“Chaitra Navratri” is a Hindu festival usually falling in the month of March-April, corresponding to Chaitra month as per Hindu calendar. “Chaitra Navratri” is a nine nights and ten days festival dedicated to the worship of Hindu goddess Durga. It is the second most important Navratri festival after Sharad Navratri (September-October) and is also called “Vasanta Navaratri”.The word “Navratri” could be broken into Nav and Ratri; where “Nav” means “nine” and “Ratri” refers to “Night”. Navratri therefore means “nine nights”. Each Navratri Day has its own significance and is associated with a separate form of Goddess Durga.
When Is Chaitra Navratri Celebrated?
The festival of Chaitra Navratri begins on the first day of Hindu Luni-Solar month of Chaitra. Being celebrated in spring season, it is also called “Vasanta Navratri”. Chaitra or Vasant Navratri is celebrated in summer solstice and it also marks the beginning of summer season.The first day of Chaitra Navratri is called “Pratipada” and the last and ninth day is called “Navami”. The last day also corresponds to the 9th day of Shukla Paksha (fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra. Chaitra is also the first month in Hindu calendar; hence the festival is called Chaitra Navratri.
Why Is Chaitra (Vasant) Navratri Celebrated?
Chaitra Navratri is celebrated to invoke the blessings of Goddess Durga. Hindus believe that Durga is the “Adi Shakti”, which is a reference to primarily the first power. Goddess Durga, according to Hindu beliefs, was born to eliminate evil and to save good form extinction.
Rituals during Chaitra Navratri:
Praying and fasting marks the Chaitra Navratri celebrations. Before the start of the celebrations, the house is cleaned for welcome the Goddess in their home. The devotees performing the puja observe a fast for all nine days. While fasting only ‘satvik’ food like potatoes, ‘kuttu ka aata’, curd and fruits are allowed. Consumption of non-vegetarian food and also use of onion and garlic should be strictly avoided. During the Navratri period, while maintaining strict discipline in food, a person should also monitor their behaviour. The devotees spend their day worshipping the Goddess and chanting the Navratri mantras. The fast is broken on the ninth day after the ‘havan’ and the Prasad, after offering to the Goddess, is eaten along with other members of the family.
How Is “Chaitra Navratri” Celebrated?
During the nine-day span, three forms of Goddess are worshipped – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. During the first three days goddess Durga is worshipped, who is the goddess of energy. During the next three days, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped who is the goddess of abundance and prosperity. Last three days of Chaitra Navratri are dedicated to the worship of Goddess Saraswati – the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama, falls on the ninth day during Navratri festival. Chaitra Navratri is thus also referred as Rama Navratri. Chaitra Navratri is more popular in northern India. In Maharashtra Chaitra Navratri begins with Gudi Padwa and in Andhra Pradesh it begins with Ugadi.The nine forms of Goddess Durga which who are worshipped during Navratri are as follows:
Day 1 - Pratipada - on this day the rituals performed are 'Ghatasthapana', 'Chandra Darshan' and 'Shilputri Puja.
Day 2 - Dwitiya - the rituals of the day are 'Sindhara Dooj' and 'Brahmacharini Puja'.
Day 3 - Teej - This day is celebrated as 'Gauri Teej' or 'Sauhagya Teej' and the main ritual of the day is 'Chandraghanta Puja'.
Day 4 - Chaturthi - Also known as 'Varad Vinayaka Chauth', on this day the devotees observe the 'Kushmanda Puja'.
Day 5 - Panchami - This day is also referred to as 'Lakshmi Panchami' and the main puja observed on this day are 'Naag Puja' and 'Skandamata Puja'.
Day 6 - Shashthi - It is known as 'Yamuna Chauth' or 'Skanda Sasthi' and puja observed is 'Katyayani Puja'.
Day 7 - Saptami - This day is celebrated as 'Maha Saptami' and the 'Kalratri Puja' is performed to invoke the blessings of the Goddess.
Day 8 - Ashtami - It is the main day of 'Durga Ashtami' and is also called as 'Annapurna Ashtami'. On this day 'Mahagauri Puja' and 'Sandhi Puja' are performed.
Day 9 - Navami - The last day of the Navratri festivity is observed as 'Rama Navami' and on this day the 'Siddhidatri Maha Puja' is performed.
Auspicious puja during Navratri:
On Mahashtami- the eighth day of the Navratri, Kanya poojan/ kanjak poojan (worshipping of girls), is performed where signifying various forms of Goddess Durga.
On Mahanavami - the ninth day of Navratri, puja is performed and nine forms of the Goddess are worshipped. Some families also perform the kanya poojan on this day.
Foods for Navratri fasting:
During Navratri fasting time, foods like Kuttu Ki Poori (Buckwheat poori), Singhare Ka Halwa, Singhare Ke Pakore (Water caltrop is Singhara), Sabudana Vada and Sabudana (Sago) khichdi are preferred for eating. During Navratri, in West Bengal, "Durga Puja" is a famous ritual, in Karnataka, it is a Royal Festival while Mumbai and Gujarat are known for traditional dance forms of Dandiya and Garba.