Navaratri or Nawraatri...


Navaratri is another very sacred time in the life of Hindus. Navaratri literally means “nine nights” and these specific clusters of nine nights occurs five times during the year. Interestingly enough, only two of these clusters are of any major consequence to most Hindus. The cluster called Chaitra Navaratri and the other called Sharad Navaratri are the most important ones and are celebrated or observed by the majority of bhaktas or devotees. Chaitra Navaratri occurs during the months of March-April and is observed during the waxing phase of the moon or the bright fortnight. The beginning of this cluster of nine nights marks the start of the New Year for Hindus and worship of the Divine Mother in the form of Durga is a high priority for Hindus.

Sharad Navaratri occurs during the months of September-October during the bright fortnight. This is a Maha-festival and once more Goddess Shakti in her various forms is worshipped. This nine night cluster is divided such that three of these nights are for worshippping Durga or Kali, another three dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and three for worshipping Saraswati. Ramleela celebrations also runs con-current with Sharad Navaratri. It is a time when Hindus avoid non-vegetarian food and indulge in fasting and lots of praying.

The history and origins of Navaratri...


Lord Rama and Lakshmana goes in search of Sita after Ravana abducted and took her away to Lanka. They had already formed an alliance with the Vanaras and had an army ready to do battle. A major problem confronted them all and that problem was how to get across the ocean to Lanka. Only Hanuman at that point in time had done it but the rest of the army did not have the capability to do so and they all became afflicted with sorrow and unhappiness, Rama included. Vyasa says to Janamejaya that Narada appeared there and had a conversation with Rama.

Narada said to Rama that fasting for these nine nights, repeating the sacred mantra of the divine Bhagavati and performing the sacred fire ritual called Homa fulfills one's desires and brings immense happiness. If you observe these vows as prescribed you will certainly recover Sita and will be able to slay Ravana too. In ancient times Vishnu, Shiva and even Brahma and the other devas also performed worship unto the divine Goddess. Therefore, Rama having fallen under great difficulties you ought to do this auspicious ceremony without any hesitation. Narada told Rama that the sages Vishwamitra, Bhrigu, Vashistha and Kashyapa all performed this worship before. When Brihaspati's wife was stolen he too performed this great worship of the divine mother and got back his wife. This vow was aslo practiced before by the mighty Indra for the destruction of Vritrasura, by Mahadeva for illiminating Tripurasura and by Narayana for the destruction of both Madhu and Kaitaba. Rama questioned Narada as to who is this Devi, what is her name, what's her origin and what's her influence?

Narada replies to Rama by saying that the Goddess is eternal, she is the source of all the Devas and of all living beings. Without Her cosmic force nobody will be able to even lift a limb. She is the preserving energy of Vishnu, She is the creative energy of Brahma and She is the destroying force of Mahadeva. How can She have an origin when all that exists in the universe exists only because of Her underlying force? She is devoid of all qualities, the granter of Moksha, She is Prakriti at it's fullest. She is the one from whom came Brahma, Vishna and Mahesha and it is She who has empowered them such that they can create the three Lokas. She existed before the Vedas and is also the originator of the Vedas, She is therefore Supreme Knowledge itself!

Then Rama asked of Narada to describe the rules and method of performing this worship to the Devine Mother. Narada told Him all and Rama took the vow on that very day and commenced the fast and the worship in the prescribed manner. On the night of the eight day, pleased with the worship of Rama and Lakshmana the Divine Mother appeared before the two brothers. Remaining on the mountain top and mounted on a lion Chandika Devi spoke to Rama and Lakshmana, reminding them of who they really are. She revealed to Rama his purpose in this avatara and briefly described His many previous avataras. She granted Him Her blessings so that He would meet with success and happiness and then She disappeared.

Vyasa then said to Emperor Janameyjaya that filled with the renewed energy obtained from the Divine Mother, Rama, Lakshmana, Hanumana and all the other followers went to the shore of the ocean. Then they were able to build a bridge across the ocean so that everone can reach Lanka. A battle ensued and Ravana the enemy of the Gods, was vanquished by Rama. Sita was rescued and when all was done Rama returned to Ayodhya and was crowned King. His fame and renoun became known throughout all the Lokas. Such has been the glory and greatness of worship done during Navratri.