Navratri or Durga Puja is one of the biggest and longest festivals of Hindus. There are in total 4-5 Navratris in a year but most important of the all is Sharada Navratri, which is celebrated in the month of Ashwin according to Hindu calendar. It is celebrated over nine nights, so it is called as Nav (nine) Ratri (nights). This is a festival of Goddess Durga which is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over India but it is the most popular in the state of West Bengal (Pashchim Bang). Worship of Goddess Durga is carried out during these nine days, so it is also known as Durga Puja (Pooja). It is also known as Navrathri, Navratram, Navratra, Durgotsav, Sharada Navratri, or Maha Navratri. Goddess Durga is the reincarnation of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. The worship of Goddess Durga is actually the worship of Shakti, the feminine power.
When Navratri is celebrated?
Navratri or Durga Puja starts on the first day of the bright half of the Hindu month, Ashwin, and ends on the 10th day of the same half. It ends with Vijayadashami, which is another big festival of Hindus. It is also known as Sharad Navratri as it is celebrated at the time of beginning of winter. This generally falls in the month of September and/or October according to Gregorian calendar.
Why Navratri or Durga Puja is celebrated:
Once upon a time, there was a demon king Mahishasura on the earth. Mahish means buffalo. He worshiped Lord Brahma and got a boon from him that he would not be killed by any male. After that he started terrorizing the human beings and the deities in paradise. He defeated all the deities in the paradise. Therefore, Goddess Parvati took the form of Devi Durga. She was provided with the powers of all deities and demi-gods. After that, Devi Durga fought with her ferociously for nine days and nights and killed him finally. That is why the festival is celebrated for nine nights. That is why, people worship Goddess Durga during Navratri.
When was Navratri or Durga Puja started:
It is believed that Lord Rama was advised by Lord Brahma to do this worship of nine nights in order to gain power before fighting with Ravana. After that, Lord Rama defeated Ravana. This is the first occasion of Durga Puja for nine nights.
How Navratri or Durga Puja is celebrated?
For these nine nights, you are expected to worship Goddess Durga in nine different forms. People observe fast of nine days but this is not compulsory. Hindus bring idols of Devi Durga to their homes or to the pandals where the festival is celebrated publicly. Shakti is worshipped in the form of this idol. In Maharashtra, people worship clay Kalash instead of an idol. This is known as Ghatasthapana. Youngsters play dandiya also known as Garaba during these nine nights. Garaba is a tradition dance of Gujarat but it is very popular all over the India. Cultural organizations, hotels, and clubs organize big events of Garaba where many celebrities play dandiya. Hindus do not eat nonvegetarian food during these nine days. The clay idols of Goddess are immersed in the water on the final day, which concludes the festival.
Nine forms of Durga are:
This is the biggest festival for Bengali Hindus and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. It is also a big festival in Gujarat. Gujarat government organizes Navratri Festival Celebrations during the nine days of Navratri.