The Cosmic Mother is worshipped not once as is commonly believed, but as many as 5 times during the course of a year, in the Navratri celebrations dedicated to her. However, of these, two are well known – the Chaitra Navratri which falls in the months of March-April of the Gregorian calendar and the more famous Sharad Navratri which falls in the months of September-October. On the nine nights, or navratri, nine forms of Devi or the Mother Goddess is worshipped. The 10th day is Vijaydashami or Dasara (also called Dushera) on which she is ceremoniously bade goodbye after destroying evil and restoring good to life.
The schedule of the 2 prominent Navratris are as below:
- Vasanta Navratri:Vasanta Navaratri, is the nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the Hindu month of Chaitra. The beginning of this Navratri also marks the start of the new year in the Hindu lunar calendar (Vikrami Samvat).
- Sharad Navaratri:This is the most important of the Navratris. It is simply called Maha Navratri (the Great Navratri) and is celebrated in the pratipada (first day) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. It is also called Sharad Navratri, as it is celebrated during Sharad Ritu or beginning of winter.
The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are considered to be important periods of climatic and solar influences. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother Durga. It is 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. Durga worship is mentioned in the oldest extant Hindu scriptures, the Vedas.
The other three navratris are Ashadha Navratri, the Paush/Magha Navratri and the Magha Navratri. These are mostly followed by Shakta (mother goddess worshippers) followers.
A full chapter in the tenth mandala of the Rigveda addresses the devotional sadhanas of Shakti. The Devi Sukta and Isha Sukta of the Rigveda and Ratri Sukta of the Samveda similarly sing praise of sadhanas of Shakti. Before the beginning of the Kurukshetra war Lord Krishna worshipped Durga, for the victory of the Pandvas.
Lord Brahma is cited in the Markandeya Purana mentioning to Rishi Markandeya that the first incarnation of Shakti was as Shailputri. Further incarnations of the Divine Mother are Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kusumanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhiratri, in that order. These nine manifestations of Shakti, are worshipped as “Nava-Durga”. The fifth chapter of the Rudra Samhita of the 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. Gayatri has been the source of the divine powers of the gods and goddesses in the heavens and their divine manifestations and incarnations. Gayatri sadhana was also paramount in the higher level spiritual endeavors of the yogis and tapasvis. As guided by the rishis, specific sadhanas and upasanas of the Gayatri Mantra are sincerely practiced during the festival period of Navratri by every aspirant of spiritual enlightenment.
A Chart of the Celebrations of the Nine Forms of Devi
The festival is celebrated for nine nights as below:
|Navratri Day||Day||Form of Goddess||Tithi||Pujan||Color|
|Day 1||Pratipada||Shailaputri||Ghatasthapana||Shailputri Pujan||Red|
|Day 2||Dwitiya||Bharmacharini||Chandra Darshan||Brahmacharini Pujan||Royal Blue|
|Day 3||Tritiya||Chandraghanta||Sindoor Tritiya, Sowbhagya Teej||Chandraghanta Pujan||Yellow|
|Day 4||Chaturthi||Kushmanda||Varad Vinayaka Chauth||Bhouma Chaturthi||Green|
|Day 5||Panchami||Skandamata||Lalita Panchami||Upang Lalita Vrat, Lalitha Gauri Vrat, Skandamata Pujan||Gray|
|Day 6||Shashthi||Katyayani||Maha Shashti||Saraswati Awahan, Katyayani Pujan||Orange|
|Day 7||Saptami||Kaalratri||Maha Saptami||Saraswati Puja, Kalaratri Pujan, Utsava Puja||White|
|Day 8||Ashtami||Maha Gauri||Durga Ashtami, Maha Ashtami||Saraswati Mata Pujan, Mahagauri Pujan, Sandhi Puja||Pink|
|Day 9||Navami||Siddhidatri||Khande Navami, Durga Visarjan, Maha Navami||Ayudha Puja, Kanya puja||Sky Blue|
The Nine Forms of Shakti Worshipped during Navratri
The Devis worshipped depend on the tradition of the region and they include,
- Ambaor Jagadamba, Mother of the universe
- Annapoorna devi or Gauri, The one who bestows grains (anna) in plenty
- Sarvamangala or Sheetal, The one who gives happiness (mangal) to all (sarva)
- Chandika or Chandi
- Mookambika or Tara