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Navratri (Nav Durga) is a nine-day festival of Hindus honoring the Mother Goddess. This celebration occurs twice a year: The first one is in the spring during March/April, and the second one is in the fall during September/October, based on the lunar cycle. This year, the holiday begins Sept. 28.
Navratri is not just a time to celebrate and of joy but is to attain everlasting happiness, peace, and anandam(bliss) through self-discipline, self-control, and sacrifice. It is nine days of living in Mother Goddess consciousness and experiencing her grace and love.
During this time, people celebrate by performing different types of pujas and ceremonies. Also, many Hindus observe fasting; eating only fruits, vegetables and dairy products, perform specificsadhana, prayers, practice celibacy, and visit temples. Many temples, as well as private homes, offer special prayer programs called jagran with singing and music throughout the night. On the final day, young girls up to age 9 are worshipped as goddesses and given gifts as an offering of gratitude to mother goddess for her blessings. It is believed that at that age the girls have pure energy like mother goddess. In some parts of India, the idol of the Goddess Durga is immersed in the holy rivers on the 10th day (Dashehra).
The festival signifies the nine glorious aspects of the Divine Mother and is celebrated not only in India but in many parts of the world. Mother Goddess is also called Shakti, the energy of God. She is the energy of the trinity, as the creative aspect of Lord Brahma, sustaining aspect of Lord Vishnu and destructive aspect of Lord Shiva are all encompassed within Her.
The divine trinity of Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati together represent feminine energy that provides protection, love, prosperity, and knowledge to all their devotees. Goddess Durga is known to remove evil, misery, and pain from our lives. Goddess Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, and Goddess Saraswati is known as the goddess of knowledge. Nav Durga is therefore a special time to worship and sing the glories of the goddesses, and pray for good health, prosperity, purity of mind, love, peace, and Anandam/bliss. As large numbers of people pray during this time, the collective energy becomes very powerful and it is said that the prayers offered are often heard by the goddesses.
Navratri (Nav Durga) is spiritually significant because it represents the three stages of an individual’s spiritual journey: self-purification, self-transformation, and self-realization.
Self-purification (eradication of the negative tendencies of our minds and hearts): During the first three days, the Goddess Mother is worshiped in her powerful, destructive and terrifying form of Kali/Durga. People pray to Mother, asking Her to use Her destructive power to destroy all imperfections and faults (eradication of the negative tendencies of our minds and hearts), and purify them enough to become a receptacle of her divine energy.
Self-transformation: After self-purification, the next three days of Navaratri aredevoted to worshipping the goddess in Her prosperity-bestowing form as Mahalakshmi.Goddess Mahalakshmi does not merely bestow material prosperity, but also grants qualities which a sincere spiritual seeker requires, namely, calmness, peace, equanimity, compassion, and love. By worshipping and praying to Her, one starts developing positive attributes and experiences inner prosperity, peace and happiness (self-transformation).
Self-knowledge: During the last three days, Goddess Saraswati is worshiped as the bestower of the true light of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Once one is purified by Goddess Durga (vices being annihilated), transformed by Goddess Mahalakshmi by receiving the spiritual wealth of inner peace, calmness, compassion and love, then the devotee is ready to receive the true light of understanding. By worshipping and praying to Goddess Saraswati, the devotee is now blessed with true wisdom (self-knowledge).
Navratri is not just a time to celebrate Goddess Durga’s victory over the demons; it is also the time to pray to Durga to remove our enemies/vices within us, like anger, selfish desires, greed, ego, and undue attachments. We must pray to her to destroy our inner enemies/vices. Only then can we attain self-purification, self-transformation, and self-knowledge—everlasting happiness, peace, and anandam, “Sat Chit Ananda.”