 
"Navratri" or "Navratra" is a combined word which translated means nine nights. " Nav" means Nine and "Ratri" means night, so combined it means Navratri or Nine nights. In northern parts of India this festival is called " Navratra". Navratri is a nine day holy festival, which is celebrated to propitiate Goddess of Shakti or Divine Mother. Many devotees keep fast on all the nine days of this holy festival of nights. Devotees throng the Devi temples all over India where Goddess Idol is decorated beautifully. Navratri celebrations are observed very enthusiastically in the state of Gujarat where all nine nights of Navratras are spent in vibrant Garba and Rasa dance. In West Bengal Durga Puja is the most important festival and is celebrated with gaiety and enthusiasm.

According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga is Mother Goddess or Shakti (The Divine Female Energy). According to the legend Lord Brahma granted a boon ( Var ) to Mahishasur who was king of the demons. Armed with the powers of the boon, he created havoc in the universe, and no one could defeat him or kill him. He got so insolent, that he started terrorizing the Gods ( Devtas) also. He one day reached Heaven ( Swarglok) to kill Indra (King of Gods ). Greatly distressed, Indra asked Lord Brahma to help him. Lord Brahma was enraged at such blatant misuse of his boon and the power associated with that boon, he along with Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahesh ,released their energies and combined these shaktis ( powers) and brought to life a magnificent Goddess with many arms. This form of Shakti was called "Durga". Goddess Durga armed rode on a Lion ( Singh) and fought a fierce and a bloody battle with the Mahishasur . For nine days and nights , Goddess Durga fought a fierce battle with Mahishasur. In this battle Mahishasur changed his form many times. On the tenth day, Goddess ultimately trapped him under her foot and the Demon was killed, and the universe was saved from the terror of Mahishasur. This victory symbolizes the victory of good over evil. These nine days are devoted to the propitiation of the Mother Goddess or Shakti . Hinduism is the only religion the world which has emphasized to such an extent the motherhood of God.

Navratri is celebrated twice in a year. As per Astrology there are two major solar influences each year. The seasons are determined by the two directions in which the sun appears to be moving. So one is when Sun is crossing Equator and moving towards south direction which is called "Visaragakaal" or "Dakshinayana" The sun is not very harsh in this season, and more moisture is released in the atmosphere. The other is when Sun is crossing Equator and moving towards north direction which is called "Aadanakaal" or "Uttarayana". The sun is stronger in this phase, and tends to absorb the moisture from the atmosphere. One is the start of the winter season and the other is the start of the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere.

The beginning of summer season and the beginning of winter season are two very important junctions of climatic and solar influences. The bodies and minds of people undergo a considerable change on account of the changes in nature. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother or Maa Shakti. So both the seasons are chosen for celebrating Navratras. Ram Navratri is celebrated in Chaitra Month (the first month of the year according to Hindu Calendar, beginning on 22 March (or 21 March in leap years) and ending on 20 April) and the Durga Navratri in Ashvin or Aswayuja (seventh month of the year according to Hindu calendar, beginning on 23 September and ending on 22 October.). Lord Rama is worshipped during Ramnavmi , and the Divine Goddess Mother Durga is worshipped during Navratri.

Navratri's each night( ratri) is dedicated to one form of Goddess Durga. That is every night ( ratri)of the Navratri corresponds to worship of different forms of Goddess Durga.

 

Maa Shailputri : The daughter of Parvatraj Himalaya (King of the Mountain Himalaya). She  married Lord Shiva and is known as mother of Lord Ganesha (The Remover of obstacles) and Kartikeya (The God of War).

Maa Brahmachaarin : She gives the message of pure love to the world.

Maa Chandraghanta : She establishes Justice. She wears the crescent moon on her head.

Maa Kushmaanda : She provides the basic necessities, and every day sustenance to the world.

Skand Maa : She gives the gift of differentiation & discrimination of right from wrong to the world.

Maa Kaatyayini : She persistently & relentlessly battles against the evil and deceitful & devious entities.

Maa Kaalratri : She killed Raktabeeja (A demon who had the power to produce a demon from every drop of blood that fell from his body. Goddess & Divine Mother eventually licked the blood before it could reach the ground and hence conquered & over powered him).

Maa Chaamunda : She killed two demons--Chanda and Munda and restored tranquility & order in the world.

Maa MahaGauri : She also liberated the world from the evil forces.

Mata Sidhidaarti : She is a treasure house of Mystic Powers (Yantra Tantra) and Knowledge (Gyaan).

 



It is also said that the nine days are divided and devoted to the Trinity of God worshipped in a female form in which for three days Maa Durga (Goddess of valor, Power & Energy ) is worshipped, for three days Maa Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth & Prosperity) and three days for Maa Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge , Learning and Art) is worshipped.

Following rituals are observed in these nine days:

Rituals for the First Three Days of Navratras :
During the first three days of Navratri Maa Durga -( The Goddess of Valor, Power and Energy ) is worshiped in its manifestations as Kumari, Parvati and Kali. These three forms represent the various nature or classes of woman - as a young virgin girl, as a wife and mother and as an old mature woman respectively. On the first day of Navratri barley seeds are sown in a small pot (mostly earthen pot or container) in the Puja (worship ) room. On the tenth day when these seeds grow into small shoots these are pulled out and given to devotees as a blessing from god and are received as Prasad.


Rituals for Fourth - Sixth Days of Navratras :
During these three days it is Maa Lakshmi - ( The Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity ) who is worshiped. This is done to rekindle divine qualities in a devotees mind. Prayers, Kirtans and Jagratns are organized in various temples and community halls by the religious minded people. On the fifth day which is known as Lalita Panchami, it is traditional, to gather and display all literature available in the house, light a lamp or 'diya' to invoke Saraswati Maa, the Goddess of knowledge and art.

Rituals for Seventh - Eighth Days of Navratras :
On the seventh and eighth day of Navratri Maa Saraswati - (The Hindu Goddess of Knowledge, Learning & Art) is worshiped. It is believed that worshiping Maa Saraswati enhances the spiritual knowledge of a devotee and makes a person free of all bonds of the Sansara ( Material World). This in turn will free a devotee from all earthly bondages. On the 8th day of this colorful festival, Yagna or Homam (holy fire) is performed. Pure Desi Ghee (clarified pure butter), kheer (rice pudding) and sesame seeds form the holy offering to Goddess Durga Maa ( Divine Mother). Many people in north India worship the 8th day as ashtami .

Rituals of the Ninth or Mahanavami Day :
The festival of Navratri culminates on Mahanavami . This is the most important day of the festival. On this day 'Kanya Pujan' is performed in Hindu households. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed and then they are offered new clothes as gifts by the worshiper. They are also treated with a Prasad of Puri, Black Chanas ( Chhole) and Halwa , small token of money , red bangles and red scarf . On this day these little girls usually move from house to house and enjoy and relish this special treat. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country.

 

During these Navratri days most of the people eat vegetarian food, some people eat food without any form of cereal and some fast for all the eight days.



In the case of Navratri festival celebrated as Durga Navratri in Ashvin or Aswayuja (seventh month of the year according to Hindu calendar, beginning on 23 September and ending on 22 October), the tenth day of this festival is celebrated as Vijaydashmi or Dussehra.

People in North India very often visit the world famous holy shrine of Maa Vaishnodevi , which is situatued on Trikoot mountain (parvat ) near Jammu during this period. Lunches and Dinners are also organized in temples and community places which are known as bhandaras. In the states of Gujrat and West Bengal , Navratras are celebrated with great pomp and show. In Gujrat at night time, girls and young women dress up in best of their ghagra cholis and boys and young men wear their best Kurta Pajams and gather for the traditional Garbha dance or dandiya rass.

In West Bengal during Navratras, Goddess Durga is worshipped. The pujas are held over a five day period, which is viewed as the home coming of the married daughter, Durga, to her father, Parvatraj Himalaya's ( Mountain King Himalaya) home. It is considered to be the most important festival of the Bengali people. During these days Bengali people buy new clothes, exchange sweets and most of the new purchases are made. These new clothes they buy are worn by them in the evenings when the family goes out to see the 'Pandals' (temporary structures set up to venerate the goddess Durga). Muscial evenings are mostly organized in these pandals. On the last day of the puja, the idol of the Goddess is taken with great fanfare and immersed in the river.

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