The festival of Navratri (nav = nine and ratri = nights) lasts for 9 days with three days each devoted to worship of Maa Durga, the Goddess of Valor, Ma Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Maa Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. During the nine days of Navratri, feasting and fasting take precedence over all normal daily activities amongst the Hindus. Evenings give rise to the religious dances in order to worship Goddess Durga Maa.
The 9 nights festival of Navratri begins on the first day of Ashwina of the bright fortnight. Seeds are sown, sprouting is watched, the planets are consecrated, and on the 8th and 9th days, Goddess Durga, Vijayashtami and Mahanavami are worshipped. The Devi Mahatmya and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are cited.
Significance of 9 Nights
1st - 3rd day of Navratri
On the first day of the Navaratras, a small bed of mud is prepared in the puja room and barley seeds are sown on it. These initial days are dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy.
4th - 6th day of Navratri
During these days, Lakshmi Maa, the Goddess of peace and prosperity is worshipped.
7th - 8th day of Navratri
These final days belong to Saraswati Maa who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge. This in turn will free us from all earthly bondage. But on the 8th day of this colourful festival, yagna (holy fire) is performed.
The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahanavami. On this day Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped.
The holy festival of Navaratri is an amalgamation of various themes, with the common theme of the victory of good over evil. According to some legends, Vijayadashami or Dusshera is celebrated on the day Lord Ram kills Ravana. Demon king Mahishasura had Lord Brahma's boon that, he would be unconquerable by any male form. According to a Puranic legend, the mighty demon defeated the gods and their king, Indri. They then approached Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who decided to destroy the demon. So they all combined their energies, and gave rise to Shakti and appealed to Goddess Durga to come to their aid.
Equipped with lethal weapons and riding a ferocious lion, the Goddess in all her awesome majesty, destroyed the evil one without much ado. The 10th day, on which the goddess kills Mahishasura, is celebrated as Dusshera or Vijayadashami as the victory of good over evil. Dusshera (tenth day) is one of the significant Hindu festivals, celebrated with pomp and fervour all over the country.
On the tenth day, the Vijayadasmi day, colossal effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnadh are placed in vast open spaces. Rama, accompanied by Sita and his brother Lakshmana, arrive and shoot arrows of fire at these effigies. The result is a deafening blast, enhanced by slogans of triumph. In burning the effigies the people are asked to burn the evil within them, and thus follow the path of virtue and honesty. On this day in the famous Ramleela grounds in Delhi, huge effigies of the ten-headed demon king Ravana, Meghanath, his son, and Kumbhakarna, his brother, stuffed with explosive materials are torched by an arrow to symbolize the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
NAVRATRAS IN JAMMU
The Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu witnesses a massive surge of devotees during the nine-day festival of Navratri. On an average about 40 thousand devotees arrive in Katra, the base camp , for their onward pilgrimage to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. A pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine during the Navratri is considered most auspicious. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) like previous years has made several arrangements to facilitate smooth pilgrimage of the devotees during Navratras this year. The entire 13 kms track from Base Camp Katra to Bhawan Complex has been cleaned and given a new look. On the first day of Navratra Chat Chandi Maha Yagya started at Bhawan Complex which will continue all the nine days and conclude on October 16 on the occasion of Navmi with “Puran ahuti”. The entire premises of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine has been illuminated presenting a marvellous look.
R.K.Raina, AIR Correspondent, Jammu