Navaratri is a nine nights (and ten days) Hindu festival, celebrated in autumn every year. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. Sharada Navratri is the most observed in the honour of the divine feminine Devi (Durga).
In the eastern and northeastern states of India, the Durga Puja is synonymous with Navratri, wherein goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon to help restore Dharmam. In the northern and western states, the festival is synonymous with “Rama Lila” and Dussehra that celebrates the battle and victory of god Rama over the demon king Ravana. In southern states, the victory of different goddesses, of Rama or Saraswati is celebrated. In all cases, the common theme is the battle and victory of Good over Evil based on a regionally famous epic or legends such as the Ramayana or the Devi Mahatmya.
Celebrations include stage decorations, recital of the legend, enacting of the story, and chanting of the scriptures of Hinduism. The nine days are also a major crop season cultural event, such as competitive design and staging of pandals, a family visit to these pandals and the public celebration of classical and folk dances of Hindu culture. On the final day, called the Vijayadashami or Dussehra, the statues are either immersed in a water body such as river and ocean, or alternatively the statue symbolizing the evil is burnt with fireworks marking evil’s destruction. The festival also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays, Diwali, the festival of lights, which is celebrated twenty days after the Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
The festival is associated with the prominent battle that took place between Durga and demon Mahishasura and celebrates the victory of Good over Evil. These nine days are solely dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine Avatars. Each day is associated with an incarnation of the goddess:-
Day 1: Shailaputri
Known as Pratipada, this day is associated with Shailaputri (literally “Daughter of Mountain”), an incarnation of Parvati. It is in this form that the Goddess is worshipped as the consort of Shiva; she is depicted as riding the bull, Nandi, with a trishula in her right hand and lotus in her left. Shailaputri is considered to be the direct incarnation of Mahakali. The colour of the day is red, which depicts action and vigour.
Day 2: Brahmcharini
On Dwitiya, Goddess Brahmcharini, another incarnation of Parvati, is worshipped. In this form, Parvati became Sati, her unmarried self. Brahmcharini is worshipped for emancipation or moksha and endowment of peace and prosperity. Depicted as walking bare feet and holding a japamala and kamandalu in her hands, she symbolizes bliss and calm. The colour of the day is Yellow which depicts calmness-wisdom-energy.
Day 3: Chandraghanta
Tritiya commemorates the worship of Chandraghanta – the name derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvati adorned her forehead with half-chandra. She is the embodiment of beauty and is also symbolic of bravery, and hence, the colour of the day is yellow.
Day 4: Kushmunda
Goddess Kushmunda is worshipped on Chaturthi. Believed to be the creative power of the universe, Kushmunda is associated with the endowment of vegetation on earth and hence, the colour of the day is Green. She is depicted as having eight arms and sits on a Tiger.
Day 5: Skandmata
Skandamata, the goddess worshipped on Panchami, is the mother of Skand(or Kartikeya). The colour grey is symbolic of the transforming strength of a mother when her child is confronted with danger. She is depicted riding a ferocious lion, having four arms, and holding her baby.
Day 6: Katyayani
Born to a sage, Katya, she is an incarnation of Durga and is shown to exhibit courage which is symbolized by the colour Orange. Known as the warrior goddess, she is considered one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. In this avatar, the Devi rides a lion and has four hands.
Day 7: Kalratri
Considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga, Kalaratri is revered on Saptmi. It is believed that Parvati removed her fair skin to kill the demons Sumbh and Nisumbh. The colour of the day is white. Her skin turns black.
Day 8: Mahagauri
Mahagauri symbolizes intelligence and peace. The colour associated to this day is Pink which depicts optimism.
Day 9: Sidhidatri
On the last day of the festival also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidaatri(Ardanareeswara). Sitting on a lotus, she is believed to possess and bestows all type of Siddhis. Here she has four hands. Also known as Saraswati Devi.
Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. Some fast, others feast. Some revere the same Mother Goddess but different aspects of her, while others revere avatars of Vishnu, particularly of Rama. The Chaitra Navaratri culminates in Rama Navami on the ninth day, and the Sharada Navaratri culminates in Durga Puja and Dussehra.