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Navratri 2023: What is Navratri? Why is it celebrated?

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Navratri 2023:  Navratri is a Hindu festival that spans nine nights and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion in India and by the Indian diaspora around the world.

Navratri 2023 is an eagerly awaited Hindu festival celebrated nationwide with tremendous enthusiasm. This significant holiday spans nine days, dedicated to the veneration of Maa Durga and her nine divine forms, known as Navdurga. Shardiya Navratri 2023 is set to take place from October 15 to October 24, 2023.

During the course of this nine-day festival, devotees pay homage to each of the Goddess’s avatars. It’s worth noting that Hindus observe four Navaratris throughout the year, each with its own unique significance and rituals. Navratri is a time for spiritual devotion, cultural festivities, and celebrating the divine feminine energy represented by Maa Durga.

What is Navratri 2023? Why is it celebrated?

The word “Navratri” is derived from two Sanskrit words: “Nav” meaning nine, and “Ratri” meaning night. This festival typically occurs in the months of September or October, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar.

Navratri is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga, who is a symbol of divine feminine energy, power, and protection. The festival signifies the triumph of good over evil, as it commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura, who symbolizes evil forces and ignorance.

Shailaputri: The daughter of the Himalayas.
Day 1 – Shailaputri:  The daughter of the Himalayas.

 

The festival consists of nine nights of worship, with each night dedicated to one of the nine forms or manifestations of Goddess Durga. These forms are:

  1. Shailaputri: The daughter of the Himalayas.
  2. Brahmacharini: The celibate goddess who personifies penance and devotion.
  3. Chandraghanta: The goddess with a half-moon on her forehead, symbolizing bravery.
  4. Kushmanda: The creator of the universe, who resides in the sun.
  5. Skandamata: The mother of Lord Skanda (Kartikeya), the warrior god.
  6. Katyayani: A fierce form of the goddess born to sage Katyayan.
  7. Kalaratri: The dark and ferocious form of Durga.
  8. Mahagauri: The goddess who is extremely fair and compassionate.
  9. Siddhidatri: The bestower of supernatural powers and divine knowledge.

Devotees observe fasts, perform special prayers, and participate in cultural and musical events during Navratri. Garba and Dandiya Raas are traditional dances that are an integral part of the celebration, where people dance in circles to traditional folk music, often accompanied by colorful attire and sticks (Dandiyas).

Brahmacharini: The celibate goddess who personifies penance and devotion.
Day 2 – Brahmacharini: The celibate goddess who personifies penance and devotion.

 

In some regions of India, the tenth day, known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra, marks the culmination of Navratri. It commemorates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana and the triumph of good over evil. Effigies of Ravana are burned in grand processions during Dussehra celebrations.

Navratri is a time of spiritual reflection, worship, and joyous celebrations, and it holds deep cultural and religious significance for Hindus. It is also an occasion for families and communities to come together and celebrate the unity and diversity of Indian culture.

What is the History of Navratri?

The history of Navratri is deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and legends. The festival’s origins can be traced back to various ancient texts and stories. Here’s a brief overview of the historical and mythological aspects of Navratri:

Day 3 - Chandraghanta:
Day 3 – Chandraghanta: The goddess with a half-moon on her forehead, symbolizing bravery

Goddess Durga’s Battle with Mahishasura: The most significant historical context for Navratri is the battle between Goddess Durga and the demon Mahishasura. According to Hindu mythology, Mahishasura was a powerful demon who wreaked havoc on the gods and humans.

Unable to defeat him individually, the gods combined their energies to create Goddess Durga, who possessed immense power and strength. After a fierce nine-day battle, Durga defeated Mahishasura on the tenth day, which is celebrated as Vijayadashami or Dussehra. Navratri symbolizes the nine days of the battle between good (Durga) and evil (Mahishasura).

Day 4 - Kushmanda:
Day 4 – Kushmanda: The creator of the universe, who resides in the sun.

Overall, Navratri is a festival deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and tradition, celebrating the victory of good over evil and the worship of the divine feminine energy. It continues to be a time of spiritual reflection, devotion, and cultural celebrations for millions of Hindus worldwide.

Why do people fast on Navratri?

Fasting during Navratri is a common practice among Hindus, and it is done for various reasons, including spiritual, religious, and cultural significance.

Day 5 - Skandamata
Day 5 – Skandamata: The mother of Lord Skanda (Kartikeya), the warrior god.

Here are some of the primary reasons why people fast during Navratri:

  1. Spiritual Cleansing: Fasting is seen as a way to purify the body and mind. It is believed that by abstaining from certain foods and maintaining self-control, individuals can cleanse their bodies of toxins and negative energies, making them more receptive to spiritual experiences and inner growth.
  2. Devotion and Penance: Fasting during Navratri is often considered an act of devotion to Goddess Durga or the divine. It is a way for devotees to show their reverence and dedication to the goddess and seek her blessings. Fasting is seen as a form of penance and a way to demonstrate one’s commitment to the spiritual path.
  3. Austerity and Self-Discipline: Fasting requires self-discipline and control over one’s desires, particularly when it comes to abstaining from certain foods or limiting the number of meals. This self-discipline is seen as a means of personal growth and spiritual development.
  4. Symbolic Offering: Some people view fasting as a symbolic offering to the goddess. By voluntarily giving up food and other indulgences, devotees express their willingness to make sacrifices and offer something valuable to the divine.
  5. Cultural Tradition: Fasting during Navratri is deeply ingrained in the cultural traditions of many communities, especially in India. It is a way to participate in the collective cultural and religious practices of the community and maintain a sense of unity and shared identity.
  6. Health Benefits: While the primary purpose of fasting during Navratri is spiritual and religious, some individuals may also view it as an opportunity for detoxification and improved health. Fasting can provide a break for the digestive system and promote a sense of well-being.
Day 6 - Katyayani:
Day 6 – Katyayani: A fierce form of the goddess born to sage Katyayan

 

During Navratri, people may choose to fast in different ways. Some may observe a complete fast where they abstain from all food and only consume water or fruits. Others may opt for partial fasting, where they avoid certain foods like grains, non-vegetarian items, or certain spices. The specific fasting rules and traditions can vary by region and personal preference.

It’s important to note that fasting during Navratri is a personal choice, and not all Hindus observe it. Those who do fast usually do so with sincerity and devotion, and they often break their fast with a special meal or prasad (blessed food) after offering it to the goddess.

Fasting during Navratri is a significant religious and spiritual practice for many Hindus.

Day 7 - Kalaratri:
Day 7 – Kalaratri:The dark and ferocious form of Durga.

If you wish to observe a fast during Navratri in a proper and traditional way, here are some guidelines to help you:

  1. Consult with a Priest or Religious Authority: It’s a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable priest or religious authority to understand the specific fasting rules and traditions that apply to your region and community. They can provide guidance based on your individual circumstances.
  2. Choose the Type of Fast: There are different levels of fasting during Navratri, and you can choose the one that suits your abilities and preferences. Common types of fasting include:
    • Complete Fast (Nirjala Vrat): This involves abstaining from all food and water during the fasting hours. It is a rigorous form of fasting and should only be attempted by those who are physically capable and have received proper guidance.
    • Mahagauri: The goddess who is extremely fair and compassionate.
      Day 8 Mahagauri: The goddess who is extremely fair and compassionate.

    • Water Fast (Phalahar Vrat): In this type of fast, you consume only water, milk, fruit juices, and fruits during the fasting period. It is a less strict form of fasting compared to a complete fast.
    • Partial Fast (Upwas): This type of fast involves avoiding certain foods like grains, non-vegetarian items, onions, garlic, and specific spices. You can consume fruits, milk, yogurt, and light vegetarian meals during the fasting period.
  3. Set Fasting Hours: Decide the specific hours during which you will fast each day. Traditionally, fasting during Navratri involves abstaining from food during the daytime and breaking the fast in the evening or at night. The fasting duration can vary, but many people fast from sunrise to sunset.
  4. Choose Sattvic Foods: If you’re following a partial fast, focus on consuming sattvic (pure and light) foods. These may include fruits, nuts, dairy products, vegetables, and grains like sama rice (barnyard millet) or singhara flour (water chestnut flour). Avoid foods that are considered tamasic (heavy and impure), such as onions, garlic, and strongly flavored spices.
  5. Avoid Non-Vegetarian Food: During Navratri, non-vegetarian food is typically avoided by those observing the fast, as it is considered impure during this period.
  6. Offer Prayers and Worship: Along with fasting, devote time for daily prayers, meditation, and worship of Goddess Durga. Recite Durga Mantras and visit temples dedicated to the goddess if possible.
  7. Stay Hydrated: If you are observing a water or milk fast, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink enough water, milk, or fruit juices to prevent dehydration.
  8. Break the Fast with Prasad: When you decide to end your fast, break it with prasad (blessed food) that has been offered to the goddess during your prayers. This is considered spiritually significant.
  9. Maintain a Pure Mindset: Fasting is not just about abstaining from food but also about maintaining a pure and positive mindset. Use this time for self-reflection, introspection, and spiritual growth.
  10. Respect Individual Health: Prioritize your health when fasting. If you have medical conditions, are pregnant, nursing, or have any health concerns, consult a healthcare professional before fasting. Fasting should not harm your health.

Remember that fasting is a personal choice, and the level of rigor you choose should align with your physical capabilities and spiritual goals. It’s also essential to approach fasting with devotion, sincerity, and respect for the traditions and customs associated with Navratri in your community.

Can we eat Rasmalai in Navratri fast?

Whether you can eat Rasmalai during Navratri fast depends on the specific fasting rules and traditions you are following, as well as your personal dietary preferences and restrictions.

Day 9 - Siddhidatri: Illustrate Goddess Siddhidatri, the bestower of supernatural powers and knowledge. Highlight her divine aura and wisdom.
Day 9 – Siddhidatri: Illustrate Goddess Siddhidatri, the bestower of supernatural powers and knowledge. Highlight her divine aura and wisdom.

 

Navratri fasting practices can vary widely from region to region and among individuals. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Ingredients in Rasmalai: Rasmalai is a popular Indian dessert made from paneer (Indian cottage cheese) soaked in sweet, flavored milk. It typically contains dairy products, sugar, and sometimes cardamom for flavor. If you are following a strict fast, you may want to avoid Rasmalai because it contains ingredients that are typically restricted during fasting, such as sugar.
  2. Fasting Guidelines: Some people follow a partial fast during Navratri, allowing the consumption of dairy products like milk, yogurt, and paneer, but avoiding grains, non-vegetarian items, and certain spices. If your fasting practice aligns with these guidelines, you might consider consuming Rasmalai as long as it doesn’t contain any grains or ingredients prohibited during your fast.
  3. Special Navratri Recipes: Some individuals prepare special fasting-friendly versions of traditional dishes during Navratri. You could explore recipes for fasting-friendly desserts, including variations of Rasmalai made without grains or sugar, using ingredients that are allowed during your specific fasting practice.

Can we Drink coffee in Fast?

You can drink moderate amounts of black coffee during fasting periods, as it contains very few calories and is unlikely to break your fast.

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