By Swami Harshananda
Navarātra literally means ‘festival of nine nights’.
‘Navarātra’ means a period of nine nights or period of nine days. Two Navarātras are mentioned in the purāṇas and the dharmaśāstras to be highly auspicious for the worship of Śakti or the Divine Mother Durgā. They are:
- Vasantanavarātra, the first nine days in the Vasanta ṛtu or spring from Caitra śukla pratipad up to navamī
- Saran-navarātra, the first nine days in the Saradrtu or autumn, from Āśvayuja śukla pratipad to navami
Significance of Celebration
However, the celebration of the Vasantanavarātra has yielded its place almost completely to the Saran-navarātra. Though the festival of Navarātra is celebrated all over the country in some form or the other, Durgotsava or the festival of Mother Durgā occupies the place of prime importance.
Celebration in South India
Celebration of the Navarātra festival varies from place to place in other parts of the country. Southern part of the country celebrates this festival as denoted belows:
- Goddess Sarasvatī is worshiped on the saptami and Durgā on the aṣṭami day. The worship is done in the picture and not in clay images as in Bengal.
- The navamī day called as ‘Mahānavami is celebrated as Āyudhapujā. It is the instruments and implements that help us to earn our livelihood being worshiped then.
- This is akin to the Viśvakarmapujā performed in the North, during the month of Bhādrapada when Ravi enters the zodiacal sign of Kanyā.
- In almost all the homes, display of decorated dolls is very common. This is a special attraction for children.
Celebrations in North India
In several Northern parts, especially in the Hind belt, Navarātra is celebrated as Rāmalīlā. The salient features of this celebration are:
- Recitations from the Rāmāyana
- Enacting plays based on the several episodes of the epic
- Processions culminating the burning of the effigies of Rāvaṇa, Kumbhakarṇa and Meghanāda on the daśamī day also called Vijayadaśamī are the salient features of these celebrations.
Celebrations in Mysore City
In the Mysore City of Karnataka, the Daṣara festival celebrated during the Navarātra has been very famous. It is a royal festival celebrated by the Mahārājā of Mysore. It ends with a grand procession on the Vijayadaśamī day. Now-a-days, an image of Cāmuṇdeśvarī is taken out in procession.
- Ravi means the Sun.
- Kanyā means Virgo.
- Mahārājā means the King.
- Cāmuṇdeśvarī is an aspect of Durgā.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore