Upcoming Holiday: Navratri

Upcoming Holiday: Navratri September 13, 2014

Durga-mataAutumn Navratri starts on September 25 and ends on October 3, 2014. Navratri (“Nine Nights”) is a primary holiday for Goddess worshipers. In the Vedas there is a hymn to the Goddess of Night and a hymn to the Goddess of Dawn. The Shakta scripture Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi) expands on these two Vedic hymns with an entire story of how the Goddess leads us from darkness to light. The first three nights of Navratri, Kali is worshiped. The next three nights are devoted to Lakshmi. The final three nights, Sarasvati is worshiped. This follows the structure of the Devi Mahatmyam, in which the sections are devoted to Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Sarasvati.

Navratri is celebrated twice in the year, with the smaller Navratri in the spring and the greater Navratri in the autumn. The Devi Bhagavatam (retelling by Ramesh Menon) explains:

Spring and autumn are the months of sickness and death; they are even called Yama’s teeth. They are the thresholds of Uttarayana and Dakshinayana, when the sun turns north and south, and these are the seasons when the world is unstable. It is at these times that men have a special need for grace, and so the Devi’s Navaratri, the first nine nights of the bright halves of the months of Asvina in spring, and Chaitra in autumn, are observed as times for special prayer.

Spring is a cruel time, but autumn is dangerous. It is in autumnal Chaitra mainly that the Devi’s Navaratri puja is undertaken. On the day of the new moon, amavasya, the bhakta collects what he needs for his vrata of nine days, which begins the following morning.

I’ll be doing a series on Navratri, discussing some of the names of the Goddess and ways in which She is worshiped. Jai Maa!

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