Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, “nava” meaning “nine” and “ratri” meaning “nights”.
During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped with different poojas.
The performance arts tradition during the Dussehra festival was inscribed by UNESCO as one of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" in 2008. The festivities, states UNESCO, include songs, narration, recital and dialogue based on the Hindu text Ramacharitmanas by Tulsidas. It is celebrated across northern India for Dussehra, but particularly in historically important Hindu cities of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Almora, Satna and Madhubani - cities in Uttar Pradesh, Utarakhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The festival and dramatic enactment of the virtues versus vices filled story is organized by communities in hundreds of small villages and towns, attracting a mix of audience from different social, gender and economic backgrounds. In many parts, the audience and villagers join in and participate spontaneously, some helping the artists, others helping with stage set up, create make-up, effigies and lights. These arts come to a close on the night of Dussehra, when the victory of Rama is celebrated by burning the effigies of evil Ravana and his colleagues.
The tenth day is commonly referred to as “Vijayadashami” or “Dussehra.”
First three days
The Goddess is worshipped as the spiritual force called “Durga”, also known as Kali, in order to destroy all evil and to grant boons. Durga, meaning “the inaccessible” or “the invincible”, is the most popular incarnation of Devi and one of the main forms of the Goddess Shakti in the Hindu tradition.
Another significant and notable tradition of several South Indian regions has been the dedication of this festival to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts. She is worshipped, along with instruments of one's trade during this festival. In South India, people maintain, clean and worship their instruments, tools of work and implements of their livelihood during this festival, remembering Goddess Saraswati and Durga.
Durga is the original manifested form of Mother Adi-Parashakti.
Second three days
The Mother is adored as the giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of wealth, love, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and the embodiment of beauty.
In Nepal, Vijayadashami follows the festival of Dashain. Youngsters visit the elders in their family, distant ones come to their native homes, and students visit their school teachers. The elders and teachers welcome the youngsters, mark their foreheads with Tilak and bless them. The family reveres the Hindu goddess of wealth Lakshmi, hoping for virtuous success and prosperity in the year ahead.
She is the wife of Vishnu. Also known as Mahalakshmi, she is said to bring good luck and is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows.
Final three days
The final set of three days is spent in worshiping the Goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.
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In some parts of South India, Saraswati puja is performed on the 9th day. Weapons, agricultural implements, all kinds of tools, equipments, machinery and automobiles are decorated and worshipped on this day along with the worship of Goddess.
In Gujarat, both goddess Durga and god Rama are revered for their victory over evil. Fasting and prayers at temples are common. A regional dance called Dandia Ras, that deploys colorfully decorated sticks, and Garba that is dancing in traditional dress is a part of the festivities through the night.
The work starts afresh from the next day, the 10th day which is celebrated as “Vijaya Dashami”.
During Navratri, some devotees of Durga observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and prosperity. Devotees avoid meat, alcoholic drinks, grains, wheat and onion during this fast.
Vijaya Dasami is observed after Navratri, on the tenth day, marked by a great procession where the clay statues are ceremoniously walked to a river or ocean coast for a solemn goodbye to Durga. Many mark their faces with vermilion (sindoor) or dress in something red. It is an emotional day for some devotees, and the congregation sings emotional goodbye songs. When the procession reaches the water, Durga is immersed, the clay dissolves, and she is believed to return to Mount Kailasha with Shiva and cosmos in general. People distribute sweets and gifts, visit their friends and family members. Some communities such as those near Varanasi mark the eleventh day, called ekadashi, by visiting a Durga temple.
Navratri is also a period of introspection and purification, and is traditionally an auspicious and religious time for starting new ventures.
Mahishasura Mardini Stotram
The Mahishasura Mardini Stotram is a very popular stotram of Goddess Durga during the Navaratri Festival and is based on the Devi Mahatmyam. It is a hymn describing the heavenly praises to Durga’s victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura.
Vijayadasami is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. In the eastern and northeastern states of India, Vijayadashami marks the end of Durga Puja, remembering goddess Durga's victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura to help restore Dharma. In the northern, southern and western states, the festival is synonymously called Dussehra (also spelled Dasara, Dashahara).
In the twelfth chapter of the Devi Mahatmyam the Goddess herself ordered to sing this song during festivals: “The place, where this song is sung every day, I will always be present and never leave.” Did you know that Telugu holds the status of a classical language in India…
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