In the country of festivals galore, not one but two very popular festivals have dawned upon us. Nine days of Navratri are leading to a grand tenth day of Dassehra. So, apart from garba and dandiya in glittering mirror-and-shell ghagra cholis and kedias, what does Navratri include? And while we’re at it, what does Dassehra include? It’s time to take a little time off to delve into our hand-me-down mythological tales from childhood and remember what these festivals stand for. But before that, take a look in your wardrobe to make sure you’re keeping pace with us. Confused? Read ahead.
Nine days of some really solid women empowerment in the religious sagas – what more could feminists ask for? It’s the festival in honour of the powerful Goddess and her various forms. As the tale goes, these nine days symbolize the battle between Maa Durga and the demon, Mahishasur. The tenth day, Vijayadashmi, celebrates her killing of the demon and the triumph of good over evil. This also cues in to the festival being celebrated as Durga Puja in West Bengal. Although, there it is believed that these are the days when Maa Durga leaves the celestial abode of her in-laws to come visit her father’s house on Earth.
Another theory states that the period of nine days is distributed amongst Goddess Durga, to destroy all impurities, negativities and evil in our lives, Goddess Lakshmi, to confer spiritual wealth upon us and lastly Goddess Saraswati, to shower us with knowledge and wisdom. This is probably why on the day of Ashtami, or the eighth day, people worship books and art forms.
A more elaborate theory explains the forms of the Goddess worshipped on each of the nine days and also the colors to be worn each day and the rituals to be followed on the extremely important ones:
1. Ghatasthapana – (First Day)
The form of Maa Durga worshipped on the first day is known as Shailputri, which means the daughter of the Himalayas. She’s also known to be a form of the Goddess Shakti, the consort of Lord Shiva. This is the day the kalash or the ‘ghat’ is installed. The place to install it is cleaned with cow dung and then caked with mud before a pot of gold, silver or copper with a coin and holy water inside is placed on it. The pot is then either covered with an inverted coconut and mango leaves or simply with a red cloth. Seeds of barley or nine cereals are sown in the mud surrounding the kalash, which grow suring the nine days and are distributed as Prasad among devotees at the end. Then a puja or a ceremony is conducted wherein the Goddess is summoned to bless the pot with her kalash and it is believed that she resides in that kalash for the next ten days. This is called Avaahan and followed by nine days of fasting and worshipping the kalash twice a day for nine days. Everyone dresses in yellow on this day.
2.Dwitiya – (Second Day)
This day is dedicated to ‘Brahmacharini’, the form of Durga who get her name from ‘Brahma’, which means ‘tapas’ or penance’. Green is the colour worn by everyone on this day.
3.Tritiya – (Third Day)
This day, Goddess Chandraghanta is worshipped. She symbolizes beauty and bravery; and people wear grey to honor her on this day. Gauri Vrata and Sindhoor Tritiya Sowbhagya Teej are also observed on this day.
4.Chaturthi – (Fourth Day)
The fourth day is devoted to the worship of Goddess Kushmandas, the creator of the entire universe and the color orange is worn in her honor. Bhoumi Chaturthi is observed on this day.
5.Panchami – (Fifth Day)
The fierce Skanda Mata is worshipped on the fifth day. She is the form of Durga, who is the mother of Skanda, the chief warrior of the Gods’ army. She is famous for slaying demons. People observe the Upang Lalitha Gauri Vrata and dress in pure white on this day.
6.Shashti – (Sixth Day)
The form of Durga with three eyes and four hands, by the name of Katyayani, is worshipped on the sixth day, which is also celebrated as Maha Shashti. Red is worn on this day.
7.Saptami – (Seventh Day)
The seventh day or Maha Saptami is dedicated to the worship of Kaalraatri, the form of Mother Goddess who makes her devotees fearless and grants them freedom from evil and happiness. Utsav Puja begins on this day and blue should be the color devotees dress up in.
8.Ashtami – (Eighth Day)
This day is also known as Durga Ashtami and Maha Gauri, who symbolizes calmness and wisdom, is worshipped on Ashtami. She is known to cleanse her devotees of their sins and forgive them. Saraswati Mata Puja is done on the eighth day, as mentioned earlier, and pink is the color of the day.
9.Navami – (Ninth Day)
This day, Goddess Siddhidaatri, the form of Durga known to have all the eight siddhis is worshipped by all the Rishis and Yogis. She is known to have great supernatural powers. Maha Navami Puja and Kanya Puja are performed on this auspicious day and everyone wears purple.
This is the tenth day and is also known as Vijayadashmi, for the triumph of good over evil. Primarily, though, it gets it’s name from ‘Dasha-hara’, which means the slayer of the ten-headed demon. As we all would remember, this was also the day when Lord Rama killed Ravana. This is why they have huge replicas of Raavan all over the country, on Dassehra, being shot with arrows of fire and immolated.
It is a lot of fun to watch.
What’s your favorite festival and what’s the story and significance behind it? Do brush up on your grandparents’ treasure trove of these tales and share with us. We’re eager to hear from you.