Also known as Durga Puja, this festival comes five times a year: Chaitra Navratri, Gupta Navratri, Sharada Navratri or Maha Navratri, Paush Navratri, Magha Navratri. Among these, Chaitra Navratri and Sharada Navratri are most popular. This 9-night, 10-day festival bears high religious, spiritual, and cultural significance.
What do 9 nights of Navratri stand for?
As per the Kalpas (Puranas), there are three dimensions of Shakti (the feminine energy): Mahakali (strength or power), Mahalakshmi (wealth, passion and material well-being), and Mahasaraswati (knowledge, dissolution, transcendence of the limitations of the mortal body). They are believed to represent the cosmos as the Earth, the Sun and the Moon.
They are also symbolic of the 3 gunas (virtues/qualities): tamas
(inertia), rajas (activity, passion) and sattva (knowledge, purity), respectively. Therefore, the first three days are dedicated to Durga or Kali, the next three to Lakshmi, and the last three to Saraswati. The tenth day is called Vijayadashmi (or Dussehra) where ‘Vijaya’ means victory – of good over evil, the victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon king, Ravana.
Ravana’s ten heads represent ten negative qualities –
and Paschataap (Guilty).
Hence, this day also signifies victory over our own minds.
Source: कनकधारा-स्तोत्रम् 18
सरसिजनिलये सरोजहस्ते धवलतमांशुगन्धमाल्यशोभे ।
भगवति हरिवल्लभे मनोज्ञे त्रिभुवनभूतिकरि प्रसीद मह्यम् ॥
sarasijanilaye sarojahaste dhavalatamāṃśugandhamālyaśobhe ।
bhagavati harivallabhe manojñe tribhuvanabhūtikari prasīda mahyam ॥
आप कमल में रहने वाले, हाथ में कमल धारण करने वाले, सफेद वस्त्रों, सुगंधों और मालाओं से सुशोभित,
सुंदर विष्णुप्रिया और तीनों लोकों को समृद्धि देनेवाली हैं। हे देवी मुझ पर कृपा करो।
तीनों लोकों को समृद्धि देनेवाली, हे देवी, मुझ पर कृपा करो ।
You are the one who lives in the lotus, holding the lotus in your hand,
adorned with white garments, scents, and garlands,
the beautiful Vishnupriya and the one who gives prosperity to the three worlds.
O Goddess, bless me
Source: Bhavānyaṣṭakam 7
विवादे विषादे प्रमादे प्रवासे जले चानले पर्वते शत्रुमध्ये।
अरण्ये शरण्ये सदा मां प्रपाहि गतिस्त्वं गतिस्त्वं त्वमेका भवानि॥
vivāde viṣāde pramāde pravāse jale cānale parvate śatrumadhye।
araṇye śaraṇye sadā māṃ prapāhi gatistvaṃ gatistvaṃ tvamekā bhavāni॥
विवाद, विषाद, प्रमाद, या प्रवास में, जल, अग्नि, अथवा पर्वत में, शत्रुओं के बीच, और जंगल में, मेरी रक्षा करो, तुम ही शरण्य हो। तुम ही रास्ता हो, एकमात्र तुम ही रास्ता हो, माँ भवानी।
During the dispute, despair, intoxication, or travelling, in water, fire, or mountains, amidst enemies, and in the forest, protect me, for you are my refuge. You are the way, the only way, Bhavani!
Source: Markandeya Purana, Devi Mahatyam 88.9
सर्व मङ्गल माङ्गल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थसाधिके।
शरण्ये त्र्यम्बके गौरि नारायणि नमोऽस्तु ते॥
sarva maṅgala māṅgalye śive sarvārthasādhike।
śaraṇye tryambake gauri nārāyaṇi namo’stu te॥
सभी मंगलो में मङ्गलमयी, कल्याणकारी, सभी मनोरथो को पूर्ण करने वाली,
शरणागत वत्सला, तीन नेत्रो वाली शिव की पत्नी आपको नमस्कार है।
Auspiciousness of all things auspicious! O consort of Shiva, fulfiller of all our goals!
Our only refuge! O three-eyed Gauri! O Narayani! Our salutations to you.
Source: Devyāparādha-Kṣamāpana Stotra 10
आपत्सु मग्नः स्मरणं त्वदीयं करोमि दुर्गे करुणार्णवेशि ।
नैतच्छठत्वं मम भावयेथाः क्षुधातृषार्ता जननीं स्मरन्ति ॥१०॥
āpatsu magnaḥ smaraṇaṃ tvadīyaṃ karomi durge karuṇārṇaveśi ।
naitacchaṭhatvaṃ mama bhāvayethāḥ kṣudhātṛṣārtā jananīṃ smaranti ॥10॥
जब भी मैं समस्याओं में डूबता हूँ, मैं आपका स्मरण करता हूँ। यह मेरी सच्ची भावना है, कोई झूठ नहीं।
क्योंकि, अगर कोई बालक भूखा और प्यासा हो, तो वह अपनी माता का ही स्मरण करता है।
Whenever I am sunk in difficulties in life, o Mother Durga, I remember you, an ocean of compassion. These are my true feelings for you and not falsity.
Because When children are afflicted with hunger and thirst, they naturally remember their Mother (only).
Each color has different significance and brings different effect in one’s life, here’s what they mean –
Royal blue – Strong energy and tranquility
Yellow – Happiness, bring optimism and confidence
Green – Represents prosperity and unconditional love
Grey – Show dignity & connects to the divine power and provide protection
Orange – The color of fame, name, and money
White – The symbol of peace, prayer, faith, and strength
Red – This is the favorite color of goddess Durga, it defines power and passion
Pink – Represents hope and the new beginning
Every year different colors, what is the math behind it?
The secret of the color change lies in the weekday on which Pratipada, the first day of Navaratri, falls. The remaining eight days follow a fixed cycle of colors. The first Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be having White, Red, Royal blue, Yellow, Green, Grey and Orange, respectively. Hence, 7 colors are covered by one-week cycle. In second cycle of week, the first repeating week day follows Pink and purple and/or sky blue, alternatively. Hence, 2 colors cover the remaining 2 days.
What exactly is fasting during Navratri?
Fast does not mean ‘not eating’. Rather it basically means controlling the desires and simultaneously cultivating positive mental attitudes. Desires can be of many types: to eat tasty food, smell, listen to a particular music, lust etc.
Fast, therefore, can be of many types. Food fast means controlling the desires for food items which you otherwise may not resist eating.
In Navratri, during the first three days, a person is required to indulge in activities which reduce the negativity in the body.
The physical purification involves regular bath (of the external body as well as various orifices); mental bath which involves self-confession exercises, and willful attempts not to think negative.
During these days, a person tries to restrain himself/herself from thinking, speaking or doing any activity which can harm another person. These negative thoughts should also not be suppressed or repressed as otherwise, they will manifest into some internal diseases.
The next three days, after the negativity in the mind, has been reduced, involves building positivity in the mind by way of various positive mental exercises. The last three days involve reading and understanding good scriptures and learning from the sins of others.
Once you have bid goodbye to negativity in the first three days (representing Kali) and have built up happiness and positivity in the mind (representing Lakshmi) the only thing left is to acquire spiritual knowledge (representing Saraswati).
During these last three days, a person is purified enough to understand and grasp the knowledge of ‘Self’ and to understands and discriminate between good and bad.
After the nine days of self-discipline is complete, the person acquires inner happiness which is nothing but one’s exposure or appointment with the true self or the consciousness (Rama). That is what Dussehra is with the killing of Tamas (Kumbhakarana), Rajas (Meghnath) and ego (Ravana).
The same interpretation lies in the Navratri ending up with Dussehra – the win over the ego and attaining inner happiness.
What is the scientific reason behind fasting during Navratri?
Besides religious perspective there is a scientific overview of fasting, fasting helps the human body to perform 3 main metabolic activities;
- Detoxification – since Navratri is a biannual festival; first, at the beginning of summer and second, at the beginning of winter. These are two juncture of seasonal change, this is the period when the human body is vulnerable and susceptible to fall sick; therefore it’s necessary to have a light diet and help the body cells to produce antioxidants which help in removing the waste products to avoid causing further hazards to the body.
- Mindfulness – fasting gives our digestive system time to rest. During fasting human body consumes fat as primary source of energy because of lack of carbohydrates in diet and the metabolic end product of fat is ketone bodies, ketone bodies are the energy source of brain and it promotes more acetylcholine release from nerves which finally increases one’s concentration and calculating ability and it stimulates the release of serotonin which is the hormone for happiness.
- Self-discipline – fasting brings the human body and mind to a more disciplined and ideal state which is difficult to achieve in daily life activities without fasting, this, in turn, helps in weight loss too.
After reading all of this, it definitely makes us think how rich and noble our traditions are. It is easy to misunderstand that all of our festivals are a form of penance to some or other god, but truly, in a subtle way, these are meant to help our selves in growing us into better human beings.