History of Navratri
Navratri as per meaning signifies Nine nights which are dedicated to the Divine Mother or Shakti. This festival is celebrated in the month of Ashvin Sud from 1 to 9 (September- October). Navratri is the longest celebrated Indian festival.
The practice of goddess worship was prevalent in India since the time immemorial even before the advent of Aryans. Our ancestors have always placed Devi or Stree (as she was referred to) into the highest pedestal of the prevalent social system at that time and they worshipped her as Shakti. There are references in our Shastras which confirms the existence of such practices. There are several myths and legends associated with celebration of this Navratri Festival.
As per one legend Mahishasura the mighty demon worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained the power of eternity. So he started to kill and harass innocent people and set out to win seven lokas. Intimated by his power all the gods from swargaloka appealed to Lord Shiva to tame the demon. Then Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar (Shiva) united their supreme powers and created a divine being called Shakti or Durga the Warrior Goddess. Mahishasura who happened to see this divine beauty Durga got mesmerized by her beauty and approached her with the intention of marriage. Goddess Durga agreed to marry him but in one condition that Mahishasura should win over her in duel. Mahishasura who was proudy of his power agreed for the duel. The duel went on for 9 nights and the end of 9th night Goddess Durga beheaded Mahishasura. So the nine nights for which the war was fought is called Navrathri. The tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadashmi.
According to other legend King Daksha of Himalayas had a beautiful and Virtuos daughter Uma who had a wish to marry Lord Shiva. As a result she worshipped Lord Shiva and pleased him. Lord Shiva married Uma. Once Uma visited her parents to participate in a Yagna conducted over there, during that time King Daksha insulted Lord Shiva unable to bear the insults meted on her husband Uma decided to end her life by jumping into the agnikund where she was united with the eternity. Henceforth she was also known as Sati. Sati was reborn again and peace was restored between her and parents. In that birth also she married Lord Shiva and lived happily thereafter. It is believed that Sati comes to stay with her parents for 9 days in every year and that time is celebrated as Navarathri.
One hypothesis states that in ancient times Kshatriyas debarred themselves from participating any warlike activities during monsoon season. Once monsoons got over they found the time to start afresh with their war activities. So before the start of their war journey these Kshatriyas worshipped different aspects of Devi for 9 days which is today celebrated as the Navratri.
According to one legend Lord Rama who wanted to release Sita from the clutches of mighty demon king Ravana prayed Goddess Durga in nine aspects for nine days in order to gather the strength and power to kill Ravana. Those nine nights became to be known as Navrathri and on the tenth day Rama killed Ravana that day is called Vijayadashmi or Dashera.
Nine different manifestations of Durga are worshipped during Navratri they are
- Durga :goddess beyond reach
- Bhadrakali the auspicious power of time
- Amba or Jagdamba: mother of the world
- Annapurna: giver of food and plenty
- Sarvamangala: auspicious goddess
- Bhairavi: terrible, fearful, power of death
- Chandika or Handi: violent, wrathful, furious
- Lalita: playful
- Bhavani: giver of existence.