Navratri: A Celebration of Divine Power

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Navratri, a sacred and vibrant festival, is a time of reverence, devotion, and celebration in honor of the Hindu goddess Durga. As an aspect of Adi Parashakti, the supreme goddess, Durga represents the divine feminine power that encompasses creation, preservation, and destruction.

Navratri spans nine nights and ten days, occurring twice a year – once in Chaitra (March/April) and again in Ashvin (September/October). The Sanskrit terms “Nav” and “Ratri,” which translate to “nine” and “nights,” respectively, are the source of the name “Navratri.” This event is highly significant and is observed in various ways throughout India‘s numerous regions, each of which has its own distinctive cultural traditions.

The Significance of Navratri

It is a time to celebrate the victory of good over evil, with each region of India focusing on different aspects of the goddess Durga’s story. The core theme remains the same: the battle and triumph of virtue over vice, based on regional epics or legends like the Devi Mahatmya. Celebrations encompass diverse rituals and practices, including worshiping nine different forms of the goddess, intricate stage decorations, recitals of legends, enactments of the stories, and chanting of Hindu scriptures.

It is also a significant cultural event, coinciding with the post-monsoon autumn and the harvest season, featuring competitive design and staging of pandals, family visits to these displays, and public celebrations of classical and folk dances, reflecting the rich tapestry of Hindu culture.

Devotion through Fasting

Fasting is a common practice during Navratri. Hindu devotees observe fasts to purify their minds and bodies, reaffirming their devotion to the goddess. Fasting can vary in intensity, with some choosing to abstain from food entirely, while others restrict their diets. The rigorous fasting is often followed by a sumptuous feast at the end of it, known as “Vijayadashami.” On this day, statues symbolizing evil are either immersed in a water body or burned with fireworks, marking the destruction of evil. Vijayadashami also signals the start of preparations for Deepavali, the festival of lights, celebrated twenty days later.

Four Seasons, Four Navratri Celebrations

While theoretically, it falls four times a year, the Sharada Navratri near the September equinox is the most celebrated, followed by Vasanta Navratri near the March equinox. These celebrations align with the bright half (waxing phase) of Hindu lunisolar months and vary according to regional customs and preferences.

Sharada Navratri: Embracing Autumn’s Bounty

Sharada Navratri is the most celebrated of the four, named after “Sharada,” meaning autumn. This festival starts on the first day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvini and typically occurs in September and October. The exact dates are determined by the Hindu lunisolar calendar, and variations occur based on adjustments for sun and moon movements and leap years. This often coincides with the autumn harvest, a time when the earth overflows with bounty.

While goddess Durga is the central figure, deities such as Ganesha, Kartikeya, Shiva, and Parvati are also revered in different regions. The ninth day, Ayudha Puja, is a significant part of this Navratri, where tools, instruments, and weapons are worshipped, symbolizing the divine significance of knowledge, learning, and the arts.

Chaitra Navratri: Celebrating Spring’s Arrival

Chaitra Navratri, also known as Vasantha Navratri, is the second most celebrated. It observed during the lunar month of Chaitra (March-April). This festival is dedicated to goddess Durga, with her nine forms worshipped on nine days. The final day, Rama Navami, marks the birthday of Lord Rama, adding another layer of significance to the celebrations. In some regions, Chaitra Navratri aligns with the spring harvest, and it also marks the Hindu Lunar New Year, the Vikram Samvat calendar.

Magha Navratri: An unknown Navratri

Magha Navratri, observed during the lunar month of Magha (January-February), is also known as Gupta Navratri. The fifth day of this festival is often celebrated independently as Vasant Panchami or Basant Panchami, signifying the official start of spring in the Hindu tradition. Goddess Saraswati is revered through the arts, music, writing, and kite flying. In some regions, the Hindu god of love, Kama, is also worshipped during this time. It is celebrated regionally or by individuals and carries its own unique charm.

Ashada Navratri: Welcoming the Monsoon

Ashada Navratri, also known as Gupta Navratri, occurs during the lunar month of Ashadha (June-July) and coincides with the onset of the monsoon season in India. Although less popular than the other three celebrations, it is observed with great devotion. Varied traditions and legends surround this festival, often tied to the reverence of a specific goddess or local beliefs.

Goddess Durga: Nine forms and Nine days

The Navadurga, which means “Nine Forms of Goddess Durga,” are nine distinct manifestations of the Hindu goddess Durga. These forms represent different aspects and attributes of the divine feminine and are venerated during the festival of Navratri. Each form is associated with a specific day of the festival. Here, we will explore these nine forms in detail:


Sailputri Mata

Goddess Shailputri, one of the Navdurgas (nine forms of the goddess Durga), is venerated on the first day of Navratri, the Hindu festival celebrating the divine feminine power. Her name is derived from two words: “Shail,” meaning “mountain,” and “Putri,” meaning “daughter.” Thus, Shailputri is often referred to as the ‘Daughter of the Mountain,’ signifying her strong association with the Himalayas.

Goddess Shailputri is depicted as a divine and regal figure, riding a bull, symbolizing her connection to nature and the earth. She holds a trident (trishul) in her right hand and a lotus flower in her left. In her left hand, she also carries a small drum (damru) and is adorned with the crescent moon on her forehead. This crescent moon represents time, specifically the waxing and waning phases, as well as her status as the wife of Lord Shiva, whose crown features the crescent moon.

Shailputri’s mythological significance is deeply rooted in Hindu lore. She is believed to be the reincarnation of Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva. Sati self-immolated in the fire of her father Daksha’s yagna, a great sacrifice, in response to his insults to her husband, Lord Shiva. She was then reborn as Parvati, and her first incarnation as Shailputri represents her pure, ascetic form.

Goddess Shailputri is associated with the primal and elemental aspects of nature. She is seen as personifying purity and spiritual enlightenment. She is referred to as the “Daughter of the Mountain” because of her association with the Himalayas, which relates to both the area where she was born and the mountains’ immovable persistence and will.


Goddess Brahmacharini is the second form of Goddess Durga in the Navadurga series, representing the unmarried and ascetic aspect of the divine feminine. She is venerated on the second day of Navratri. The name “Brahmacharini” is a combination of two words: “Brahma,” which refers to the supreme cosmic power, and “Acharini,” meaning a female follower or practitioner. Thus, Brahmacharini is often interpreted as the one who practices penance and devotion towards Brahma.

Brahmacharini is depicted as a resplendent figure, usually seen wearing white attire, symbolizing purity and spiritual knowledge. She holds a rosary (mala) in her right hand, representing her devotion to prayer and meditation. In her left hand, she carries a water utensil (kamandalu), symbolizing her austere and ascetic lifestyle.

Brahmacharini Mata

Goddess Brahmacharini represents the pursuit of knowledge, austerity, and penance. Additionally, she stands as the symbol of perseverance, and unshakable devotion. She strives for spiritual enlightenment and the ultimate truth through her meditation techniques.

Her journey towards becoming a goddess is rooted in the Hindu mythology. In her previous birth, she was born as Sati, the daughter of King Daksha. She was deeply in love with Lord Shiva and, through intense penance and meditation, earned his favor. She then married Lord Shiva and became known as “Sati.” Her intense love and devotion to Lord Shiva, even to the extent of giving up her royal comforts, is considered a reflection of Brahmacharini’s qualities.



Goddess Chandraghanta is the third form of the Hindu goddess Durga, and she is worshipped on the third day of the Navratri festival. Chandra, which means moon, and Ghanta, which means bell, are the roots of her name, Chandraghanta. This name can be translated as “the bringer of peace and serenity” or “one who has a bell in the shape of the moon.”

Goddess Chandraghanta is typically depicted with a golden complexion, riding a lion, and adorned with various ornaments. She has ten arms that hold different weapons and symbols. The most distinctive feature of her iconography is a half-moon or crescent moon on her forehead, giving her the name Chandraghanta. She also wears a bell-shaped ornament on her forehead, which is said to emit a sound that terrifies demons and brings tranquility to her devotees.

Chandraghanta is a symbol of courage, grace, and inner strength. She is known for being strong and devoted to her followers, as well as for her capacity to foster harmony and serenity. Even in her powerful form, the crescent moon on her forehead symbolizes the peaceful and calming energy she radiates. According to Hindu mythology, after marrying Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati adorned her forehead with a half-moon to signify her identity with the cosmic rhythms. As Chandraghanta, she showcases this symbol as a reminder of her profound connection with the universe.


Goddess Kushmanda is worshiped on the fourth day of the Navratri celebration. She’s the fourth form of a special goddess in Hindu beliefs. Her name, Kushmanda, means ‘little warmth or energy.’ Some people think it means ‘the cosmic egg’ or ‘the one who brings out lots of energy from the universe.’

Goddess Kushmanda is typically depicted with a radiant face and a golden hue, seated on a lion or tiger. She is shown with eight arms, each holding various weapons and symbols, including a trident, discus, bow, arrow, mace, lotus, chakra, and kamandalu (a water pot). In one of her hands, she holds a rosary which signifies her spiritual significance. It is thought that Kushmanda is the origin of all existence. It is believed that the cosmos was a pitch-black, empty place at the start of time.

Kushmanda Mata

It was Goddess Kushmanda’s divine smile that created the cosmic egg, dispelling the darkness and bringing light into the universe. This act of creation earned her the name “Kushmanda,” which means “the cosmic egg.” Goddess Kushmanda symbolizes the primordial source of energy and the nucleus of the universe. Her radiant smile is believed to bring light and vitality to all living beings. She is associated with the element of fire, signifying the transformative and purifying aspects of energy.

We learn the value of self-reliance and self-sustenance from Kushmanda’s energy. She exhorts people to use their inner fortitude and creativity to overcome challenges and bring about positive change. Her veneration engenders a spirit of vibrancy and excitement, establishing the conviction that each person has the capacity to spread happiness and light throughout the globe.



On the fifth day of the Navratri celebration, devotees worship Goddess Skandamata, the fifth incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga. Her second name in Sanskrit is “Skanda Mata,” which translates as “the mother of Skanda” or “the mother of Kartikeya.” Skanda is another name for Lord Kartikeya, the son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva.

Goddess Skandamata is typically depicted holding her infant son, Kartikeya, in her lap. She has four arms, and her complexion is radiant and golden. She is often portrayed riding a lion, which symbolizes power and courage. In her four hands, she holds lotus flowers, which represent purity, and her son Kartikeya. Skandamata represents the motherly aspect of the divine. She’s like a loving and caring mother who holds her child with affection. When she’s shown with Kartikeya, it’s a symbol of a mother’s deep love for her child.

Goddess Skandamata stands for the selfless love and care of a mother. She represents ‘Shakti,’ which is like a divine motherly power that’s nurturing and protective. People believe that having her around brings warmth, kindness, and motherly love to their lives.

Worshipping Skandamata reminds us how important a mother’s love, care, and protection are. She shows us how to love and protect all living creatures, not just our own children. Her caring attitude inspires us to be kind and understanding to others, making our society more loving and peaceful.


Goddess Katyayani is one of the forms of the Hindu Goddess Durga, and she is particularly revered during the festival of Navratri. She is the sixth manifestation of Durga and is worshipped on the sixth day of this nine-night festival. Goddess Katyayani is associated with strength, courage, and fierce determination.

Goddess Katyayani is often depicted as a young woman riding a lion, a symbol of power and courage. She has four arms and carries different things like a sword, a lotus flower, and a spinning disc-like weapon called a chakra. She’s also famous for being incredibly beautiful and graceful. The name “Katyayani” is derived from the sage Katyayana, who was born to the sage Katya. According to Hindu mythology, Sage Katyayana practiced severe penance and worshiped Durga to have her as his daughter. Pleased with his devotion, Goddess Durga incarnated as his daughter, known as Katyayani, to fulfill his desire.

Katyayani Mata

Goddess Katyayani is celebrated for her fierce form, which represents the warrior aspect of the Divine Mother. She is a representation of valor, triumph, and the willingness to face down and defeat enemies. Her adoration is thought to provide people the grit and resolve needed to face life’s hardships and tribulations.

Goddess Katyayani represents the indomitable spirit that stands up against injustice and evil. Her weapons symbolize the tools of righteousness and truth, and she empowers her devotees to face and conquer the challenges that come their way. The worship of Goddess Katyayani reminds us of the importance of resilience, courage, and determination in the face of adversity. She encourages us to face both our internal and external obstacles head-on with fortitude and unflinching faith. Even in the face of challenges, her vigor inspires us to defend what is good and moral.


Kaalratri Mata

On the seventh day of Navratri, devotees worship Goddess Kaalratri, one of the furious manifestations of Goddess Durga. Her name, Kaalratri, is a combination of the words “Kaal,” which means time or darkness, and “Ratri,” which means night. She is a representation of strength and protection. She is hence frequently referred to as the “Goddess of the Night of Time.”

Goddess Kaalratri is depicted as a fierce and dark-complexioned deity, typically riding a donkey. She carries a sharp cleaver or blade in her right hand, wears a garland made of human skulls, and has disordered hair. She is reassuring her followers that she is their guardian and source of favors by making the gesture of bestowing boons with her lower left hand. Her posture is menacing, and her form radiates strength and fearlessness.

The legend of Goddess Kaalratri is closely linked to the elimination of the demon Raktabeej. It is believed that Raktabeej had a unique power – whenever a drop of his blood fell on the ground, a new demon would emerge. This made him nearly invincible. To defeat him, Goddess Kaalratri, in her terrifying form, came into existence. She consumed Raktabeej’s blood as it oozed from his wounds, preventing him from regenerating and eventually defeating him.

Goddess Kaalratri is revered for her power to remove fear and obstacles. She is considered the annihilator of darkness, ignorance, and all malevolent forces. By worshipping her, devotees seek her protection and courage to overcome the darkness and challenges in their lives.

Goddess Kaalratri represents the divine strength to conquer fear and challenges, symbolizing the power to overcome adversities. Her dark complexion symbolizes her role as the dispeller of darkness and ignorance. She is a protector and a harbinger of hope, guiding her devotees through difficult times.

The worship of Goddess Kaalratri reminds us to confront and conquer our inner and outer fears. Her fierce form symbolizes the courage and determination needed to eliminate ignorance and darkness from our lives. She teaches us that the strength to overcome obstacles and fears lies within us, and by invoking her, we can find the power to face life’s challenges head-on.


Goddess Mahagauri is one of the forms of Goddess Durga, worshipped on the eighth day of Navratri, a Hindu festival celebrated over nine nights. She is the epitome of purity and grace, symbolizing the serene and radiant aspect of the divine feminine. “Maha” in her name means great, and “Gauri” refers to her fair complexion. This form of the Goddess is often depicted as a young woman of unparalleled beauty.

Goddess Mahagauri is typically depicted as a young woman with a complexion as radiant as the moon. She is adorned with white attire and accessories, symbolizing purity. Her four hands hold a trident (trishul) and a damaru (a small drum), while her other two hands are in the gestures of granting blessings and assurance. She rides a bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva, signifying her association with Him.

Mahagauri Mata

The legend of Goddess Mahagauri is linked to her previous incarnation as Goddess Parvati, who underwent intense penance and self-purification to win Lord Shiva’s heart. Her penance lasted for several years, and during this time, her body became covered in dust and turned dark. It is believed that when Lord Shiva accepted her devotion and love, her body regained its natural radiance and purity, and she became known as Mahagauri.

Her worship is believed to remove all impurities, sins, and negative energies from the lives of her devotees. She grants peace, knowledge, and inner harmony, helping her devotees attain spiritual awakening and personal transformation. Her fair complexion represents the purity of the soul, untouched by worldly impurities. Her grace and beauty symbolize the radiant and divine nature inherent in all living beings. Goddess Mahagauri teaches us the importance of inner purity and the transformative power of devotion and self-purification.


Siddhraatri Mata

Goddess Siddhidatri is the ninth and final form of Goddess Durga, worshiped during the festival of Navratri, a nine-night celebration of the divine feminine in Hindu culture. She is the bestower of supernatural powers and represents the culmination of the divine feminine’s grace and blessings. The name “Siddhidatri” is derived from two words: “Siddhi,” which means supernatural powers, and “Datri,” which means the bestower or giver.

Goddess Siddhidatri is often depicted as a four-armed deity seated on a lotus or riding a lion. Her four hands hold a mace (gada), a conch shell (shankha), a lotus flower, and a discus (chakra). Her form is resplendent and radiates divine light, signifying her benevolent nature. The legend of Goddess Siddhidatri is linked to her divine powers of granting Siddhis (supernatural abilities) and fulfilling the deepest desires of her devotees. It is believed that even Lord Shiva attained Siddhis through her blessings.

Goddess Siddhidatri is revered for her capacity to endow her followers with mystical and spiritual qualities that help them overcome difficulties and hurdles on their spiritual path. The devotional’s oneness with the divine, awareness of one’s own potential, and release from the cycle of birth and death are all represented in her worship as the culmination of metamorphosis.

She symbolizes the culmination of the spiritual journey, where the seeker attains divine knowledge, wisdom, and mystical powers. Her four arms represent her omnipresence and her ability to bestow blessings, fulfilling the material and spiritual aspirations of her devotees. She is the ninth and final form of Goddess Durga, representing the bestower of supernatural powers and the culmination of the divine feminine’s grace. Her worship during Navratri is a reminder of the ultimate goal of spiritual evolution and the attainment of self-realization.

During the nine nights of Navratri, devotees worship each of these forms with offerings, prayers, and rituals. It is believed that by invoking these manifestations of the goddess, one can attain spiritual growth, wisdom, and protection from negative forces. The Navdurga embodies the multifaceted nature of the divine feminine and serve as a source of inspiration and strength for millions of devotees.

Regional Practices of Navratri in India

Navratri, the nine-night festival dedicated to Goddess Durga, is celebrated in diverse ways across India, reflecting the rich cultural and regional variations of the country.

North India: Ramlila Performances

In North India, Navratri is marked by Ramlila events, where episodes from the Ramayana, the epic depicting Lord Rama’s life, are enacted. These performances involve songs, narration, recitals, and dialogues based on the Ramcharitmanas, a text by Tulsidas. UNESCO recognizes Ramlila as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” Ayudha Puja is observed, where weapons are maintained and worshiped. The festival concludes with Dussehra, marked by the burning of effigies of the demon king Ravana, signifying the victory of good over evil.

Sikhism and Jainism: Observing Devi Worship

Navratri’s significance extends beyond Hinduism. In Sikhism, it is mentioned in the Dasam Granth, and Sikhs have revered Devi Shakti ever since their history and worshiped weapons similarly to Shakta Hindus. Jains have participated in the social and cultural celebrations of Navratri, joining Hindus in folk dances and other festivities.

Durga Puja in Bengal and other Eastern Indian regions

Navratri is observed as Durga Puja in the eastern Indian subcontinent, which includes West Bengal, Odisha, and portions of Bihar. This is the most important annual festival for Bengali Hindus, marked by grand festivities. Thousands of pandals (temporary stages) are constructed in public spaces, wayside shrines, and substantial Durga temples to commemorate the event. The celebration of Durga Puja honors Goddess Durga’s triumph over the buffalo monster Mahishasura.

Mahishasura Mardini

Gujarat: Garba and Dandiya

In Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with traditional dance forms like Garba and Dandiya. The festival includes fasting during the nine days, with prayers dedicated to a symbolic clay pot called a “garbo.” The highlight is the Garba dance, where people, dressed in traditional attire, form concentric circles, dancing and clapping to the beats of live orchestra music.

Garba Dance

Maharashtra: Ghatasthapana Ritual

In Maharashtra, Navratri celebrations vary by region. The most common practice involves Ghatasthapana, where families mount a copper or brass jar filled with water and other agriculture symbols. A lamp is kept lit symbolizing knowledge and household prosperity, alight through the nine nights of Navratri.

Telangana: Bathukamma Festival

In Telangana, a significant tradition during Navratri involves the creation of Bathukamma flower arrangements to worship three different aspects of Devi, called Tridevi. This artistic event has participants creating large flower arrangements.

Bathukamma Festival

Karnataka: Mysuru Dasara

Navratri in Karnataka, known as Dasara, is marked by the Mysuru Dasara festival. The festivities include the worship of weapons, a grand procession featuring an image of Goddess Chamundeshwari, and decorating homes with art dolls called Gombe or Bombe. Dasara is a major state festival (Naadahabba) in Karnataka.

Tamil Nadu: Golu Doll Displays

In Tamil Nadu, the Navratri tradition includes Golu, where families set up creative themes in their homes with dolls depicting gods, goddesses, animals, and rural life. Friends and family visit each other’s homes to view the displays, exchange gifts, and sweets.

Kerala: Sarasvati Puja

In Kerala, the last three days of Sharada Navratri are dedicated to Sarasvati Puja, where books are worshiped. Vijayadashami is considered auspicious for initiating children into reading and writing, known as Vidyarambham. The tradition involves the child sitting on the lap of an elder, near images of Saraswati and Ganesha, writing their first letters.

 Regional Practices of Navratri Outside India: Hindu Diaspora Celebrations

The Navratri tradition has spread worldwide with the Hindu diaspora. Countries that have greater percentage of Indian Diaspora such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Fiji, Mauritius, Canada, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom celebrates Navratri with great zeal.

It is one among the local Hindu communities’ most prominent festivities in some of these locations. Bengali and non-Bengali Hindus alike, as well as Bengali Muslims, celebrate Durga Puja in Bangladesh. In Nepal, it is known as Dashain. While the core theme of Navratri remains the worship of Goddess Durga, the regional variations make this festival a colorful tapestry of cultural diversity and religious unity across India and among Hindu communities worldwide.


Navratri, celebrated throughout India, unites people in their devotion to the goddess Durga and the worship of divine feminine power. It is a time of joy, reflection, and the victory of good over evil. While the core theme remains constant, the specific practices and regional variations make Navratri a festival of immense cultural diversity. This beautiful tapestry of traditions and beliefs showcases the deep-rooted connection between the spiritual and the temporal, emphasizing the significance of the goddess’s grace and the celebration of life’s cycles.

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