या देवी सर्वभूतेषु चेतनेत्यभिधीयते। नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नम:।।
Navratri – नवरात्री 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. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra.” Navratri is a very important and major festival and is celebrated with great zeal all over India.
Navaratri is celebrated five times a year. They are Vasanta Navaratri, Ashadha or Gupta Navaratri, the Sharad Navaratri, the Paush and Magha Navaratri.
Of these, the Sharad Navaratri of the month of Puratashi and the Vasanta Navaratri of the Vasanta kala are the most important. Gupta Navaratri, also referred as Ashadha or Gayatri or Shakambhari Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Ashadha (June–July). Gupta Navaratri is observed during the Ashadha Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon). Sharad Navaratri, is the most important of the Navaratris. It is simply called Maha Navaratri (the Great Navratri) and is celebrated in the ‘pratipada’ (first day) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvina. Also known as Sharad Navaratri, as it is celebrated during Sharad (beginning of winter, September–October). Paush Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Paush (December–January). Paush Navaratri is observed during the Paush Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon). Magha Navaratri, also referred as Gupta Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Magha (January–February). Magha Navaratri is observed during the Magha Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon).
The Story of Vasanta Navaratri
In days long gone by, King Dhruvasindhu was killed by a lion when he went out hunting. Preparations were made to crown the prince Sudarsana. But, King Yudhajit of Ujjain, the father of Queen Lilavati, and King Virasena of Kalinga, the father of Queen Manorama, were each desirous of securing the Kosala throne for their respective grandsons. They fought with each other. King Virasena was killed in the battle. Manorama fled to the forest with Prince Sudarsana and a eunuch. They took refuge in the hermitage of Rishi Bharadwaja.
The victor, King Yudhajit, thereupon crowned his grandson, Satrujit, at Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala. He then went out in search of Manorama and her son. The Rishi said that he would not give up those who had sought protection under him. Yudhajit became furious. He wanted to attack the Rishi. But, his minister told him about the truth of the Rishi’s statement. Yudhajit returned to his capital.
Fortune smiled on Prince Sudarsana. A hermit’s son came one day and called the eunuch by his Sanskrit name Kleeba. The prince caught the first syllable Kli and began to pronounce it as Kleem. This syllable happened to be a powerful, sacred Mantra. It is the Bija Akshara (root syllable) of the Divine Mother. The Prince obtained peace of mind and the Grace of the Divine Mother by the repeated utterance of this syllable. Devi appeared to him, blessed him and granted him divine weapons and an inexhaustible quiver.
The emissaries of the king of Benares passed through the Ashram of the Rishi and, when they saw the noble prince Sudarsana, they recommended him to Princess Sashikala, the daughter of the king of Benares.
The ceremony at which the princess was to choose her spouse was arranged. Sashikala at once chose Sudarsana. They were duly wedded. King Yudhajit, who had been present at the function, began to fight with the king of Benares. Devis helped Sudarsana and his father-in-law. Yudhajit mocked Her, upon which Devi promptly reduced Yudhajit and his army to ashes.
Thus Sudarsana, with his wife and his father-in-law, praised Devi. She was highly pleased and ordered them to worship her with havan and other means during the Vasanta Navarathri. Then she disappeared.
Prince Sudarsana and Sashikala returned to the Ashram of Rishi Bharadwaja. The great Rishi blessed them and crowned Sudarsana as the king of Kosala. Sudarsana and Sashikala and the king of Benares implicitly carried out the commands of the Divine Mother and performed worship in a splendid manner during the Vasanta Navarathri.
Sudarsana’s descendants Sri Rama and Lakshmana also performed worship of Devi during the Sharad Navarathri and were blessed with Her assistance in the recovery of Sita.
According to the Krittibas Ramayana, Rama invoked the goddess Durga in his epic battle against Ravana. Although Goddess Durga was traditionally worshipped in the late spring, due to contingencies of battle, Lord Rama had to invoke her in the form of astam (eighth) Mahavidya (Maa Bagla) in the autumn and thus is known as akaal bodhan (invoking out of scheduled time). This autumnal ritual was different from the conventional Durga Puja, which is usually celebrated in the springtime. So, this Puja is also known as ‘akal-bodhan’ or out-of-season (‘akal’) worship (‘bodhan’). This Rama’s date for the Navratra puja has now gained ascendancy and culminates with Dusherra in North India on the following day.
The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are considered to be important junctions of climatic and solar influences. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother Durga. The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar.
Worship of The Divine as Mother is a special characteristic of the Indian Culture. God is mostly referred as the Father of all creation or the Omnipotent ruler of Nature in other religions. Navaratri or Navadurga Parva happens to be the most auspicious and unique period of devotional sadhanas and worship of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy of the Divine conceptualized as the Mother Goddess-Durga, whose worship dates back to prehistoric times before the dawn of Vedic age.
A whole chapter in the tenth mandal of the holy Rigveda deals with the devotional sadhanas of Shakti. The “Devi Sukta” and “Usha Sukta” of the Rigveda and “Ratri Sukta” of the Samveda similarly sing paeans of praise of sadhanas of Shakti.
Before the beginning of the Mahabharat war, Lord Krishna had worshipped Durga – the Goddess of Shakti- for the victory of the Pandvas.
Lord Brahma is cited in the Markandey Purana as mentioning to Rishi Markandey that the first incarnation of Shakti was as Shailputri. Other incarnations of the Divine Mother are: Brahmcharñi, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri in that order. These nine manifestations of Shakti, are worshipped as “Nava-Durga”. The fifth chapter of the Rudra Sanhita of Shiva Purana also vividly describes the various Divine Emanations of Durga.
Since the Vedic Age of the Rishis, the devotional practices recommended during Navratri are primarily those of Gayatri Anushthana.
In the Vedic Age of the Indian Culture, the religious philosophy and devotional practices were focused towards true knowledge and ultimate realization of the supreme power of Gayatri (Bram Shakti). The Vedas were the basis of all streams of spirituality and science those days. Gayatri has been the source of the divine powers of the gods in the heavens and their angelic manifestations and incarnations. Gayatri sadhana was also paramount in the higher level spiritual endeavors of the yogis and tapaswis. Gayatri Mantra was the core-focus of daily practice of sandhya-vandan (meditation and devotional worship) for everyone. As guided by the rishis, specific sadhanas and upasanas of the Gayatri Mantra were sincerely practiced during the festival period of Navaratri by every aspirant of spiritual enlightenment.
This is celebrated during Vasanta Rhitu (beginning of summer) (March- April). This is also known as Chaitra navarathri as it falls during the lunar month of Chaitra.
Forms of Shakti
Nine forms of Shakti are worshipped during the Navaratris. The Devis worshipped depend on the tradition of the region. Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba or Jagadamba, Mother of the universes, Annapoorna devi, The one who bestows grains (anna) in plenty (purna: used as subjective)Sarvamangala, The one who gives joy (man gal) to all (sarva), Bhairavi, Chandika or Chandi, Lalita, Bhavani, Mookambika
Navadurga – नवदुर्गा, which literally means nine Goddess Durgas, constitute, according to Hindu mythology, the manifestation of Durga in nine different forms. These nine forms of manifestation are Śhailaputrī, Brahmachāriṇī, Chandraghaṇṭā, Kuṣhmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kātyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī and Siddhidātrī; together worshipped during the Navratri (Nine Divine Nights) celebration in Autumn each year. Each one of the Navadurga is known by a particular name and the deity has a particular dhyana-mantra, a mantra for meditation, a free English version of which is mentioned below:
May the illustrious Shailputri Durga whom I salute and whose head is adorned by a halfmoon, who rides nandi, a bull and carries a spear fulfill the desires of my heart. She is known as 1st phase of Durga when she took birth as the daughter of Great Himalayas.
May the supreme Brahmachari Durga, who holds rosary and kamandalu in her lotus hands and whose nature is to attain Sachchidanandamaya Brahmaswarupa the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss absolute, be propitious on me. Devi is Devi’s that phase when Maa Parvati before marriage was Devi Yogni and Devi Tapsvini.
May that Durga Devi, who rides on Tiger, who is endowed with intense anger and violence and is renowned by the name of Maa Chandraghanta, bestow her grace on me. Chandraghanta Maa is known and named Chandraghanta or Chandra-Khanda as Maa Durga wears the semi-circular moon (Chandra) which appears like a bell (Ghanta) on her forehead.
May Kushmanda Ma Durga who holds two pitchers full of blood in her lotus hands and the universe is created, sustained and drawn within Devi’s ownself in a wink be propitious for me. In this form Mother Durga creates solar system by liberating her power to Lord Sun.
May the renowned Durga Devi Skandamata who is eternally seated on a throne and whose hands are adorned with lotuses, be ever propitious to me. As Mother of Skanda or Kartikeya, Maa Parvati or Maa Durga is known as Skandmata.
May the ever watchful Durga Devi Katyayani, who holds shining Chandrahasa (Sword) in Devi’s hand and rides a magnificent lion and destroys the demons, bestow welfare on me. When Maa Parvati’s Partial expansion took birth in Sage Katya’s home and gets energy from trinity and demi Gods, then the Goddess was known as Maa Katyani.
May she Bhayankari Maa Durga who is with long lips, riding an ass, shining in various hues looks formidable because of the halo of Devi’s lustre and is adorned with multi coloured ornaments remove my darkness of ignorance. In Skand Purana, Maa Parvati liberates Devi’s golden outer sheath and becomes dark complexioned then Goddess becomes Goddess Kaalratri.
May the Mahagauri Ma Durga who rides a white Vrishaba the bull and who wears spotless white clothes and remains ever pure and also provides ever lasting bliss to Mahadeva Lord Shiva bestow all auspiciousness. Devi is 16 years old unmarried Goddess Parvati.
May the ever-victorious Siddhidayini Ma Durga, who is always worshipped by the hordes of siddha, gandharva, yaksha, asura, and Deva, bestow success at my every venture. She is one who was worshiped by Lord Shiva to become in the form of Goddess Ardhnarishwara, then Goddess Shakti Appeared from the left side of Lord Shiva.