Chaitra/Vasant Navratri Festival Dates in April 2013 are from 11th April to 19th April(Thursday to Next Friday) and Sharad Navratri in October 2013 are from 5th October to 13th October(Saturday to Next Sunday).
Nine Nights of Navratri festival
The festival of Navratri (nav means nine and ratri means nights, meaning nine nights) lasting for 9 days is the most important holy festival in Hindu religion when the goddess, or the cosmic energy, is the most vibrant. The nine days of Navratri brings the prosperity and joy in everybody’s life. The festival of Navratri or nine nights is dedicated to goddess Durga and her nine forms which are worshipped.During the nine auspicious days of Navratri, Hindu devotees offer ardent prayers to Skahti maata or Devi Durga asking for her blessings. Navratri pooja is performed in all households in the utmost ritualistic manner. Worshippers throng the Puja Pandals or the Puja mandaps with their well decorated and carefully arranged Navratri Thali to offer to the Goddess. Aarti is performed during the Navratri puja, mantras are chanted, bhajans and other devotional songs are sung during the puja. Also, fresh flowers and sweets along with fresh fruits and other delicacies are offered lovingly to the Goddess asking for her blessings in the Navratras.
Names of Navratri goddesses
The names of nine goddesses or "nau devi" are Shailputri mata, Brahmcharini mata, Chandraghanta mata, Kushmanda mata, Sakand mata, Kattyaini mata, Kalratri mata, Mahagauri mata, Siddhidatri mata.The nine-day Navratri festival occurs twice a year once in the month of Chaitra and then in Aswayuja.
Khetri Pujan in Navratras
On the first day of the Navaratras, a small bed of mud and sand along with jaun or wheat and water is prepared starting the puja and thus seeds are sown on to it. This is called as khetri(wheat grown in mud pot). At the end of the Navratri festival, the shoots are about 3 - 5 inches in length. This is a sign of prosperity and abundance. After the puja, the seedlings (looking like long grass) are pulled out from the mud pot and are poured in the running water like in the river or a pond.
3 Days each for Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati
The first three days of Navratre are believed to be dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy, the next three days are dedicated to Lakshmi Maa, the goddess of peace and prosperity and the last three days are dedicated to Saraswati Maa, the goddess of learning and knowledge who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge.
Navratri fasts and Kanya Pujan
People observe fasts during these days and offer prayers to the goddess Durga for health, wealth and prosperity. The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahaashtami or the eighth day although some people do it on Mahanavmi, the ninth day in which devotees break their fast. Kanya Pujan is performed on this day. Young girls representing the forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped on this day. Young boys are also called in the homes. All these young girls and boys go to different homes where the kanya pujan or “kanjak” (in Punjabi) is performed.
These little ones are offered pooris or puris (deep-fried Indian bread), chanas (Bengal gram), halwa (a dessert primarily made of flour and sugar) along with red chunnis (long scarves) and some rupees. Some people also provide gifts to these young ones.
Demon Mahisashura was destroyed by Maa Durga
The goddess Durga is believed to have destroyed the demon Mahisashura on the tenth day. The tenth day is also celebrated as “Vijayadashmi” or “Dussherra”. According to Ramayana, the great Indian mythological epic, the demon king Ravana was killed by Lord Rama on this day. The Navratri festival is celebrated with true devotion and purity throughout the country, not only Hindus but people from different religions also worship the goddess and one can see long queues outside the prominent temples. Reading and reciting traditional scriptures and prayers to Maa Durga is a common practice.
During these auspicious nine whole days of Navratras, the people enjoy and lot, visit relatives, family and friends and wear dazzling new clothes and cook rich and tasty food. There are so many delicious recipes for Navratri that you can try out. For the people who fast, there is special Navratri food. There are also fast recipes for the households which might decide to spend less time in the kitchen during the festivities. There is also the Navratri vrat recipes and snacks recipes. Navratri special recipes written in Hindi and also in English are readily available. The famous chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, has a lot of Navratre special dishes to tempt the common man’s palate.
Some of the Navratri mouth-watering recipes are Kaddu ki sabzi, Aloo pulao, Dhokla, Makki paneer pakoda, Mushroom pulao, Kuttu ki puri, Dosa, Mango raita, Strawberry cupcakes, Fruit shakes Chutneys and more.