Friday, October 15, 2021

Happy Dussehra or Vijayadashami | Importance and Significance of Navratri

India is a land of festivals and celebrations. One or the other festival is celebrated in some part of the country throughout the year. All festivals convey the message of love, brotherhood and unity. They are celebrated by all Indians. Dussehra is an important festival. It is also known as Vijyadashmi. Dussehra or Vijayadashami is an important Hindu festival which signifies the victory of god over evil. This annual festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervour by Hindus across the world on the tenth day of the Navratras, which falls on the tenth day of Ashwin or Kartik months as per the Hindu calendar. As mentioned earlier, Dussehra or Vijayadashami has various stories behind it and so the festival is celebrated in different ways across India. For instance, in most states in North or Western India, Dussehra is celebrated in honour of Lord Rama. Ram lilas, which are re-enactment of musical plays based on the Ramcharitramanas are performed leading to Dussehra when large effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakaran and Meghanad are burnt down.

On the contrary, in many places in South India, the festival is celebrated in honour of Maa Saraswati-- Hindu Goddess of knowledge and arts. On this day, people clean and worship their instruments of livelihood and seek Goddess Saraswati's blessings. In Western India, especially in Gujarat, people observe fasts and worship the nine avatars of Goddess Durga for the nine days of Navratras leading to Dussehra or Vijayadashami. Dandiya and Garba are played during these nine days. On the tenth day, Maa Durga's idol is immersed in water signifying her return to Mount Kailash with Lord Shiva. Meanwhile, in West Bengal Durga Puja leads to Vijayadashami, also called Bijoy Dashomi, where in clay statues of Maa Durga are immersed in water bodies thus bidding a farewell to the Goddess. Right before the immersion, Bengali women indulge in Sindoor Khela wherein they apply vermilion (sindoor) on each other and wear red clothing-- ths signifying Maa Durga's victory.

During the nine days preceding to Dussehra or Durga Puja, devotees in the eastern states worship the nine avatars of Goddess Durga. Each of these nine forms represent a different side of Goddess Durga. Maa Bramhacharini is seen as a symbol of peace and purity, while Maa Kushmanda is believed to be the source of all energy in the Universe. People also prefer to buy new vehicles, properties or other new things on the day of Dussehra. It is an auspicious occasion and is believed to be the perfect day to start a new project or business. Devotees distribute gifts and sweets among their relatives and friends and also believe in celebrating this festival with their close ones. People often pray for a new beginning in their lives and also ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoings. Dussehra celebration is an important part of Indian culture. The vibrant colours, the huge idols and the relatable themes are a major attraction for foreign tourists. It holds a special place in the hearts of devotees and is usually followed by the festival of lights – Diwali.

Navratri is considered as an important sacred festival in the Hindu religion. Navratri worships Goddess Durga and her various forms which are the epitomes of power and have the ability to bring in anything desired. Not to forget it were these 9 Goddesses (NavDurga) who were able to conquer the most dangerous demon who could not be defeated by any of the other superpowers. Hence, you could have understood the importance and significance of these 9 days which are the most powerful of all. Navratri in India is a big religious festivity for nine propitious days. The celebration goes on for these favorable days with different rituals and customs in distinct parts. These nine days have a great significance in Hindu culture and religion. The worshipers adore their mother in beautiful incarnations with incompatible celebrations for nine consecutive days of Navratri. Here is the importance of Navratri Celebration.

Goddess Shakti exists in numerous ferocious as well as innocent manifestations; hence the celebration of each day of Navratri is dedicated to each Goddess embodiment for nine sacred days. Navratri is revered to show utter devotion and respect to Goddess and thus recognized with full devotion, zeal, and enthusiasm all over the country.It is believed that Mother Durga defeated the demon- Mahishasura on this festivity, therefore the solemnization begins with lightening the houses, temples and other divine places to spread happiness and gaiety all the corners. 

In North India, the nine-day festival Chaitra Navratri is observed to celebrate the victory of Rama over Ravana. During the festival, people dress up in traditional clothing, observe fasts, and offer prayers. Being one of the celebrated and distinguished religious occurrences for the Hindu community, this festival has become the most reverenced holy occasion.The occasion exhibits the victory of good over evil, thence the sacred glee starts with fasting, decorations, bhajans. People also invite small girls for the bhog and Prasad followed by placing goddesses’ images during the last days.In Hindu narrations, Chaitra Navratri is also termed as Vasant/ Basant Navratri since this divine revelry marks the beginning of Vasant Ritu or Spring Season in Indian culture.

'Navratri' means 'nine nights.' 'Nava' means 'nine,’ and 'Ratri' means 'night.' The saints have given more significance. Understanding it scientifically; night is peaceful and quiet, tantra-mantra and other supernatural things are in a strong position. It is easy to concentrate at the night. Chanting Mantra in a peaceful environment yields auspicious results. Many obstacles of nature are removed. This time may be used for gaining mental power and Yogic powers. Scientifically, performing things during the day increases the chances of problems in concentrating; just the way radio signals face problems during day time but improve in the night. The sound of the bells and conch kills Germs up-to far-away places. This period is used for Siddhi for fulfilling wishes. We worship the divine power to bestow upon all of us enough potent powers to maintain our physical and mental balance. Then they keep Shradha to remember our ancestors. So we can remember the beautiful memory those we have spent with our grandfather, grandmother & others. When we think about those happy moments, our Satwa goes up, so our energy level goes up.

On the first day, Devi Shailaputri (శైలపుత్రి-గాయత్రీదేవి) is worshipped. Devi Parvati is revered as the daughter of Himalaya Raja. Shaila means extraordinary or rising to great heights. The divine consciousness represented by Devi always surges from the peak. On this first day of Navratri, we propitiate Devi Shailaputri so that we may also attain the highest state of consciousness.

Devi Brahmacharini is propitiated. Devi Brahmacharini is the form of Devi Parvati in which she undertook severe penance to have Lord Shiva as Her consort. Brahma means divine consciousness and achar refers to behavior. This day is especially sacred to meditate and explore our inner divinity. Brahmacharya is the behavior or an act that is established in divine consciousness. 

Chandraghata is the special form that Devi Parvati assumed at the time of Her marriage with Lord Shiva. Chandra refers to the moon. The moon represents our mind. The mind is restless and keeps moving from one thought to another. Ghanta is a bell which produces only one kind of sound always. This day thus signifies withdrawing from all vagaries of the mind, with a single focus on Mother Divine. The significance is that when our mind is established at one point, i.e Divine, then our prana (subtle life force energy) gets consolidated leading to harmony and peace. 

On the fourth day, Mother Divine is worshipped as Devi Kushmanda. Kushmanda means a pumpkin. Ku means little, ushma means energy and anda refers to egg. This entire universe which arose from the cosmic egg (hiranyagarbha) is manifested from an infinitesimal energy of Devi. On this day, we worship Devi Kushmanda who showers us with Her divine energy. A pumpkin also represents prana as it has the unique property of absorbing and radiating prana. It is one of the most pranic vegetables. 

Skandamata means Mother of Skanda. On the fifth day, the motherly aspect of Devi Parvati is worshipped. In this form, she is the mother of Lord Karthikeya. She represents motherly affection (vatsalya). Worshiping this form of Devi brings abundance of wisdom, wealth, power, prosperity and liberation.

It is a form that Mother Divine assumed to annihilate the demonic forces in the universe. She was born from the anger of the gods. She is the one who slayed Mahishasura. As per our scriptures, anger that supports dharma (righteousness) is acceptable. Devi Katyayani represents that divine principle and form of the Mother Divine who is behind natural calamities and disasters. She is the anger that arises in creation to restore balance. Devi Katyayani is invoked on the sixth day to put an end to all our inner foes that are an obstacle on the path of spiritual evolution.

Mother Nature has two extremes. One is terrifying and devastating. The other is beautiful and serene. Devi Kalaratri is a fierce form of Devi. Kalaratri represents the dark night. Night is also considered an aspect of Mother Divine as it is night that brings solace, rest and comfort to our souls. It is only at night that we get a glimpse of infinity in the skies. Devi Kalaratri is that infinite dark energy that houses innumerable universes.

Devi Mahagauri is that which is beautiful, gives momentum and freedom in life. Mahagauri represents the beautiful and serene aspect of Nature. She is that energy which propels our lives and also liberates us. She is the Devi who is worshipped on the eighth day.

Siddhi means perfection. Devi Siddhidatri brings perfection in life. She makes the impossible, possible. She takes us beyond the ever reasoning logical mind to explore the realm beyond time and space.

Like all other festivals in India, Dussehra is observed with much enthusiasm and fervor by people of all ages. Though people from various corners of India celebrate this festival, the significance and mode of celebrations differ from place to place. Here are some of the key highlights of the celebration:

Processions: In some parts of the country where Vijaya Dashami is observed, people take out large processions and carry the idols of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, and Kartik to a river or large water body for immersion. Such processions are marked by music, singing, dancing, and a mood of merriment. Ram Leela: Elsewhere, people take part in Ram Leelas, which are dance dramas depicting the epic of Ramayana. In these musicals, people including children dress up as characters from Ramayana and enact the scenes. These plays continue for nine days prior to the final act of killing Ravana on the Dussehra day. Ravan Dahan: In some other places, the main attraction of Dussehra is Ravan Dahan. It involves the burning of towering effigies of Ravana along with those of his brother Kumbhakaran and son Meghnad. The burning of effigies symbolizes – oh, that’s a no-brainer – the destruction of evil. Besides these, people also burst crackers and feast with their family and friends. Colorful fairs and exhibitions are put up at many places that add to the frenzied atmosphere of the festival.


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