India being a land of dynamic cultures and traditions marks the celebration of different festivals almost everyday round the year. Each of these occasions have their own significance and values for people who celebrate and adhere to them.
One of the festivals that’s celebrated with full fervor across the nation is the very auspicious Navratri. The word is a derivation from the Sanskrit language, where Nava means ‘Nine’ and Ratri means ‘Night’.
Also known as Sharad Navratri or simply Durga Puja, this nine day Hindu festival is celebrated with full fervor and passion across the nation.
The legend behind this festival lies in the great battle that happened between one of the most mighty demons called Mahishasura and Goddess Durga , mentioned in Markandeya Purana. This entire narration is referred to as Devi Mahatmya and is recited during these distinctive nine days.
So it happened that Mahishasura was blessed with immortality by Lord Brahma and he attained immense power and confidence by virtue of it. This boon was granted under one condition that none but only a woman could defeat Mahishasura.
Over the time, filled with vanity, the demon attacked the Trilok- earth, heaven and hell. He created a huge havoc and this met with anger from the Lords- Vishnu, Brahma and Mahesh. So, the Lords put in their energies and power together and created Goddess Durga to fight and kill the demon.
All through the battle, the hideous demon kept on changing his appearance to deceive the Goddess but before her valor and power all these seemed futile. She took different forms to kill Mahishasura.
Finally, when the deity took the form of the mighty Chandika that the demon was killed, with the Trishul piercing him straight through the chest. These nine days of wrath, power and battle gave birth to Navratri that signifies the victory of good over evil.
So, on each day of Navratri, different forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped and revered with a strict fast on all these days, followed by singing devotional songs and chanting.
Beginning- The First day of Navratri !
Durga puja starts with the worship of Goddess Maa Shilaputri or Shailputri, who was the daughter of mountains. Here, Shil means ‘Rock’ and Putri means ‘Daughter’. This form rides on a bull called Nandi, with the deity carrying trident and lotus in her hands.
It is said that when Goddess Sati jumped in the fire Daksha and sacrificed herself, she again was born as the daughter of Himavan or the Mountain King. When she realised her divine origin, she meditated day and night to get back to her previous abode, which was Lord Shiva’s place. Her persistence shook the trilok and ultimately Lord Brahma appeared to her and assured her that she would be accepted by Lord Shiva for marriage.
Maa Shailputri is the goddess of the Muladhara Chakra or Root Chakra, which is necessarily awakened so as to begin the journey to spiritual enlightenment. It is believed that to make full use of one’s life, Maa Shailputri should be worshipped and hence, the deity is revered on the very first day of Navratri.
The first day begins with full zeal and enthusiasm as devotees worship one of the nine forms of Goddess Durga, wearing red clothes. Since, the deity Shailputri loves Jasmine, this flower is brought for puja. Shodashopachara puja is done on this day which begins with Kalash Sthapana. This then is followed by Ganesh Vandana which ends with aarti.
The picture of Maa Durga is placed on a red cloth and red soil is spread in front of the image. Flowers are offered, incense sticks are burnt and the place is kept clean, totally devoid of dirt. The families follow their age old traditions and prasad is distributed among the family members and invitees of the house.
This is done to seek blessings as well as to spread blessing of the Goddess among all the people!
The Special Dishes!
With Durga puja round the corner, it’s time to lay your hands on the traditional platter that adorns every home. This is referred to as the Bhog which is made during each of the auspicious nine days.
Bhog is actually the food which is prepared and served to all those who come for the puja. This bhog is offered to Maa Durga and comprises a wide array of vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian cuisines. It is symbolic of devotee’s love towards their divinity.
One of the traditional preparations that’s made during the festival is Khichdi which is a mix of yellow dal and vegetables. Ghugni is another dish that is prepared with white peas and is served with puffed rice or chopped onions. Puris are made all through along with fried cauliflower and chana dal. Rasgullas and other sweet dishes too, make up the entire bhog.
More than all these, it is the love and exuberance filled in the air that makes everything lighten up more, bringing immense peace and vitality among the people!
Tall pandals, singing, and merriment aren’t the only things that completes the Durga Puja. What makes up the real essence of the festival is the people’s realisation that regardless of how much evil prevails in our lives, or how much it tries to subdue us, there will always be a dawn that will bring a brighter tomorrow. The one where there’ll be no immorality or sin and the one where good will prevail over the evil and mark an end of the wicked and the ungodly.