Navratri is a Hindu festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. The word Navaratri is a sanskrit word which means nine nights.
During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti / Devi are worshiped. The 10th day of the festival is known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
There are many legends that surround this festival, however all of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms.
‘Navratri’ is celebrated two times in a year mainly in the month ‘Chaitra’ known as Chaitra Navratri (celebrated in March – April) and another in the month of Ashvina which is known as Sharad Navaratri or Maha Navaratri (celebrated in September–October).
Note : Here we are referring to Sharad Navaratri or Maha Navaratri.
Celebrations of Navratri in India :
Although celebrated with great enthusiam all over India, the festival is popular for its grand celebrations and festivites in West Bengal and Gujarat.
Gujarati’s and Bengali’s celebrate this festival with great zeal and enthusiasm.
In Gujarat, Navratri festival celebrates the worship of Goddess Jagdamba, while in West Bengal people worship Durga Maa.
Navratri in Gujarat :
In Gujarat, Dandiya and Garba Rass are the highlights of the Navratri festival. The dances usually begin late in the evening and continue until early morning. During this period farmer sow seeds and thank the Goddess for her blessings and pray for better yield. People worship Amba Mata and perform aartis and devotional songs. Jaagran is observed by many, with devotees waking through the night to appease the Goddess.
Navratri in West Bengal :
Navratri also known as Durgapuja is the biggest festival of the year in the state of West Bengal. In West Bengal, people celebrate the festival of navratri by worshiping huge idols of the Goddess for the nine days with great devotion and then on the tenth day huge processions are taken out and the idol of Durga Mata are immersed in water.
The first four days of the Navratri are of prime importance in Bengal as during these four days pre-pubescent young girls, known as ‘kanyas’ are worshipped. They are believed to be the living embodiments of the Goddess Durga.
On the ninth day ‘Ayudha Puja’ is performed wherein the items of worship being tools, placed at the altar of the goddess for her benedictions. Dashmi or Dussehra, the ‘Saraswati Puja’ is performed in order to achieve knowledge and inner peace.