Happy Dark Moon
A newsletter on the actual day of the dark moon? Yes! The planets aligned
just right and inspiration was there so....ta-da! (patting myself on
Ok, enough silliness. This newsletter was planned ahead of time as
I wanted to talk about the Navaratri Festival that is celebrated
in India at this time. Subha, one of the ladies I clean for, is from
India and last year she had this wonderful altar set up. I asked her
about it and she told me about the festival. This year when she mentioned
she would be again setting it up, I asked for info so I could tell all
of you about it. She directed me to some websites and offered to let
me take pictures of her altar once it is set up. I will have those next
week when the newsletter gets added to the archive.
The Festival of Navarati
It seems this Festival is known by many names and the traditions vary
according to the region. I have summarized and hopefully this makes
The festival of Navratri (nav meaning nine and ratri
meaning nights) lasts for 9 days from the new moon day to the ninth
day of Ashvin and is considered the most auspicious time of the Hindu
calendar, hence the most celebrated time of the year. Although it has
different names in different parts of India, Hindus from all regions
celebrate it with great enthusiasm as the conquest of good over evil.
This year the Festival of Navratri is from September 19 to September
27. Every three days is devoted to worship of a different Goddess: Durga
( the Goddess of Valor ), Lakshmi ( the Goddess of Wealth ),
and Saraswati ( the Goddess of Knowledge). Deity images of Them
are created, worshipped and immersed in a sea or lake. During the nine
days of Navratri, feasting and fasting take precedence over all normal
daily activities. Evenings give rise to the religious dances in order
to worship Goddess Durga Maa.
In Gujarat, Garbha dance is performed. In the South, houses are decorated
and toys by the name of Bomma Kolam are displayed. Durga has
1008 names or epithets but is worshipped in her nine forms which are
sometimes interchangeable since basically they represent only her. The
following are the most popular forms of the goddess under which she
is worshipped: Durga, Goddess Beyond Reach; Bhadrakali,
the Auspicious Power of Time; Amba or Jagadamba, Mother
of the World; Annapurna, Giver of Food and Plenty; Sarvamangala,
Auspicious Goddess; Bhairavi, Terrible, Fearful, Power of Death;
Chandika or Chandi, Violent, Wrath, Fury; Lalita,
Playfulness Personified; Bhavani, the Giver of Existence.
In Andhra Pradesh the temple in the house is decorated with clay
images of the Deities. A special sweetmeat like laddoosor (sweet
rice coloured yellow with turmeric), or khir (milk-preparation
cooked in rice) is made every day and after offering to the household
Gods, is eaten. Everyone wears new clothes and friends drop in to
see the familys collection of images.
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, the Goddess of power and energy. In Maharastra on
the first day of Navaratri the idol of Yogeshvari, a benign form of
Durga, is installed in the house and the Haldi-Kum Kum ceremony
is held. Haldi (turmeric) and kum kum (vermilion) is applied
on the forehead and sandalwood paste is smeared on the arms of all the
invitees as these are considered auspicious.
4th - 6th day of Navratri
During these days, Lakshmi, the Goddess of peace and prosperity, is
worshipped. Every day some water is sprinkled on the barley seeds.
7th - 8th day of Navratri
These final days belong to Saraswati 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. On the last day, the sprouted barley are pulled out and
given to devotees as a blessing from God. The seedlings are placed on
their caps, behind their ears, and inside books to bring good luck.
This custom suggests a link to harvesting. The sowing and reaping of
barley is symbolic of the "first fruit. Soon after this festival,
the sugarcane crop is harvested and the winter crops are sown.
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 worshipped.
Navaratri is popularly known as Durga Puja in Bengal. After
these nine days comes the Dashami , the tenth day, which is the
day of the famous festival of Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami ( the tenth
day of victory ). This is the day Lord Rama had killed Ravana, signifying
the victory of good over evil. Vaishnavas generally being absorbed in
Vijay Dashami rather than Durga puja.