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September 19, 2006 > Navarathri: The Nine Auspicious Days

Navarathri: The Nine Auspicious Days

by Arathi Satish

India is a land of many colorful festivals. During Navarathri, the festivities reach a peak.  Navarathri begins the day after the new moon day, Mahalaya Amavasya (September 21).  Navrathri means nine nights and begins this year on Ashvina Sukla Pratipat (September 22) to Ashvina Sukla Dashami (October 1).  The beginning of summer and the beginning of winter, Ramanavami in summer and Navarathri in winter, are considered to be sacred to Hindus.

Also known as Dassera, das meaning ten days, the first nine nights are celebrated worshipping Goddess Durga and the tenth day in honor of the same goddess. All the days are considered auspicious, as it is the time for spiritual growth where in courage is needed to stand up for good causes and fight evil and temptation.

The legend of Navarathri is fascinating.  Durga (also called Parvathi) wanted to visit her parents, but Lord Shiva permitted her to do this for only nine days in a year.  Hence the festival celebrates her visit and culminates with Vijaya Dashmi, when she returns to her home in Mt. Kailash.  During the first three days, Durga will be worshipped as Kali, the destroyer of vices.  In the following three days, she will be worshipped as Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.  On the final three days, she is worshipped as Sarasvathi, the goddess of knowledge and education.

The tenth day, known as Vijaya Dashami is celebrated with pomp and ceremony.  This is an important day as it is celebrates the triumph of good over evil.  Mother Durga killed the demon King Mahishasura on this day.  Lord Rama killed Ravana after worshipping Goddess Durga on the same day too.

It is interesting to observe that the different states of India have their own unique way of celebrating the festival.  In Karnataka, Dassara is observed as "Nadahabba." The celebrations are still headed by the Wodayers, the royal family of Mysore.  The scion of the royal family inaugurates the festivities, offers worship to the golden throne.  Goddess Chamundeshwari, another name of Durga is worshipped in the Chamudeshwari temple.  Priests chanting Vedic hymns, take part in a procession along with the public, as the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari, the presiding deity of Mysore, is carried around the temple in a silver chariot.  The Mysore Palace is spectacularly lit up with thousands of lights for the occasion.

In the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Naadu, and Andra Pradesh, traditional dolls are displayed on specially made stands that generally have either one, three, five or seven steps.  Two main wooden dolls are dressed up as bride and groom.  Different kinds of colorful dolls are artistically arranged and displayed to friends.  Sweets and other delicacies are made on all the nine days and family members and friends are invited.

In Punjab, fasting is observed during this time.  In West Bengal, family members get together to worship the clay idol of Durga.  On the tenth day, they take the idol in procession and immerse it in the water.  In Assam and Orissa, Durga is worshipped as a symbol of Goddess Shakthi.  In Gujarath and Maharashtra, people gather in courtyards and community centers to dance the Garba and Dandiya Raas. Men and women dress in colorful traditional clothes and dance in pairs with decorated wooden sticks.

Navrathri is not only celebrated in India, but all over the world where Indians live.  It is a very popular festival among the Indian community in America.  In the Bay Area, many Indians display dolls and invite friends and local Indian stores sell traditional dolls.  The temples have cultural events scheduled.  For those who celebrate this awesome festival, Happy Navrathri!

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