Navratri is one of the most colourful and joyous festivals in India. Dedicated to Hindu deity Shakti, popularly known as Goddess Durga, Navratri in Sanskrit means nine nights and as the name indicates the festival lasts 9 nights and 10 days.

Rites and rituals associated with Navaratis vary from region to region, though the underlying spirit and fervour remains the same throughout the country.

Navratri is celebrated four times a year – Ashad Navratri, the Ashwin Navratri, the Magh Navratri and Vasant Navratri. However, of these, Ashwin Navratri and Vasant Navratri are considered the most important. While Vasant or Chaitra Navratri is observed during the waxing phase of the moon in the month of Chaitra (Mar-Apr) as per traditional Hindu calendar, Ashwin Navratri is celebrated every year during the lunar month of Ashwin or Kartik (Sep-Oct).

In the year of 2017, Chaitra Navratri are from March 28th to April 5th and Ashvin or Sharad Navratri are from September 21st to September 29th, with Maha Ashtami falling on Sep 28 and Maha Navami on Sep 29.

During the Navratris, Hindus observe ten days of ceremonies, rituals, fasts and feasts in honour of Goddess who in turn grants all blessings to devotees, dispels all ills, evils & sorrows and looks after both material and spiritual welfare of the devotees.

While in few regions, three forms of Shakti – Durga, the Goddess of valour and power, Lakshami, the Goddess of wealth and Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and art, are worshipped, each for a period of 3 days, in other regions devotees worship 9 forms of the deity, a day dedicated to each one.

On the tenth day is celebrated the festival of Dussehra, which marks the end of the Ashwin Navratri festival. Dussehra celebrates the triumph of good over evil as according to legends and mythological stories, the day marks the victory of Lord Rama over demon king Ravana and victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasura.


 Navratri Fast

Devotees usually observe nine days long fast during Navratris. However, there are a few who observe fast for only 3 days, that is, one of the first three days, second fast on one of the second set of 3 days and last fast on one of the last 3 days. Also, few fast on only two days, the first and last day of the nine days long Navratri.

Few devotees confine their diet to only milk and fruits during these nine days while most people take a single meal each day.

There is a strict restriction on the food items which can be consumed during the Navratri. While non-vegetarian food including eggs and alcoholic drinks are absolutely no-no, grains and legumes are also not eaten. Also, onion and garlic is not used in preparation of meals as these are considered ‘Tamsik’.

Devotees prepare and have special ‘Vrat-ka-khana’ all through these nine days.


Kanya Pujan

One of the main rituals performed at the culmination of Navratri is that of ‘Kanyapujan’ where nine young virgin girls, who symbolically represent nine forms of Goddess Durga, are worshipped.

Their feet are washed, Kumkum is applied on their forehead and they are offered feast and given gifts by the hosts.

Usually observed on the eighth or ninth day, that is Ashtami or Navami respectively, Kanyapujan marks the culmination of the fasting period and is followed by celebration of the festival of Dussehra or Vijayadashami.


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