Navaratri is a time when families come together to celebrate, share and heal. Spanning over a nine-day period, Navaratri signifies spiritual victory and knowledge of the self. The nine-day festival is complete with auspicious rituals, deep meditation, prayer chants and fasting. Navaratri aids in overcoming one’s vices and mental distortions, allowing one to truly focus on what is important: Shakti and spiritual healing.
One is encouraged to liberate oneself of Kama (desire), of Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (infatuation), Mada (arrogance) and Matsarya (jealousy) and celebrate the divine energies that protect the universe.
The essence of Navaratri
Shakti is the cosmic energy that flows through the entire universe; creating in its path, nurturing in its path and also destructive in its path. The Navaratri festival honours the manifestation of the Shakti in incarnations of the Supreme mother over a period of nine days.
The Devi Mahatmya in Sanskrit, 11CE
Each day, families come together in the morning and evening hours, to perform pujas, to meditate, and to chant the Devi Mahatmyam and the Srimad Devi Bhagavatam. Women fast through the day and restrict themselves to a diet of fresh fruits and seeds, cleansing their body of toxins as they cleanse their mind of distortions.
The Goddesses and their colours
The Navaratri festival is celebrated with different colour themes. Each colour is associated with different incarnations of the Shakti and their traits, allowing oneself to truly immerse in the festive spirit. These colours not only extend to the clothes and drapes of women but also to the backdrops in golu arrangements and floral decorations.
On each day of Navaratri, an incarnation of the Shakti mata is revered and prayers are chanted to invoke the blessings from the supreme energy.
Day 1: Goddess Shailputri
The first day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Shailputri, the first incarnation. The Goddess is said to hold a trishul in one hand and a lotus the other and is seen riding the bull, Vrishabha. Goddess Shailputri is worshipped to free one’s life of disease and illness, and to be blessed with longevity.
Colour: Orange is said to bring positive energy and happiness. On the first day, orange becomes the theme around which golu arrangements are set and floral decorations in the tones of marigold and orange calendula are seen in the shrines. Women of the house wear sarees in orange tones and draw kolams and rangolis with coloured powder.
Offerings: Pure ghee at the feet of the Goddess
Day 2: Goddess Brahmacharini
The second day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Brahmacharini, the second incarnation. The monachal Goddess is clad in white and holds a rudraksha mala in one hand and a kamandalam, the purifying vessel in the other. Goddess Brahmacharini is an embodiment of penance, virtue and nobility and is worshipped to invoke the pure spirit in oneself.
Colour: White is said to signify purity and peace. On the second day, women clad in white draw white kolams and rangolis in front of entrances and golu padi arrangements. Floral decorations include the tones of jasmine, white carnations, white hibiscus and begonia.
Offerings: Sugar, jaggery, fruits
Day 3: Goddess Chandraghanta
The third day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Chandraghanta, the third incarnation. Goddess Chandraghanta is depicted in a fierce form with 10 arms and a golden complexion. The roaring goddess is seen riding a fierce lion with a crescent moon on her forehead, giving way to her name. It is said that the very sound from her bell vanquished all her enemies. Goddess Chandraghanta is worshipped by her devotees to rid the world of the evil and the wicked.
Colour: Red is said to exude fearlessness and is also a colour of beauty. On the third day, women clad in red worship the goddess and draw kolams in colours of white accented with red soil. Golu arrangements are also seen in front of red backdrops during the third day. Flower decorations in tones of Asogam (flowers from the Ashoka tree), red roses, carnations, hibiscus and even anthurium are scattered around the shrine.
Offerings: Milk and payasam (kheer)
Day 4: Goddess Kushmanda
The fourth day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Kushmanda, the fourth incarnation. Goddess Kushmanda is said to have created the universe with a cosmic egg that was formed only from her smile. The Goddess is worshipped by her devotees to be blessed with good health and wealth.
Colour: Royal blue is said to embody good health and prosperity. On the fourth day, women dress in blue sarees and offer sweets to the divine goddess. Golu arrangements also have a beautiful blue backdrop on this day. Kolams are decorated with blue powder and drawn at doorways around the home. Floral decorations include bougainvillaea, pansies and butterfly pea flowers.
Offerings: Sweets, halwa, malpua
Day 5: Goddess Skandamata
The fifth day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Skandamata, the fifth incarnation. The four-armed goddess is seen carrying a lotus in two arms and a kamandalam and a bell in the other two. She is also depicted with God Skanda (Kartikeya) in her lap. Goddess Skandamata is seen seated on a lotus with a serene aura but is also depicted as riding a lion. The Goddess is worshipped by her devotees to be blessed with good health.
Colour: Yellow is the colour of bright light and happiness. On the fifth day, women dress in yellow attire and coordinate the golu display and kolams to the theme of the day. Floral decorations are in tones of marigold, chrysanthemum and yellow roses.
Day 6: Goddess Katyayani
The sixth day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Katyayani, the sixth incarnation. The four-armed goddess is seen carrying a sword and riding a lion. Goddess Katyayani is said to be pleased with true devotion and is worshipped by devotees to be rid of bitter difficulties in their lives.
Colour: Green is the colour of new beginnings and growth. On the sixth day, women dress in green clothes and change the backdrop of their golu displays to a beautiful green. Decorations are in tones of marigold, betel leaves, chrysanthemums and young lotus buds.
Day 7: Goddess Kaalratri
The seventh day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Kaalratri, the seventh incarnation. This incarnation of the Goddess is a display of the Shakti as a destructive force. The four-armed goddess is seen carrying a sword, a trishul and a noose. She is the embodiment of all things fierce and has three eyes on her forehead that contain the entire universe. Goddess Kaalratri is worshipped for protection from evil entities and spirits.
Colour: Grey is the colour of strength, change and development. On the seventh day, women dress in grey clothes and perform poojas to honour the Goddess. Floral decorations on this day are contrasting in some households with red flowers.
Offerings: Sweets made with jaggery
Day 8: Goddess Mahagauri
The eighth day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Mahagauri, the eighth incarnation. This incarnation of the Goddess is depicted in her four-armed form with a trishul and damru in hand. She is seen riding an elephant or a bull and resides in Kailash. The Goddess is worshipped by devotees and spiritual seekers alike to be blessed with knowledge, salvation and protection of the good from evil.
Colour: Purple is the colour of intellect and harmony. On the eighth day, women dress in vibrant purple attire and perform pujas to honor Mahagauri. Flowers such as lotuses, jasmine, marigold are scattered around the shrine.
Day 9: Goddess Siddhidhatri
The ninth day marks the manifestation of the Shakti as Goddess Siddhidhatri, the ninth incarnation. Goddess Siddhidhatri is depicted in her four-armed form with a mace, a lotus, a chakra and a book in her hands. She is seen seated on a lotus with a wave of calmness emanating from her. This incarnation of the Shakti depicts knowledge and accomplishments and devotees worship the Goddess to be blessed with knowledge and wisdom.
Colour: Peacock green is the colour of fulfillment. On the ninth day, women dress in beautiful peacock green sarees and attire and perform pujas to honor the Goddess. Flowers such as lotuses, marigold and chrysanthemums are scattered around the shrine.
Offerings: Sesame seeds
Golu arrangements during Navaratri
Golu is an elaborate arrangement of dolls and keepsakes spanning an odd number of tiers on beautiful display stands. This is usually prepared a couple of days in advance, with families coming together to lend a hand in decorating the display. Dolls, old and new alike, are taken out from storage and cleaned thoroughly. Meanwhile, the display stand is cleaned and set up to accommodate the dolls and keepsakes. Dolls and toys are segregated based on the tiers, with the Marapachi pair left for the top.
Ayudha pooja is a day dedicated to honor and express gratitude towards the tools and instruments that we use every day. In days long gone, instruments of war were worshipped to ensure victory. These days, tools that support livelihood and make our lives easy are worshipped, be it sewing needles or large vehicles.
Dussehra and Vijayadashami
Dussehra or Vijayadashmi marks the end of the Navaratri Durga pooja. It celebrates the Goddess’s victory over Mahishasura and also remembers the victory of Rama over Ravana. In essence, good always trumps evil.
The end of Dussehra marks the preparations for Diwali which comes twenty days later.
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