‘Navratri’ symbolising the nine divine nights is an important festival of the Hindus, which is observed twice a year, once at the onset of summers (Chaitra Navratri), and again at the arrival of winters (Sharad Navratri). The Navratri Festival solely centres on the 3 avatars of Goddess Shakti - Durga (the warrior Goddess), Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth), and Saraswati (the Goddess of knowledge). However, every region in India celebrates this festival in its own way.
Navratri 2012 is on following dates -
Sharad Navratri 2012: 16th October - 23rd October
The significance of this festival has been conveyed in the legends associated with Navratri, the most popular being slaying of the demon king, Mahishasura. It is said that when he started taking away innocent lives after acquiring invincible powers, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahesh with the unification of their powers, created Goddess Durga who entered a war with Mahishasura. This war lasted for nine days and on the tenth day she beheaded him. These nine nights are symbolic of the divine festival of Navratri.
The three manifestations of Goddess Shakti are worshipped, with first three days dedicated to Goddess Durga, fourth, fifth and sixth days devoted to Goddess Lakshmi and last three days for Goddess Saraswati. The devotees observe fast during the festival, and break their fast on the eighth day (Ashtami) or ninth day (Navami). They carry out rituals of ‘Kanchika Pujan’, which involves worshipping nine young girls, representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga. Fasting is observed rigorously during the navratri festival, with only milk and root vegetables being consumed. ‘Sendha namak’ is used in place of common salt. Other religious practices of Navratri involve chanting of mantras, prayers and religious hymns associated to the Goddess.
The festival of Navratri is considered to be the biggest celebration of the year in Gujarat and West Bengal. It also involves fun-filled dance performances along with Goddess worship. In West Bengal, devotees of Maa Durga, celebrate Durga Puja which signifies victory of good over evil. The idols of the Goddess are worshipped and on the tenth day they are immersed in water to bid her adieu. Celebrations in Gujarat involve ‘jaagrans’ being organised and popular dances like and Garba Raas adding to the merriment.
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