Navaratri, one of the most intensely celebrated festivals of Vedic tradition, is an occasion to connect with the feminine form of the divine. ‘Nava’ means nine and ‘ratri’ means night and also intensity. Navaratri is a festival which celebrates nine different expressions of the Devi energy (Cosmic feminine energy) spanning over a period of nine nights and ten days. Navaratri is a time when people can become more intense in their desired field. It is an auspicious time for one’s own spiritual evolution.
Nine forms of Devi are worshipped during Navaratri. They are: Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidaatri.
Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. In North India, Navaratri is celebrated with much fervor by fasting on all nine days and worshiping Devi in her different forms. The Gujaratis celebrate Navaratri through local gatherings with performances of Garba, a local dance form. The significance of performing Garba is that it awakens Devi from her meditation. It is a prayer to Devi, entreating her to assume her destroyer form to save the Universe. While playing the Garba, a rhythm of three claps is used to invoke the energies of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Navaratri is the biggest festival of the year in the state of West Bengal, where it is celebrated as Durga Pooja. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasur are set up in temples and local pandaals (tents). These deities are worshiped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day.
Navaratri is a period of becoming intense in one’s endeavors. Intensity should become a quality. Intensity means radiating the energy that does not create any conflict inside and outside. In these nine days whatever may be the nature of a person, it becomes intense. When fasting and silence is observed during Navaratri, it helps in the growth of intensity in the observants. The celebration and the dance become a complementary support for people to express their intensity.
Navaratri is a powerful time to do completion with oneself and others. It is a time to remember one’s own forgotten powers. The first three days of Navaratri are meant for completion with the destroyer energy, or Durga energy. The next three days are spent in completion with Lakshmi energy, the energy responsible for creativity, wealth and well being. The last three days of Navaratri are meant for completion with Sarasvati, the energy responsible for knowledge and wisdom. The rituals, dances and festivity connected with Navaratri helps in healing relationships. The tenth day of the festival is celebrated as Dushehra or Vijaya Dashami, symbolizing the victory of consciousness over negative influences.