Navratri is nine days of worship done to thank Goddess Durga. Whole of Iindia celebrates this festival. The festival of Navratri is celebrated twice in India. Once in the Hindi month of Chaitra which is the month of March-April. Secondly, in the month of Ashwin i.e. September-October. It is a nine days long festival in which the Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine different forms. People all over the country celebrate this festival with immense joy and enthusiasm. Devotees of Maa Durga observe a rigorous fast of nine days during this festival.
Durga – worshipped during Navratri
In different parts of India, different legends describe the history of Navratri festival.
The legend in North India goes that Mahishasura, the mighty demon, worshipped Lord Brahma and obtained the power of eternity. Soon, he started killing and harassing innocent people. He set out to win all the three lokas. The gods in swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva, to find a way to get rid of the demon. To protect the world from the atrocities of Mahishasura, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine female warrior, known as Goddess Durga. Mahishasura, when he saw the divine beauty of Goddess Durga, got mesmerized. So fascinated was Mahishasura by Goddess Durga’s beauty that he approached her with the intention of marriage. The goddess agreed to marry him, but put forth a condition.
Mahishasura would have to win over her in a battle. Mahishasura, agreed immediately! The battle continued for 9 nights. At the end of the ninth night, Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. The nine nights came to be known as Navratri, while the tenth day was called Vijayadashmi. This was the day that brought the triumph of good over evil.
As per the legend prevalent in East India, Daksha was the king of the Himalayas. He had a beautiful and virtuous daughter called Uma. She wished to marry Lord Shiva, since her childhood. In order to win over the Lord, she worshipped him and pleased Shiva. When Shiva finally came to marry her, the tiger-skin clad groom displeased Daksha and he broke off all the relationships with his daughter and son-in-law. One fine day, Daksha organized a yagna, but did not invite Lord Shiva for the same. Uma got so angry at her father’s rude behavior, towards her husband, that she decided to end her life by jumping into the agnikund of the yagna, where she was united with eternity (since then, she came to be known as Sati). However, she took re-birth and again won Shiva as her groom and peace was restored. It is believed that since then, Uma comes every year with Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati and Laxmi and two of her best friends or ‘sakhis‘, called Jaya and Bijaya, to visit her parent’s home during Navratri.
The legend of Rama and Ravana
Yet another legend of Navratri festival relates to the Hindu epic The Ramayana. It goes that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in nine aspects, for nine days, in order to gather the strength and power to kill Ravana. He wanted to release Sita from the clutches of powerful demon king Ravana, who had abducted her. Those nine nights became to be known as Navratri and the tenth day, on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, came to be called Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, signifying Rama’s (good) triumph over Ravana (evil).