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This book edited by Bibek Debroy and Anuradha Goyal gives the reader a pan India detail of Navaratri celebrations in the past and present. Navaratri celebration differs from place to place and also amongst different communities of a particular region. This book is an insight into the variety of rituals, and customs and an eye opener to most of the Indians who partially know about their culture.
This book has been divided into sixteen chapters. this compilation also mentions the contributors separately. The introduction is superb. The chapters are as follows.
- Bhavani, Sharika, and Sharadha in Kashmir.
- Devi visits her home in Bengal.
- Kolu and Ayudha in tamil nadu.
- Home in the Himalayas, shakti in Himachal.
- The flowers of Telangana.
- Bali and puja in Nepal.
- Mrinamayee murti in odhisha.
- Kerala marg in Uttar Pradesh.
- Temples and tribes in Andhra.
- Satvika in Punjab and Haryana.
- Vidya dayini in Kerala.
- Dandiya and Garba in Gujarat.
- Shakti in the Shivalik of Jammu.
- Kamakhya of kamarupa in Assam.
- Mannami and nava jevan in konkan.
- Kula devis in rajasthan.
Navaratri is nine nights from the 1st to 9TH day and the festival is decided according to the lunar day and month. There are 12 Krishna paksha and 12 Shukla pasha Navratri. The Festival is celebrated only on Shukla paksha beginning with Prati pada ( Prathama) and ending with Purnima. Four Navratris are more popular.
- Sharadha/ashvina navaratri.
- Vasanta/ chaitra navaratri
- Magha navaratri
- Ashadha navratri.
Magha and Ashadha are Gupta navaratris.
The lunar month of Ashvina (September/October), Chaitra(March/April)
Most of us know only about shraddha/ Ashvina Navratri. In some parts of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan Vasanta Navratri is more popular than Sharada Navratri.
There are several Devi Suktams in different texts like
- Devi suktam (rig veda)
- Shri suktam rig veda)
- Devi suktam( tantra texts)
- Durga suktam (taittiriyaa. Aranykae)
- Ratri suktam or devi stotram ( from Durga Sapta shati.)
There is a section in Markandeya Purana known as Devi Mahatmya or Chandi. From the perspective of Devi’s worship, the markandeya Purana is the most important. Mahabharata and Valmiki Ramayana also describe Devi. Others are linga purana, skanda purana. Lalita sahasranamam is from Brahmanda purana.
Navdurga or the nine forms of Durga are
- Shaila Putri
- Brahma charini
- Chandra ghanta
- Skanda Mata
- Kala Ratri(maha kali)
- Maha Gauri
- Siddhi Datri.
There are several manifestations of Devi such as
- Vindhya Vasini
- Raktha Dantika
- Brahmari, Saptamatrikas, Yoginis. Mantrinis etc.
Sapta matrikas are Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Indrani, Maheswari, Kaumari, Varahi and Chamunda.
Devi Bhagavatam has 12 skandhas and the seventh skandha has the famous Devi Gita. Devi Upanishad composed at a later date contains some shlokas of Devi Gita. Sculpture, Iconography, and worship of Devi are based on these two and also Kalika Purana and Chandi Purana. Devi mahatmya is known as Durga Saptashati in north India and Chandi path in east India.Lalita sahasranamam is chanted in south india, bhavani sahasranama is chanted in Kashmir.
According to Nilmata Purana, the name Kashmir is derived from Kashyapamar. The greek name for the region is Kasperia. eventually, the name of the place was identified with the goddess Kashmira a form of Uma or Parvati.
In Sharada mahatmya, Sharadha is the synonym for Saraswati. Sharika is the presiding deity of Srinagar. chanting of Shri Durga Sapta shloka stotram is popular across India. Kashmiris also chant Bhavani Ashtakam during Navaratri days. traditionally Kashmiris recited Bhavani Sahasra Nama instead of Durga Saptashati. Lalita Sahasra namam has about 100 names common with Bhavani Sahasra namam. Indrakshi stotra and Panchastavi have been popular in Kashmir for over a thousand years. the following are Sakthi peethas in Kashmir.
1. Kheer bhavani. 2.Sharika Peetha 3. Sharada Peetha
Mahalaya signifies the beginning of Shukla paksha. historically mahalaya has nothing to do with the Durga puja. it is customary to recite or read Chandi or Devi Bhagavatam on the day of mahalaya.
Lakshmi puja in Bengal is celebrated at a different time from Lakshmi puja celebrated in different parts of India. there are three types of pujas in Bengal.
- Aristocratic families
- Math or temple.
- Local community pujas.
Durga puja of Belur math follows practices of BRIHAD NANDI KESHVARA Purana. Both Kali Ghat temple and Belur math still practice kumari puja. Which is connected with tantra. The Brahma vaivartha Purana tells us that Durga was first worshipped by Krishna in Vrindavana and Goloka. Rama worshipping Durga is mentioned in Kalika Purana. Manasa is the god of snakes. Shitala is the goddess of disease.
Texts like Agni Purana have clear principles on how the image of a deva or Devi must be fashioned. The traditional worship of Durga has always been in Vasantha(Spring) in the month of Chaitra. Brihad dharma
Purana says that Brahma worshipped Durga for Rama’s victory. in Bengal, Krittivasi Ramayana is more popular.
Navaratri, specifically sharadha Navratri is a popular festival in Tamil Nadu. Kolu, the arrangement of dolls is very important. suvasinis(ladies) and Kanya(girls and other children) are invited to view kolu. The definition of a Kanya girl is a pre-pubescent girl but scriptures define a Kanya as a girl eight years old or under.
The Lalita sahasranamam from the brahmanda Purana is a series of slokas listing 1000 names of the mother goddess. The Devi mahatmyam also called Durga saptashati is a set of 700 shlokas from chapters 81 to 93 of the markandeya Purana. other shlokas that are recited during Navaratri are Durga Ashtottaram, shyamala dhandakam, Lakshmi sahasranamam, Lakshmi ashtottaram, Saraswati stotram, and Saraswati ashtottaram. Kamakshi temple in Kanchipuram is the only shakti peetham in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu has practically no concept of a community Navratri puja.
In Himachal, Devi is celebrated as Prakriti or nature. Terrestrial goddesses like Prithvi (Earth), Ratri (NIGHT), Usha(dawn), fertility, forests, and rivers. mystic goddesses like dakinis, apsaras, and yoginis are worshipped. Devi has also been worshipped as a snake goddess since the time of rig Veda.
Ugadi, the Telugu new year is the first day of Vasantha Navratri. Panchanga sravanam is organized on the day. the Telugu calendar also called the shalivahana shaka calendar considers the ashvauya Masam as the most important month to worship Devi( lunar month of Ashwin). in the bathukamma festival, the goddess who is being revered is not enshrined in the temple. it is made in the form of an array of flowers. music and dance are an integral part of the Navratri celebrations in Telangana. Bathukamma is the state festival of Telangana.
It is during Chaitra Navaratri that Mahavishnu took human form as Sri Rama. The first festival of the year Ugadi is celebrated for nine days till Sri Rama Navami. vasanta navaratri is Celebrated in the villages as sri rama navami. on all days devotees worship Sri Rama and read the Ramayana. sharadha Navaratri is celebrated by Telugu as Devi Navratri. Durga is considered the universal mother including the mother of Parvati, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. Teppotsavam on the Krishna river in Vijayawada on a concluding day is famous. bommala koluvu- golu is an integral part of navratri festival in Telugu region.
On Vijaya Dashami day people in Telangana offer prayers to the jambhi tree which grows in villages and temple complexes. in Sanskrit, it is called the Shami tree and holds an important place in Vedic practices. The twig of the tree is used for yagna. it is one of the 27 nakshatra vriksha. it is associated with dhanishta nakshatra. it is a deva vriksha. Agni, the fire god is said to have concealed himself in the Shami wood. the tree is the state tree of Telangana and Rajasthan. It has other names such as khejri and kersangri tree. the tree is mentioned in Ramayana and Mahabharata, The Pandavas had hidden their clothes and weapon in this tree.
Pandava’s victorious return is also celebrated as Vijaya Dashami. Tools and weapons are venerated on this day. so it is called Ayudha puja or the Astra puja.this day is an auspicious day to embark on new ventures.
Durga puja came to Uttar Pradesh from Bengal. pilgrimage to shakti peethas during Navaratri is common. The ashtadasha shakti peetha stotram by Adi Sankaracharya mentions all the places where parts of the body of the Devi had fallen. Jnana Saraswati temple in Basara in Adilabad and Sharada peetha in Kashmir(POK) are the two famous temples of Saraswati in the Indian sub-continent. Vasantha Navaratri culminates in Sri Rama kalyanam(wedding) followed by Sri Rama pattabhishekam (Coronation). sharadha Navratri ends with Dussehra on the tenth day.in Shri Skanda Purana, Manasa khanda, Shri Mahakaal Samhita, and Shri Guhya kali khanda it is stated that there is no difference between Vasantha and Ashwin navaratra. earlier only Vasantha Navaratri was celebrated.
The state of Odisha celebrates the sharadiya Navaratri festival in the month of ashvina (Sep/Oct) Odisha has centuries-old traditions and rituals. There is great variance. the number of days differs from three to 16 days depending upon where it is done at home or peetha(Temple) or community pandal. Mata ka Jagran and kumari puja which are followed in north India are not commonly observed in Odisha.
Durga puja has deep roots in Vedic, tantric, tribal, and Buddhist traditions. Community pujas are from Shasti to Dashami, household pujas are nine days( Dwitiya to Dashami) and 16 days of temple worship of kula Devi( presiding Deity of the clan). The tradition of mrinamayi puja(clay murtis) of goddess Durga was brought by the Bengali community to Odisha. medhas( tableaus of the murtis on temporary stages)are a major attraction across cities during Durga puja. Theatre forms like Das Katha and pala are a blend of singing, dancing, and knowledge of Puranas with poetry, wit, and humor. sword fighting and bullock cart races are prevalent. Cuttack has a more than 200-year-long history of pandal celebration. worship of vehicles and occupational tools are performed on Dasahara. Dasahara beet or dasahara bakshish is a common tradition, where money is gifted to all people who serve you. on Bhai junta or mahashatami. The sisters worship Durga for their brothers .it is a tribal version of Raksha Bandhan.
According to Shri Shakti sangama tantra, and Shri tara khand there are different ways of Navratra celebrations based on regions Gauda, Kashmir, and Dravid. in Shri sodashi khanda, gauda, Kashmir, and Dravida karma is defined. From Nepal up to Kalinga 18 regions follow gauda marga. Entire Arya Varta up to Samudra( Indian Ocean) follows Kerala( Dravida )marg. rest of the 19 regions fall under the Kashmir marg. Uttar Pradesh follows Kerala marga. Bihar, Mithila, and regions adjacent to Bengal follow gauda marga. Shri Rama’s navrathra sadhana is famous in the world.
Girls aged between one and 16 years are considered kumari. The names of kumaris are as follows.
One year- sandhya
Two years-saraswati/ kumarika
Three years- Trida murti/ Trimurti
Four years- kalika/ kalyani
Five years- subhaga/rohini
Six years – Uma/ kalika
Seven years- malini/chandika
Nine years- Kala sangarsha/Durga
Eleven years- rudrani
Twelve years- bhairavi
Thirteen years- maha Lakshmi
Fourteen years-kula nayika
Fifteen years- kshetrama
Sixteen years- chandika
As per Shri Shri vidya ranava tantra, the girls of all castes are eligible for kumari puja.
Navrate is how Navaratri is known in Punjab. In Haryana it becomes naurate. Sharada navaratri is the most popular navratri. Chaitra Navratri which culminates in ram Navami is also celebrated. Magha and ashada Navaratri are rarely known in this region. Kanya or kumari puja is known as kanjak in Punjab and Haryana. Kanya puja is also performed in temples.
The tenth day of Sharada Navratri is the festival of Dussehra, the day Sri Rama killed Ravana in Lanka. it is also the day Shri Durga killed mahishasura.
Agarwal community worships Ravana on this day. After Ravana puja, sisters worship their brothers, in a rakhi-like ritual. Sharada Navratri is also the time for the performance of ram Lila. Though not connected to the Devi puja, it coincides with the celebration of Navratri in Punjab and Haryana .jagrata or Jagran – the night-long celebration of Devi is very common in north India. it is considered more beneficial during Navratri. according to Skanda Purana, Jagran is a prescribed way of celebrating Devi. Devi temples can be found everywhere in Punjab and Haryana.
Vidyarambham is a part of Navratri celebrations in Kerala. On nine days of Navratri, nine forms of goddess/shakti Devi are worshipped. the last three days are earmarked for the worship of the goddess Saraswati.
Navratri is the world’s largest dance festival. Gujarati traditional dance is called Garba. The dandiya ras is related to Shri Krishna’s worship and traces its origin to the Gop culture of Saurashtra and kutch. in Ahmedabad men of the barot community wear sarees and perform the Garba.
Sharada Navratri and the Chaitra Navratri are the most important celebrations in the Jammu region. Navaratri is called narrate in Dogri.traditionally dogras fast for eight days. Kanya puja and havan is done on 9th day. The All India national devotional song competition is one of the popular events during the Katra Navratri festival. young girls organizing puja rituals and feasts for goddess Durga is known as Kaan Sakhi Jan. Navratri fasting and Nava Devi darshan yatra are important.
All four Navratris at four different times of the year is observed at khamakya dam. it is observed over 15 days and the rituals are unique. The number of kumaris worshipped is according to the number of days. godess durga has eight associates as shaktis- ugra Chanda,prachanda,chanogra, chandanavike,chanda, Chanda vati, chamunda and chandika. Maha snana of the Devi is an important and integral ritual where the Devi is bathed with 31 substances. according to the rig Veda, Adi shakti jagadamba is the supreme god of the universe.
Sharada Navratri or Mannami is celebrated by the Konkani-speaking Gaud Saraswat community. it includes the makhar Utsav at temples in Goa. On Shashti or Saptami religious texts like Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavatam, and others are kept in the puja room and prayed to Sharada Devi. The books are removed after Dashami. Vijaya Dashami is one of the three days where no muhurtams are required to conduct any important activities. Dussehra is the nadahabba or state festival of Karnataka.
In Rajasthan during Navratri the ritual of Bali (animal sacrifice) was offered to the Devi .now it is not observed. Rajputs, Jats, Gujjars, Meenas, and Brahmins honor their kula Devis’. Karauli’s Karla Devi holds special significance for the Yadavs, khinchis, and jadaum Rajputs. 17-day lakhi fair attracts visitors from different places .people carry religious flags singing folk prayer songs called languria.
Jaipur’s shila mata is considered kula Devi of the Jaipur royal family. Karni mata is kula Devi of Rathore rulers of Bikaner as well as Charan community. the Karni mata Mela is hoisted during Navratri. it is celebrated twice for 10 days period in Ashwin and Chaitra. Chaitra Navratri mela is the bigger one. sikar’s jeen mata is considered the kula Devi of shekavati Yadavs, Rajputs, Agrawal, jangids, and meenas. udaipur’s ban mata is kula Devi of Gehlot’s and Sisodia’s of Mewar region of Rajasthan. jodhpur’s Aai is kula Devi of the sirvi community of Kshatriyas. Brahmani mata is kula Devi of dodiya Rajputs.
Talwar aarti is a ritual to pay respects using traditional sword dance.war animals like the elephant and horses are worshipped. during Chaitra Navratri 18 day gangaur festival takes place.
Dashain (Vijaya Dashami) in Nepal is like a salad of rituals. it is Mohana for the Newars, dasahara for the people of southern Mithila plains, and dasya for tharus in the Western plains. Tharus play sakhya and paiyan dances. Sakhya is a circular dance accompanied by a song in praise of Sri Krishna. on the tenth day of Dashain, the tiki ceremony take place. kites are flown at this time of the year to send a message to Indra to stop the rains. some believe kites are messengers to our dead ancestors in heaven to tell them we are okay. Tharus in western Nepal worships their ancestors, home deity Rajaji, and village deity Dihibar baba. They have a special dance.- jhijia to ward off the eyes of witches.ram Lila is staged in awadh speaking areas of western terrai. in Mithila, people organize mahabiri jhanda mela (fair)Hanuman Dhoka and taleju temple in Kathmandu opens its doors to devotees just for one day in a year on Navami. Kanya worship is also prevalent on this day.on Dashami. the paya procession of khadge(straight sword) takes place in Kathmandu and neighborhoods. kojagrat Purnima is the final day of Dashain on which day goddess Lakshmi is worshipped.
The above descriptions are only a nutshell of the vivid, colorful, elaborate, and diverse celebrations of the universal mother.
Book reviewed by Vathukkat Krishnan Kutty