FASTING AND FEASTING

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Chaitra Navaratri (April 8-16) or the nine (nava-) nights (-ratri) of Durga, are celebrated in the first nine days in the month of Chaitra.  This period of nine days heralds the onset of spring and also marks the beginning of the New Year in the Hindu calendar, in most parts of India.

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The nine-day festival honours the role of three prinicipal female Goddesses in the Hindu pantheon – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The period of Chaitra Navaratri concludes with Rama navami (or Lord Rama’s birthday) on the tenth day of the festival. The nine day period is marked as a period of abstaining by all devotees of Devi.  Hymns are sung with great vigor every evening during this period. The festival is marked on the eighth day or ashtami by inviting  a group of kanjaks or pre-pubescent girls. A group of (five or seven or nine) such girls are invited into the household and treated as representatives of  Durga. The head of the household washes their feet, and then they are fed a sumptuous meal of halwa, puris, black chana and sweet boondi. They are then given a token of love-  recognition as little goddesses. How they love it! and look forward to  how much money, would they  collect and  also all the goodies they would get to eat.

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Our own beloved, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi,  has started fasting for nine days, to mark the auspicious occasion of Chaitra Navratri. It marks the beginning of the New Year as per the Hindu lunar-solar calendar. Hindus undertake nine days of fasting which is  believed to help keep the mind and body pure.

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Each Goddess represents a power, attribute or function. Saraswati embodies creation, Lakshmi represents preservation, and Durga symbolizes the transformation of the universe and everything in it. More specifically in our lives, these are the three fundamental powers of action (Durga), willpower (Lakshmi) and discernment (Saraswati). During this highly auspicious period, people have an increased ability to overcome destructive habits and personality flaws. By praying, meditating, repeating mantras and performing pujas or offerings during this period, we purify our actions and more readily embody prosperity and wisdom. This isn’t just a festival, it’s actually a very special energetic moment for the  planet Earth.

The first three days are dedicated to Mother Durga and Mother Kali, who are in essence the same energy – Durga brings out the concealed negativity and Kali destroys this negativity; Durga reveals flaws and Kali completes the  cleansing. After three days of removing the flaws in this way, the moment comes to plant the seeds on virgin ground. The next three days are Goddess Lakshmi’s to test our intentions and hearts. After working hard for three days, it’s time to harvest what you have learned. During the last three days Saraswati manifests herself, bringing wisdom, creativity and clarity of ideas.

Since all the nine days are dedicated to different incarnations of Maa Durga, it is customary to wear colours that symbolise the qualities of the deity. The first day venerates Shailputri Devi who embodies aspects of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. On this day, red colour is worn. As all goddesses are depicted wearing sarees. So we at Shatika, would like to suggest the different kinds of  sarees, our goddesses on earth , could  wear, from our  latest collection of sarees:

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The second day is dedicated to Brahmacharini Devi who represents a life of abstinence. Wearing blue colour  is considered auspicious on this day.

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On the third day, Chandraghanta Devi, the bestower of glory and beauty, is invoked. On the fourth day, Kushmanda Devi is worshipped and yellow is the colour to honour her.

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The fifth day is in honour of Skandmata Devi. Grey is the colour to be worn on the sixth day and is dedicated to Katyayani Devi.

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While orange is the colour for protection symbolized by Kalratri Devi

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On the eighth day, pink colour  is worn to honour Mahagauri Devi. The ninth day is dedicated to Siddhidatri Devi.

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Navratri is a nine-day festival which has immense significance for the Hindus. Moreover, it is also one of the most ancient festivals. The festival was held in its reverent form even in prehistoric times as Maa Shakti was worshipped. Hindus worship Ma Durga and her divine femininity over nine days and nine nights. The essence of the festival has found its way into the collective reverie of the devotees.

As most festivals are intertwined with seasons, Navratri is hardly an exception. Navratri is held at the two most important junctions of the year – during the onset of spring season and again during the commencement of the winter season. Navratri is celebrated four times in a year, but the most significant in terms of  elaborate rituals are Chaitra and Sharad Navratri. Chaitra Navratri marks the first day of Lunar-Solar calendar of the Hindus, which generally falls in March or April. Similarly, Sharad Navratri marks the glorious period starting during the months of September-October. The ninth day during Chaitra Navaratri is celebrated as Ram Navami as the birthday of Lord Rama while Sharad Navratri culminates in Dussehra or ‘Vijayadashmi’ Jai mata di.

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