'Nav' means 'nine' and 'ratri' means 'night'. Thus, 'Navratri' means 'nine nights'. There are many legends attached to the conception of Navratri like all Indian festivals. All of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of Hindu calendar, it holds special significance for Gujratis and Bengalis and one can see it in the zeal and fervor of the people with which they indulge in the festive activities of the season. Dandiya and Garba Rass are the highlights of the festival in Gujarat, while farmer sow seeds and thank the Goddess for her blessings and pray for better yield. In older times, Navratri was associated with the fertility of Mother Earth who feed us as her children.
Navratri is an important Hindu festival, celebrated with religious fervor and great enthusiasm by the Hindus in different parts of the country. It is celebrated twice a year - in March-April (as Chaitra Navratri) and in October-November. While the ninth day of Chaitra Navratri is celebrated as Ram Navami, the festival celebrated in September-October commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. Though a number of legends are associated with the conception of Navratri, just like all the other Hindu festivals, the deity Goddess Shakti and her various forms are worshipped in both the cases.
Navratri for the Moment
The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are two very important junctions of climatic and solar influence. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother. The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar. Navaratri represents celebration of Goddess Durga, the manifestation of Deity in form of Shakti [Energy or Power]. The Navaratri festival or ‘Nine Nights festival’ becomes ‘ten days festival’ with the addition of the last day, Vijayadashami which is its culmination. On all these ten days, the various forms of Mother Mahisasura-mardini (Durga) are worshipped with fervor and devotion.
Fasting is one of the highlights of Navratri. People observe fast for either seven or eight days, to honor Goddess Shakti. While many people break their fast on the eighth day (Ashtami) of Navratri by worshipping young girls, others do the same thing on the ninth day (Navami) of the festival, to culminate the celebrations. All through the seven or eight days of fasting, the people would survive on a diet especially formulated for the fast. It typically consists of fruits, milk and its products, sago recipes, potato recipes (both cooked without spices). Sendha namak (rock salt) is used for the recipes of Navratri fast. On the day when they break fast, they would worship young girls, seek their blessings in return of which, the devotees would offer money and prasad as the dakshina.
Navaratri Festival 2011
Chaitra Navratri or Vasant Navratri: April 4, 2011 to April 12, 2011
Sharad Navratri: September 28, 2011 to October 5, 2011