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Celebration Months : April and October
Religion : Hindu
Importance : Worship of Durga
Navratri festival is the religious festival of Hindus that is celebrated by worshipping goddess Durga, one of the avatars of Parvati. The word "Navratri" means nine nights. The festival continues for nine days and holds a special place in the hearts of devotees who venerate their goddess by observing a number of rituals and traditions. The nine-day long festivities culminate with the beginning of Dusshera Festival.
Legend linked with the Festival :
Navratri festival is associated with goddess Durga and the killing of the demon Mahishasur. The demon was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Through his arduous worships, he sought the blessing of immortality. Proud of his immense powers, he started harassing sages and other innocent people. Soon he set out to dominate the three "lokas" including the "swargloka"(heaven). The gods of heaven, in order to get rid of Mahishasur, prayed to Lord Shiva. To protect the world for his destructive acts, the three supreme powers, namely, Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu, joined hands. A powerful female deity was born by their union. This goddess of sheer beauty was called Durga. As Mahishasur saw her, he was floored by her attractive appearance and with the intention of marrying her, approached Durga. The goddess agreed to his proposal but laid down the condition of defeating her in the battle. Ignorant of her powers, the demon fought with her for nine days and with the advent of tenth day, the goddess beheaded him. Navratri is the celebration of the victory of good over evil.
Attractions of the Festival :
The goddess is venerated by worship of her idols. In her images, she is shown as a gentle woman, radiating immense powers. She is depicted with ten arms, out of which nine are shown to holding different weapons. And the tenth one holds the decapitated head of Mahishasur. She is shown sitting on a lion, her carrier. In some of the images, her children namely, Kartik, Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Ganesha are also depicted.
These lovely idols are decorated extensively. Their creation is an art in itself; the highly skilled sculptors make the images form material like bamboo and clay. The idols are also adorned with decorative attires and glistening crowns and attractive jewelry. After their decoration is complete, the idols are installed at temples. Enthusiastic devotees collect money months before the actual celebrations begin. They get to arrange puja-pandals where these idols are placed and some of theses pandals are even advertised in order to attract the devotees.
Navratri festival commences from the first day of the Hindu month Ashvin. Some of the devotees observe fast on all the nine days. Others eat special food items that are meant for fasting. People sow the seeds of barley in a pot, the grasses sprout from the seeds and are worshipped by chanting of devotional songs and lighting of scented "aggarbattis". During the first three days, goddess is worshipped in the form of Durga or Kali, a force that destroys all evil factors form life. The next three days, the goddess is venerated in the form of Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and fortune. The last three days are meant for worshipping her as goddess of wisdom and success, Saraswati. The girls of pre-pubescent are also worshipped.
At puja pandals, one can enjoy a number of cultural activities and relish food items. The glittering ceremony of worship is the main highlight. Most of the pandals are theme-based. Some of the themes are based on ancient civilizations. The event is commercialized through several billboards. Towards the end of the event, the idols are carried in a procession and immersed in water.
The festival of Navratri is symbolic of the victory of good over evil; it motivates us to follow the path of righteousness and morality.