The month of October ushers in the Navratri. In Sanskrit ‘nav’ means nine and ‘ratri’ means night so that means Navratri will be celebrated with full vigour and religious feisty. There will be nine auspicious days. Goddess Durga’s benign presence on the earth is celebrated with pomp and show. Navratri comes five times in a year, first in the Hindu month calendar as magh, paush, ashada chaitra and sharad. Sharad Navratri is the most popular also known as Maha Navratri. The dates of the Navratri are decided by the Hindu lunar calendar. The Sharad Navratri is celebrated in the month of September or October.
The nine incarnations of goddess Shakti are worshipped during Navratri. Nine names of the Goddesses are – Shailputri, Brahamcharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, MahaGauri, & Siddhidatri. During navratri in West Bengal is time of fun, frolic celebration and reverence to the Goddess. Kolkatta comes alive with beautiful pandals and parallel night life. While Gujarat comes alive with garba. Preparation begins much in advance to enjoy and full adoration and respect to be bestowed on the Goddess.
Another aspect of Navratri is also Dushera, which is famous for the valour of Lord Rama who killed the demon Ravana. Other festivals linked with Navratri festival are Rama Navami and Dussehra. On the ninth day of Chaitra Navratri, Rama navami is celebrated while after the end of nine days of Sharad Navratri Vijayadashmi (Dussehra) is celebrated. During Navratri, in West Bengal, “Durga Puja” is a famous ritual, in Karnataka it is a Royal Festival while Mumbai and Gujarat are known for traditional dance forms of Dandiya and Garba. The Hindu Dharma does not have any strict imposition of rules. People should have good intentions and should do good deeds. Keeping fasts is not a necessity but a personal choice.
Falahari, sabooda khichdi, fruits can be eaten. Partial fasts can also be done, where the people can break the fast post prayers in the evening. The only compulsion is the food eaten during the Navratri should not contain onion, garlic and common salt. Rock salt is preferred in the edibles which are made during the days of festivity.
Some people keep fasts for all the nine days while some choose to keep it on the first and last days only. Some people prefer to fast on alternate days as well. This is permissible as different individuals have different levels of physical work activities in the day. Navratri celebration and style of worshipping is different in every state of India but the devotion is same for Navratri festival. It is celebrated widely in every part of India with great enthusiasm with a different name of Goddess, like in Gujarat devotees worship as Goddess Jagdamba while in West Bengal it is named as Durga Puja. In Kolkata, people erected huge Pandals at various places for Durga Puja and set up great idols of Mata Durga for worship. In Gujarat, Dandiya and Garba are the two popular dance forms which are performed by the people during Navratri festival and another common element is shopping for lehengas and sarees.
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