NAVARATRI

Navaratri Puja begins on the Bhadrapada Amavasi day or Puratasi Amavasai day, a day before Navratri begins. Navaratri is a festival that lasts nine days and nine nights. The word "Navaratri" actually means nine (Nava) nights (ratri).
Navaratri is the worship of the three divine goddesses, Saraswati (Goddess of learning and speech), Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity), and Durga (Goddess of strength and courage). It is also said to be the battle that occurred between Goddess durga and the asura (demon), Mahishaasura. The battle lasted 9 days and 9 nights. Finally, on the tenth day, Goddess Durga killed Mahishaasura. This day is known as Vijayadasami. Vijayadasami means the 10th day of victory.
First three days
The goddess is invoked as a spiritual force called Durga also known as kali in order to destroy all our impurities.
Second three days
The Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth, as she is the goddess of wealth.
Final three days
The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the goddess of wisdom, Sarasvati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.
Navaratri means nine nights. According to a Hindu belief, the last thought one entertains before one's death determines the next birth. How does one have a sacred thought before death? It is possible through self- discipline. We sleep everyday. Sleep is similar to death except that we wake up. Sleep can thus be termed as mini-death. If we were to discipline our mind by invoking a sacred thought prior to sleep everyday, it will certainly help us thave a sacred thought during the time of death. Mahatma Gandhi said 'Hey Ram' before his death as he was self-disciplined.
Nava also means 'new'. If we invoke the blessings of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Shakti before going to sleep every night, we will experience newness every night. Night or ratri also means darkness. Darkness denotes ignorance. For this too, invoking the goddesses can prove fruitful.
Through grace, our ratri or ignorance will vanish. Grace cannot be understood logically. It is a quantum leap in the field of consciousness. In physics, quantum leap is a great discovery. It involves electrons disappearing from one point and appearing in other point and between them there is no time gap. Hence it is called quantum leap. Similarly, in the field of consciousness, when grace descends there will be a quantum leap in us.
During Navaratri, three nights of worship are assigned to each of the three Devis. Nava or newness in the form of grace is invoked. The tenth day is Vijayadashami, denoting victory - victory of higher consciousness through the blessing of the goddesses. The greatest victory is the dispelling of darkness or ignorance.
Grace of the Devis always exists; it's just that we should be worthy to receive them. The inner apparatus suitable to receive them is pure mind. Impure mind is like dirty muddy water, which cannot reflect the light of the moon. Moon exists but to reflect in water, the water has to be clean. This is called Pratibimba Nyaya. Our mind has to be pure in order to receive grace.
Navaratri, therefore, is the celebration of removing ignorance. Our ignorance exists in the form of ego. E-G-O can mean Edging God Out. Hence we find Shakti dancing on Shiva's chest. It may appear disrespectful but it is symbolic: An egoless Lord Shiva allows his wife to dance over him. It means Devi's grace can descend in any form...but one should be available to receive it.
Nava Durga
Shailaputri - Goddess Durga‘s first form in the Nava-Durga series of divine forms, amongst the nine, is Shailaputri. She was nomenclatured as Shailaputri after being born in the house of the king of the mountains, Himalaya . In this mold the mother is seen holding a trident in her right hand and a lotus in her left and she is mounted on an ox. In the past life she was the daughter of Daksha, the son of Lord Brahma. She was known as Sati then. As the daughter of Daksha she was married to the God of Gods, Mahadeva. Daksha once arranged for a ceremony of the holy fire (Yagna), and chose not to invite his daughter and son-in-law. Sati was restless to join the ceremony at her father‘s place and even defied her husband‘s advice of not attending the Yagna without an invitation. On going uninvited to the ceremony, she felt that everyone was giving her a cold shoulder except her mother who greeted her with a hug. Her siblings too were no exception and were sarcastic in their remarks. The guests too present in the function were uttering disrespectful comments about her husband. To her surprise her father too was harsh and rude in his approach. She was dejected and was so heart broken that she burnt herself to ash in the holy fire. Shiva, on hearing this incident was enraged and ordered his followers to immediately demolish the Daksha Yagna. After burning herself to death, Sati was reborn as the daughter of the king of the mountains, Himalaya and became known as Shailaputri. Thus amongst all the nine forms of Devi Durga, Shailaputri is the most powerful and glorified of all. She is worshiped in the first day of the Navratri celebrations. According to the Upanishads this form of Durga broke the pride of the Gods by assuming the mold of Haimabati.
Brahmacharini - Durga‘s second appearance is in the form of Brahmacharini. Here "Brahma" means meditation. That is, the Goddess is the meditator or a practitioner of penance. She is seen here holding a string of rosary beads in her right hand and a Kamandalu (an urn containing holy water) in her left hand. In her previous life, when she was reborn as the daughter of Himalaya , she performed severe penance to have Mahadeva as her husband. The sage God Narada advised her to take up meditation to win Shiva. For undergoing strict meditation she was known as Brahmacharini or Tapasyacharini. Ignoring the beating sun and thundershowers, she began a three hundred year meditation living only leaves that fell on the forest floor. She furthered her penance making it even stricter by relinquishing food and water for another few hundred years. As she gave up eating leaves she is also referred to as "Aparna". Practicing this painstaking contemplation she became weak and skinny. Unable to withstand the plight of her daughter her mother, Manoka requested her to give up her resolution. Shocked at the sight of Durga she exclaimed "u" and "ma". In Sanskrit 'u' is a word of address, and 'ma' means 'don't' or 'not wanted'). That is why Durga is also called "Uma". On the other hand overwhelmed by Durga‘s devotion and perseverance, all the Gods and sages in the heaven were placated. At last, grandfather Brahma, pleased with devi‘s austerities made an oracle, "O maiden! No one could achieve or endure the penance you have performed till date. I am captivated by your meditation and devotion. Your wish will be fulfilled and you will certainly have Shiva as your husband. You may now return home and rest. Your father will come soon to take you". This form of Durga gives the devotees everlasting success. Worship of this appearance enriches the faculties of sacrifice, honesty and self-discipline. In times of utter distress the worship of this form gives success and the willpower to come out victorious. This form of Durga is worshiped in the second day of the Durga puja.
Chandraghanta - Mother Durga‘s third form is known as Chandraghanta. This name finds its justification in the half moon seen on the temple of the Goddess that resembles a bell. The deity has ten arms. The ten hands of the Goddess brandish ten different weapons. Mounted on a lion this form of the mother is worshiped on the third day of the Navratri celebration. It is believed that a devotee who manages to earn the devi‘s blessings can set himself free from his sins and hazards that he has committed or may face in his life. The devotee gains the power to sense the supernatural, to see it and even smell the eternal fragrance. He is also able to distinguish the otherwise inaudible celestial sounds. This is the time when the devotee should be alert. Although the deity is always envisaged in the fearsome mood of demolishing the evil, her appearance always spreads a calm and eternal peace all round. Mother Chandraghanta‘s devotees spread peace and happiness wherever they go. We should all whole-heartedly worship the mother with a devoted soul. Worship of the deity helps one eliminate the sorrow, hazards and dangers in ones life.
Kushmanda - The fourth appearance of the devi is in the form of Kushmanda. The mother gets the name as she created the universe with a smile. When there was darkness everywhere and there was no existence of the universe she created the universe with a smile. She is believed to be the source of eternal power. The Goddess has eight arms and that is why she is also known as "Ashtabhuja". The deity‘s seven hands hold the holy urn (Kamandul), a bow, an arrow, a lotus, a pot containing wine, a disc and a club. The eighth hand holds a string of rosary beads that is believed to provide success and prudence. Pumpkin is termed as "Kushmandam" in Sanskrit. Amongst the sacrificial vegetables that are offered in the worship of the Goddess (naibidhya), pumpkin is the most important vegetable with which Devi Kushmanda is most placated. That is why she is named "Kushmanda". She is worshiped on the fourth day of the Navratri celebration abiding by the rituals that are described in the Sashtra and the Purans. Worship of this form of the Devi exterminates sorrow and diseases and augments life, fame and strength. Mother Goddess is appeased with the slightest of devotion and if any one whole-heartedly worships the deity he will certainly gain her favour.
Skandamata - Fifth form of the mother is known as Skandamata. Kumar Kartik‘s other name is Skanda. As devi Durga is the mother of Kartik, she is referred to as "Skandamata". This form of the deity has four arms. The mother is seen holding her son Skanda with the top right hand and she is holding a lotus in her lower hand. The top left hand is positioned in a blessing gesture and the other hand holds a lotus. The goddess is fair and sits on a lotus. That is why the devi is also known as "Padmasana". Here she is seen mounted on a lion. If anyone worships her whole-heartedly, she fulfills the wish of the devotee.
Katyaayani - Katyaayani is the sixth form of Devi Durga. Sage Katyaayan was the son of the great sage Kat. Sage Kattayan was born in the "Katya" clan. He was engaged in rigorous penance and worship of "Bhagavati Paramba". His prayer was all about requesting the mother to appear in his house-hold as his daughter. Mother Bhagavati obliged him. After some time, when, the world was terrorized of Mahishasura, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva with their divine powers gave form to a Goddess to combat asura and destroy him. Katyaayan was the first to worship her and that is why she is known as "Devi Kattayani". It is mentioned in the Shastra that Katyaayani was born as the daughter of the sage Kattayan. Taking birth on the fourteenth day of the new moon in "Aashwin" (September-October), she accepted the worship of the sage Kattayan on Saptami, Astami and Navami and ultimately slew Mahishasura on Dashami. The deity‘s complexion is as bright as gold. She has four hands. The top right hand is positioned in a gesture of providing courage and the other hand is positioned in a gesture of rendering a boon. The top left hand is holding a sword and the other holding a lotus. The Goddess is mounted on a lion and she is worshiped on the sixth day of the Durga puja. If one worships the deity with a pure soul he attains success in religion, wealth, passion and salvation. Disease, sorrow and fear are eliminated. Worship of this deity helps one to emancipate himself from the sin he may have committed over the cycle of his births and rebirths. We should all devote our prayers to the mother to lead a better life.
Kaalratri - Mother Goddess's seventh form is "Kaalratri". Her complexion is as dark as the night. Her cascading hair is let loose and she is seen wearing a garland that radiates light as bright as lightning. She is fearsome with her menacing three eyes, radiating fire. She is mounted on an ass. She has four hands, of which, the top right hand is in a gesture of rendering boon to all. The other hand on her right is rendering fearlessness. The top left hand is holding an iron dagger and the other hand is holding a sickle. Although she has a menacing appearance, she always delivers favorable results and her devotees need not fear her manifestations is holding an iron dagger and the other hand is holding a sickle. Although she has a menacing appearance, she always delivers favorable results and her devotees need not fear her manifestations. She is worshiped on the seventh day of the Durga puja. Devi Kaalratri destroys the evil. If anyone whole-heartedly pleads of saving him from any impending danger, she protects him. As and when the Goddess is called, the evils instantaneously disappear from the place. By the Goddess's grace, the devotees overcome their fear of fire, water, animals and foes.
Mahagouri - The Mother's eighth form is known as "Mahagouri". Her complexion is totally white. Her garments are also white. She is mounted on an ox and has four hands. Her top right hand is rendering fearlessness and the hand below holds a trident. The top left hand holds a "Damru" and the hand below is in a gesture of giving a boon. To have Shiva as her husband she went through a rigorous penance in the form of "Parvati". As a result of this arduous meditation her complexion turned dark. Lord Shiva, pleased with the devotion of Parvati, bathed her in the holy water of the Ganges . As she bathed in the holy water she turned fair. From then onwards she became known as "Mahagouri". She is worshiped on the eighth day of the Durga puja. The devotee is benefited on all fronts as he worships the deity. Due to the Goddess's grace the devotee attains supernatural salvation, he is relieved from all his pains and fatigue and can set himself free from his previous sins. He is never faced with sorrow and poverty and never commits any sin. The devotee wins pure and endless virtue.
Siddhidatri - Durga's ninth mold is the form of "Siddhidatri". She delivers success. According to "Markendeo Puran" there are eight types of success, such as "Anima", "Laghima", "Prapti", "Prakashya", "Mahima", "Ishhattya", "Bashittya", "Sarvakaam bashayita" and "Sarvagyata". But in the "SriKrishna Janmakhanda" of the "Brahmavaivarta Puran", there are another ten types of success such as "Doorsravan", "Parakayaprabeshan", "Baksiddhi", "Kalpavrikshattwa", "Srishti", "Samharkaransamartha", "Amarattwa", "Sarvanaykattwa", "Bhavna" and "Siddhi". Thus there are eighteen types of successes. Mother Siddhidatri is capable of rendering all these forms of successes to her devotees. According to the Purans, Lord Shiva achieved salvation by the grace of this deity. The deity is seen sometimes sitting on a lotus and sometimes mounted on a lion. She is four armed. The lower right hand of the Goddess holds a disc and the upper right hand holds a club. The lower left hand holds a conch shell and the upper hand holds a lotus. She is worshipped on the ninth day of the Durga puja. She is the ultimate form of the Goddess among the Navadurga. After having performed the worship of the other forms of the Goddess according to the rituals mentioned in the Sashtra, the devotee can then start the worship of this deity. Those who worship the Goddess with full devotion are bestowed with all the success. She has been unified with the forces of sustenance and salvation of the great Lord Vishnu.
Ayudha Puja
The ninth day is also the day of the Ayudha Puja. After the slaying of Mahishasura and other demons by Chamundeswari, there was no more use for her weapons. So the weapons were kept aside and worshipped. This Ayudha puja is being celebrated since ancient times. The importance of Ayudha Puja on this occasion may also be due to the fact that on the Vijayadasami day, Arjuna took back his weapons which he had hidden in a Vani tree in order to lead a life in disguise for the promised period of exile. It is believed that one who begins or renovates his learning to work on the Vijayadasami day will secure a grand success as Arjuna did in Kurukshetra war.
The Ayudha Puja is a worship of whatever implements one may use in one's livelihood. On the preceding evening, it is traditional to place these implements on an altar to the Divine. If one can make a conscious effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses each day, it will help one to see one's work as an offering to God. It will also help one to maintain constant remembrance of the divine. In India it is customary for one to prostrate before the tools one will use before starting one's work each day; this is an expression of gratitude to God for helping one to fulfil one's duties.
It is believed that beginning any business or study on the Vijaya Dashami makes the process successful.
Saraswathi Puja
On Saraswathi (ninth day) puja day, we keep all books in the prayer room, evoke knowledge in the form of Saraswathi and do puja.
The following prayer is chanted to her before starting our studies:Saraswathi namasthubhyam varadae kaamaroopineeVidhyaarambham karishyaami siddhir bhavathumae sadaaI prostrate to you, Goddess Saraswathi. You give boons and fulfill our wishes. I pray to you to grant my wishes when I start my studies.
Goddess Saraswathi presides over and protects every form of art. So, on this day, consecrated to Saraswathi, the musical instruments in the house are cleansed, placed on an altar and devotedly worshipped, these being the abode of this Goddess.

'Garba' & 'Dandiya-Raas'
The word “Garba” originates from the word “garbo,” which is an earthen pot with holes and a small candle inside. During Navratri, a garbo is placed in the center of the dancing area along with idols of goddesses, and people dance around it in concentric circles. The pot itself symbolizes the universe, while the light inside represents God, which is the center of the universe, and by dancing around the pot and idols, the dancers symbolize that God is also the center of their lives. The circle formation itself also has additional significance. The circle formed by dancers represents the cycle of life and its never-ending nature, tenets of the Hindu belief of reincarnation. The dance form of Garba is characterized by its fluidity, grace, flexibility, and synchronous clapping of hands to supplement the music.
Raas, with similar elements to Garba, is different due to its use of dandiya (dancing sticks) that are twirled, tossed, and thrown in elaborate choreography. It has similar roots as it is also performed at Navratri, but also has deeper significance as it is representative of Lord Krishna, who was said to perform the dance with village girls, or gopis, to please them. While each gopi believed that Krishna was dancing with her alone, he was actually dancing with all of them as he is a metaphor for the omnipresent God, supporting the central Hindu principle that God exists within anything and everything in this world.
Vidyaramba
The tenth day or Vijayadasami is also the day of Vidyaramba or beginning of study when children usually begin to learn the alphabets. On the Vijayadasami day after a Puja in the morning, the Books and implements are removed from the room and this ceremony is called 'Puja Eduppu'. The time for the break up of the puja marks the beginning of learning and work. Learning and work commence at this auspicious moment.
Literates, in general write the alphabets on sand and read a few sentences from sacred books. Similarly the craftsmen and other skilled workers do some work using their implements. At this auspicious moment the children for the first time are given instructions to write the first few alphabets on rice or sand. They are thus initiated into the world of knowledge. This is called 'Ezhuthinu Iruthu' and according to custom only after this ceremony child becomes entitled to write or read.
Dussehra

Dussehra is also known as Vijaya Dasami, because of the victory of Ram over Ravana. On this day in Satya Yug, Ram (the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu), killed the great demon and king of Lanka, Ravana. 'Dash' means ten and 'hara' means defeated.
The festival of Dassehra, also known as Vijayadashmi, is one of the fascinating festivals of India and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm. According to the great Hindu scripture, the Ramayana, Lord Rama performed chandi-puja (holy prayer). This was carried out in order to invoke the blessings of Durga Maa for the killing of Ravana, the ten-headed demon king of Sri Lanka who had abducted Seeta, wife of Lord Rama.
Another legend associated with this auspicious occasion is the story of Kausta, the youngest son of Devdatt. After successfully accomplishing his study under the guidence of Rishi Varatantu, he requested his mentor to accept any gift as Gurudakshina. Though initially Rishi Varatanu refused the offer but afterward he asked for one hundred million gold coins for each of the subject taught, as Kausta learnt several subjects, it amounted to 140 hundred million gold coins. To keep his promise Kausta asked King Raghu for the money, who was renowned for his generosity. With the help of Kuber, the God of wealth, he brought a shower of gold coins near the shanu and apati trees. After giving what his guru asked for, the rest of the coins were distributed among the poor and needy people on the day Dassehra. Since then, people of Ayodhya pluck the leaves of apati tree and present each other as 'sona' or gold.

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