Navratri is a Hindu festival of worship and dance.In sanskrit, the word "Nava" means nine and "Ratri" means Nights . During these nine nights and ten days , nine forms of Goddess Durga / Goddess Shakthi are worshipped and are as follows -· Shailputri· Brahmacharini· Chandraghanta· Kushmanda· Skanda Mata· Katyayani· Kalratri· Maha Gauri· Siddhidatri.TRADITIONS AND RITUALS OF NAVRATRI -The festival of Navratri is celebrated twice in a year. Once in the Hindi month of Chaitra (March - April) and again in the month of Ashwin , ( Puratasi , September - October) . And this festival is celebrated in different ways throught India.In North India : There are five Navratris devoted to the worship of Goddess Shakthi. of which only three are celebrated now :· Sharad Navaratri / Maha Navratri - September to October· Vasant Navaratri - March to April· Ashada Navaratri / Guhya Navratri - July to AugustThe sharad navaratri culminates Dussehra and Durga pooja. The Dussehra of Kulu in Himachal Pradesh is particularly famous in the North. In Westbangal of Eastern India, the last four days of sharad Navratri is celebrated in grand manner as Durga pooja. This isbiggest festival of the state. Exquisitely decorated clay idols of Goddess Durga depicting herslaying the demon Mahisasura are set up in temples and other places. These idols are worshipped for five days and then immersed in river. In Western India of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba dance.
In Southern state of Tamilnadu and to a lesser extent part of Andhra pradesh, Navaratri is called as Kolu or Golu. The word Kolu is orgined from the word in tamil : Kolu and telugu :Koluvai, Which means a soverign sitting in his royal darbar. It commences on the Amavasya day of the month of Bhadrapada / Puratasi . On the Amavasya day after finishing the rituals, like offering tarpana etc. the custom is, to keep the Kalash filled with rice, toor dal haldisticks, betel leaves and nuts or mango leaves with a coconut on it. The most important thing is to keep two wooden dolls specially brought from Tirupathy. The wooden dolls are anointed with oil and bathed and decorated as bride and groom. The right muhurtam is chosen before placing the Kalash and the dolls for worship, with which the Kollu festivalbegins. The dolls are given to the girl from her parents during her marriage and are called "Marapachi Bommai". From this day she starts collecting dolls and observes the ceremony annually from South. Marapachi' means a special kind of wood which has medicinal valuetoo and Bommai meant dolls. This is done by constructing wide tiers or steps in any odd number, maximum being Nine. From the day the married girl gets the Marapachi Bommai.And in Karnataka , Dasara also called "Navaratri", is the most extravagant festival of "Mysore". The festival has been celebrated in Mysore with great pomp and show since centuries. This tradition is still carried on. According to Hindu mythology the festival celebrates and commemorates the victory of Goddess Chamundeshwari after slaying thedemon Mahishasura and the triumph of good over evil. The Dasara festivities have become an integral part of the culture and life in Mysore.To celebrate this festival they light up the Palace of Mysore with more than 10,000 light during that period.Which is ofcourse a treat to the eyes.
THE FIRST THREE DAYS OF NAVRATRI -These days are devtoed to the worship of the Goddess Durga. Kumari, ehich signifies the girl child, is worshipped on the first day. Parvathi,who is the embodiment of a young woman is worshipped on the second day. Goddess Kali is worshipped on the third day , who represents the woman who has reached the stage of maturity.
FOURTH TO SIXTH DAYS OF NAVRATRI -The mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth , Goddess Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth, as she is the Goddess of wealth.FINAL THREE DAYS -On these days Goddess Sarawathi , the goddess of wisdom is worshipped. Sarawathi pooja / Ayutha pooja day ,all the tools of the trade , pen , machinery, books, automobiles, school, work are given rest and ritually worship them and fresh start on the last day which is considered as vijayadasami day. A period of introspection and purification, Navratri istradionally an auspicious and religious time for starting new ventures.In the follwing procedure the steps are arranged with dolls : (starting from top to Bottom)STEP 1 - 3 -The clay dolls displayed are mostly from mythological characters. All Gods and Goddesses of our Epics and Puranas are displayed on the tiers which are beautifully decorated and look spectacular and colourful. for example, Garuda Vahana' i.e. God Narayan taken in Garuda Vahan or vehicle is kept. The Kumbham filled with fresh water and the kalash is coveredwith silk cloth and a coconut , mango leaves are placed on top of it. This is kept on first step.
STEP 4 - 7 -These steps are devoted to saints, demi Gods, great men and even national leaders ,One of the items exhibited is the Marriage Set called "Melam Talam" i.e. the marriage procession of relations and friends led by musical players of clarionet (melam) and mridangam (talam). Then there, is the Dashavatar' set, episodes from Ramayana and Krishna Leela. One can add more dolls but should not decrease the number. The festival lasts for nine days with arti, prayers Prasad daily mornings and evenings.STEP 8 AND 9 -The eighth step is devoted to various business and crafts dolls, like chettiar dolls - a businessman and his wife are seated and their commodities like rice, pulses and other utensils are kept in front of them.The ninth step is the last step where the traditional wodden dolls called marapachi bommaiare kept. are placed. Dolls of animals, birds, reptiles and other forms of evolution are also kept on this step.On the 10th night after the ceremonial arti and prayers, the dolls are put to ‘sleep.’ And the next day, the exhibits are packed carefully in cloth or paper and preserved for use the next year.
During these nine days ladies are invited and offered haldi kumkum,betel leaves with nuts and fruits. In the morning sweets and evening chundals' i.e. different chanas are offered to the ladies. During Kollu, old traditional women observe "Valluku Anaya" Valluku meaninglamp and Anaya meaning not going up. That is the lamp or diya once lit is continuously kept burning for twenty-four hours for ten days. Some people observe it even today. On the tenth night after the ceremonial arti and prayers the, Marapachi' are put to sleep. And, the nextday the exhibits are packed carefully in cloth or paper and preserved for use the next year. Vijay Dasami and Navratri are also the auspicious time for buying new clothes and feasting. Unlike other Vrats, there is no custom of fasting during Navratri Kollu.The story associated with Navratri can be found in various Hindu religious texts. The story ofnavratri is the symbolic message of the fact that however glorious and powerful the evil become,at the end it is the goodness that wins over all of the evil. The story is associated with Maa Durga and Mahisasura, the buffalo headed demon.
Rambha and Karambha are two sons of Danu , who performed austerities to gain extreme power and authority. When their prayers became deeper , the King of the heaven God Indra got perturbed. Out of fear, he killed Karambha. Rambha, who came to know about his brother's death, became more stubborn to win over the Gods. He increased the intensity of austerities and finally got several boons from Gods like brilliance, beauty,invincibility inwar. He also asked a special wish of not being killed by either humans or Gods or Asuras.He then considered himself immortal and started freely roaming in the garden of Yaksha where he saw a female-buffalo and fell in love with her. To express his love, Rambha disguised in the form of a male-buffalo and copulated with the female buffalo. However, soon after that a real male buffalo discovered Rambha mating with the she-buffalo and killed him. It was due to Rambha’s inflated ego that killed him, out of which he has not asked his death to be spared from the wrath of animals. As the pyre of Rambha was organized, the female-buffalo, who was copulated with him jumped into the funeral pyre of Rambha to prove her love. She was pregnant at that time. Thus, demon came out of the with the head of a buffalo andhuman body and he was named Mahisasura (the buffalo headed demon).Mahishasura was extremely powerful. He defeated the gods and the demons and acruierd power over theentire world. He even won over the heaven and threw devtas outside it. He captured the throne of Indra and declared himself to be the the lord of the gods. The gods led by Brahma approached Vishnu and Shiva and evaluated them of the situation. In order to save the Gods, the three supreme deities emerged a light of anger, which combined to the take the shape of a terrible form and this was Durga. All the gods then granted this Goddess of power with all the supreme weapons they had. This is why; Durga is called the brilliance of all the Gods.When the goddess was seen by Mahishasura, he was mesmerized by her beauty. Her then fell in love with her and proposed to marry her. The goddess said she will marry him, if he defeated her in the battle. Then began a scary and terrible battle between both of then which continued for nine days. Finally, on the last day, Durga took the form of Chandika and stood over the chest of Mahishasura and smashed him down with her foot. She then pierced his neck with her spear and cut off his head off with her sword. It is the day when Vijayadashmi is celebrated.
LEGEND OF SATI -
According to a story in the Hindu mythology, King Daksha of Himalayas was blessed with abeautiful and virtuous daughter, named Uma. She wished to marry Lord Shiva. In order to tie the wedding knot with the god, Uma worshipped him and pleased him. Consequently, Lord Shiva married Uma. One fine day, Uma, now the consort of Lord Shiva, wished to take part in a Yagna conducted by her father. Since her father was not in good terms with him, Lord Shiva refused her to witness the Yagna. When she turned up at the Yagna, her father - King Daksha - insulted Lord Shiva. Unable to withstand the insult, the angry Uma decided to end her life by jumping into the agni kund. Soon after doing this, she was united with theeternity. Therefore, Uma came to be known as Sati. Sati was reborn again. In the second birth, Sati married Lord Shiva and the divine couple lived happily, thereafter. It is believed that since then Parvati / Uma / Sati comes on earth every year with Lord Ganesha , LordSubramanya, Goddess Saraswathi, Goddess Lakshmi and her friends called Jaya and Bijaya, to visit her parent`s home during the nine days of Navratri. This is celebrated as Navratri.
OTHER LEGENDS -1. A story says that in the ancient times, the Kshatriyas abstained from takingpart in any warlike activities during the monsoon season. Once the season was over, they made a fresh start with their war activities. Therefore, before their commence their new activities, they would worship different avatars of Ma Durga, the Goddess of Warriors, for nine whole days, which is now celebrated as Navratri.2. A popular legend associated with the celebration of Navratri is the story ofLord Rama, who wanted to rescue his wife Sita, from the demon king- Ravana. Tofreed her from the clutches of the demon king, Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in her nine different forms, for nine days, so that he gets all the strength and power to kill Ravana. All the nine days became Navratri and hence, celebrated every year. On the tenth day, Rama killed Ravana and that day is called Vijayadashmi or Dussehra.