ashtami

Navratri 2020: Customs, Traditions, and Rituals of Navratri

All Indian festivals have a firm base of traditions, rituals, and customs. These are to be ardently followed by each devotee to seek divine blessings. However, we often miss out on one or the other.

We bring to you a complete list of all the rituals and customs that are performed during the Navratri. Also, some more handy information is on your way as you scroll down. 

Navratri is the most divine festival of all. It is dedicated to Goddess Durga and all her avatars. All through the nine days and nights, people are filled with joy and devotion towards the Supreme.

Let us now look at some widely accepted and prevalent customs and rituals of Navratri.

Customs, Traditions, and Rituals of Navratri

Performing rituals is the most significant way of experiencing the essence of any Hindu festival. Navratri is undoubtedly the most important and grandest of all Hindu festivals.

On this auspicious and awe-inspiring occasion, divine love pervades through all devotees. Some numerous traditions and customs are prevalent all over the country.

Though the customs take a turn on every corner of the country, most of the rituals remain the same. Many traditions are discreetly mentioned in the Vedas and the rest have evolved overtime passed down by word of mouth through generations.

Navratri celebrates all things feminine. People worship the divine feminine power that resides in each one of us. Goddess Durga and all her avatars are worshipped during the nine-day haul.

All aspects of life are acknowledged and respected through various customs. The festival is associated with the symbolic connotation as an epitome of courage, wealth, and skill respectively.

As per the Vedas, Navratri customs aim to inculcate spiritual habits. Hence, prayers, chants, ‘bhajans’, and reading of important religious texts make up a significant portion of this festival. 

Customs of Navratri

  1. Houses and temples are intensely cleaned and dusted before the Navratri begins.
  2. On the very first day, a photograph or an idol of the eight-armed Goddess Durga seated on a lion, along with the ‘yantra’ is installed in temples and homes.
  3. ‘Kalash Sthapna’ is done. In this, a water pot or ‘Kalash’ is installed along with the idol for the next nine days. A coconut and some mango leaves are placed atop it covering its mouth.
  4. The morning ‘puja’ is performed after a bath. Mantras are chanted and yagna performed. Chapters from the sacred ‘Durga Saptshati’ and ‘Chandipath’ are recited.
  5. During the puja, ‘Shankh’ or ‘conch’ is blown, fresh flowers, ‘doob’ or sacred grass, ‘paan’, and fruits are offered to the deity. After the puja, prasad is distributed to all members of the family.
  6. Many people observe fast on the first day of Navratri. It is not mandatory but strongly recommended to fast for at least 2 days during Navratris. 
  7. Then the evening Arti is performed just after the sunset or at dusk. Mantras are chanted and blessings of the almighty ae evoked with a pure heart.
  8. This goes on all the nine days of the Navratri. Also, all devotees are barred from eating onions, garlic, non-veg, and alcohol on all Navratri days.
  9. On ‘Ashtami’ and ‘Navami’, a very significant ritual is performed called ‘Kanya Puja’. It involves worshipping nine young girls, in the pre-puberty stage, representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga.
  10. Each girl is treated with a set meal. This meal comprises of puri, sweet bread, halwa, a sweet dish, made of semolina, and Bengal gram curry. After washing their feet, the devotees break their fast.
  11. In some communities, it is considered an auspicious time to initiate learning for children by invoking Goddess Saraswati. Hence, Lalita-puja and Saraswati-puja are done ritualistically to start the formal education of children.
  12. In the Navratri Hindu festival, the devotee should observe abstinence and austerity.

Navratri in Different Regions

In a land as vast as India, diversity thrives. It is a fascinating land of diverse traditions and customs. It is no surprise that every region has a distinct style of celebrating the same festival. 

Every culture and tradition is unique here. Be it language, food, culture, or even the attire, everything varies depending on which part of the country you find yourself in.

Even our ways of worshipping change as per our diversified customs and rituals, giving a distinct regional touch. However, the message conveyed remains the same. 

Navratri is one such example of celebrating this very diversity. Let us peek into the different ways of celebrating Navratri across India and witness its sheer diversity.

  1. Northern India

In the northern parts of India, Navratri is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over the evil king Ravana. Ramlila‘s are enacted ceremoniously across various platforms and venues throughout the nine days of Navratri. 

On the tenth day, effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Meghnad are burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil. This tenth day is called ‘Vijaya Dashami’ or ‘Dussehra’.

dussehra

Apart from this, the nine days are filled with special pujas, yagnas, fasting, meditations, singing, and dancing in order to honor the divine feminine figure. 

Also, there is a prevalent culture of giving gifts and sweets on Navratri. There would be Kanya Pujan where little girls are fed and gifted little tokens to worship the Goddesses in them.

  1. Western India

In western parts of India, particularly in the state of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Raas dance. These are folk dances regional to the state of Gujarat. 

People organize special Dandiya and Garba Nights on all the nine days of Navratri. People dress up in vibrant colored chaniya-cholis and rejuvenate their spirits. 

It is often mentioned in various articles that one should witness Gujarati Navratri at least once in their lifetimes. Parts from this, the usual fasting and worshipping accompany every household.

  1. Eastern India

All the states of the eastern part of India celebrate Navratri as Durga Puja, especially West Bengal. it is considered to be the biggest festival of the year. 

Communities and associations set up pandals. Exquisite and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up in temples and pandals. 

The idols are then worshipped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day. She is believed to take away all the humanly pain and suffering from her from the earth.

navratri

Various cultural programs also accompany the celebrations. People gather every evening and perform cultural and devotional performances. There is a practice of Sindoor Khela where women dress up in white sarees and play with red vermillion. 

The eighth day is traditionally celebrated as Durgashtami. That is the culmination of the Durga Puja festival.

  1. Southern India

In south India, Navratri is the time to invite friends, relatives, and neighbours over to look at the Kolu. Kolu is essentially an exhibition of various dolls and figurines. 

In Kannada, this exhibition is also called Bombe Habba, Bommai Kolu in Tamil, Bomma Gullu in Malayalam, and Bommala Koluvu in Telugu.

Navratri is referred to as Dasara in Karnataka. Yakshagana, a night-long dance in the form of epic dramas from the Puranas are enacted during all nights of Navratri. 

The ‘Mysore Dasara’ is very famous for being celebrated with great pomp and show depicting the triumph over evil. 

The Ayudha Puja is also conducted in many parts of South India on the Mahanavami (Ninth) day with much fanfare. It is the day when weaponry is worshipped.

All sorts of tools, books, musical instruments, equipment, machinery, and automobiles are decorated and worshipped on this day along with the Goddess Saraswati.

The 10th day is celebrated as ‘Vijaya Dashami’. It is the day of “Vidyaarambam” in Kerala, where young children start their education.

What Are The 9 Days of Navratri?

The nine forms of Goddess Durga that are worshipped during the nine days of Navratri are mentioned below with the days they are worshipped on.

Navratri is a time when fasting and feasting go hand in hand. We have looked closely at the fasting part, now let us discuss the feastings. We suggest you different forms of bhog or prasad that you can offer them.

  1. Goddess Shailputri

Goddess Shailputri is the first manifestation of Goddess Durga. 

Goddess Parvati was born as the daughter of Himalaya. In Sanskrit, Shail means the mountain, hence she is known as Shailputri.

Her aura is charismatic as she beholds a Trishul in one hand and a lotus in another. She rides a bull named Nandi. 

Offering: Devotees offer pure ghee on the foot of Goddess Shailputri. It is believed that by offering pure ghee the devotees are blessed with a life free of diseases and illness.

  1. Goddess Brahmacharini

The second day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Brahmacharini. The meditative form of this goddess symbolizes Goddess Parvati when she engages in her deep meditation to please Lord Shiva.

The goddess walks bare feet with a rudraksha mala in one hand and a sacred Kamandalu in the other. 

Offering: Goddess Brahmacharini is offered sugar for the longevity of the family members.

  1. Goddess Chandraghanta

The third day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Chandraghanta. She is fierce, 10-armed, and has a crescent moon on her forehead. This gives her the name Chandraghanta.

She rides on a tiger with a will to destroy all evil and wickedness.

Offering: The ferocious goddess is pleased with Kheer. She is known to drive away all pains.

  1. Goddess Kushmanda

Chaturthi or the fourth day of Navratri is of Devi Kushmanda. The name Kushmanda is derived from three words, ‘Ku’ meaning little, ‘Ushma’ meaning warmth or energy, and ‘Anda’ meaning egg. This signifies that she is the creator of the universe.

Offering: Devotees offer Malpua to Maa Kushmanda to improve their intellect and decision-making ability.

  1. Goddess Skandmata

Goddess Skandmata who is worshipped on the fifth day is also known as Panchami. Skandmata carries a lotus in two of her arms with a sacred Kamandalu and a bell in the other two.

She also carries a little Kartikay on her lap seated on a lotus.

Offering: Bananas is the favorite fruit of Goddess Skandmata.

  1. Goddess Katyayani

The sixth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani. She is the daughter of Sage Katyayan and rides on a lion. 

She is considered as one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. Hence, also known as the warrior goddess. She has four arms and carries a sword. 

Offering: Devotees offer Honey as prasad to Devi Katyayani.

  1. Goddess Kaalratri

Saptami or the seventh day of Navratri is of Goddess Kaalratri. As per legends she sacrificed her skin color and embraced a dark complexion to kill demons. 

She rides a donkey, carries a sword, a trident, and a noose. She possess the third eye on her forehead.

Offering: Offer Jaggery as prasad to Devi Kaalratri for relief from pains, obstacles, and bring happiness.

  1. Goddess Mahagauri

Durga Ashtami or the eight-day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Mahagauri. She rides on a bull or a white elephant. She carries a Trishul and a damru in her hands.

Offering: Goddess Mahagauri is offered coconut by devotees.

  1. Goddess Siddhidatri

The ninth or the final day of Navratri is of Goddess Siddhidhatri. She sits on a lotus holding a mace, discus, and a book and lotus in her hands. This form of Goddess Durga signifies perfection.

Offering: Sesame Seeds are offered to Devi Siddhidatri for safety and security from unnatural events.

Apart from revering the nine forms of Durga, devotees also pray to the Ten Maha Vidyas. Maha Vidyas or Great Wisdom are the ten aspects of Adi Parashakti in Hinduism.

The ten Maha Vidyas are Kali, Tara Devi, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Chhinnamasta, Tripura Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika.

6 Strange Navratri Rituals You Did Not Know About!

Navratri is just a month away now and people have started to gear up for the festival already. Different customs prevail in different parts of the country. 

However, some of them are extremely quirky. Let us see some of the strangest Navratri customs that you might not have heard of:

  1. Animal Sacrifice in Rajasthan

Yes, you read that right! Animal sacrifice during Navratri is a ritual in Rajasthan. The Rajput community of Rajasthan offers an animal sacrifice to their family Goddess locally called Kuldevi during Navratri. 

These animals are generally a buffalo or a goat. Even the Hindu temples in West Bengal and Assam are known to witness the sacrifice of goats, chickens, and buffalos.

  1. Worshipping Weapons

Astra or weapons are worshipped during Navratri. It is also known as Ayudha Puja in some parts. This custom is mostly prevalent in the South Indian states of India. Astra Puja is done on the 9th day of Navratri. 

Soldiers worship their weaponry, while artisans worship their tools. Originally, this puja involved worshipping only the weapons of warfare. However, today all kinds of tools like the typewriter and even the plow are revered. 

The puja is believed to be dedicated to one’s profession. It acknowledges that a divine force is helping with their daily work.

  1. Sowing of Barley

Barley is the widely accepted symbol of prosperity, abundance and growth. Given Navratri is a festival of joy and prosperity, it is fitting to have a barley ritual too. 

Barley is sown on the first day of Navratri. The shoots that grow out of them in the nine days are then distributed to guests on the tenth day. 

barley on navratri

Sowing barley during this festival is considered to be a good omen. It is believed that the quality and length of the shoots determine the wealth and prosperity of the family during the coming year.

  1. Nine-Day Colour Code

Just like each day of the Navratri is dedicated to a different avatar of Goddess Durga, a different color is also assigned to each day. 

People carefully coordinate their festival wardrobe with the color theme of that day. Here is a guide to the color code that is followed during the festival of Navratri:

  • Day 1: Red
  • Day 2: Blue
  • Day 3: Yellow
  • Day 4: Green
  • Day 5: Grey
  • Day 6: Orange
  • Day 7: White
  • Day 8: Pink
  • Day 9: Sky Blue

  1. Doll-Worship (Kolu) in South India

In the southern states of India, Navratri is celebrated as Kolu. Kolu is a one of a kind festival where figurine and doll-displays take place. Also, these dolls are worshipped. 

Kolu is usually accompanied by a cultural show that depicts stories from the Ramayana. It is not confined to India alone, many Asian countries, especially Sri Lanka and Japan, also celebrate this festival.

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Conclusion

Navratri is all about reconnecting with something much bigger than us and these rituals are tools that help us do that. Rituals and customs are simply a part of our rich culture and we must abide by it. 

The nine days that comprise Navratri are given to us to rest, rejuvenate and connect with ourselves which, in turn, helps us connect better with our loved ones and celebrate life.

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