Four times a year, we celebrate “Navaratri,” or the nine night celebration of Divine Mother. These celebrations, also known as Durgā Pūjā, occur from the first to the ninth night in the bright fortnight of the Magh, Chaitra, Ashad and Ashwin months in the lunar calendar and correspond to our winter, spring, summer and fall seasons.
The Ashwin (Aśvin) or Fall Navaratri is considered extremely auspicious and is mentioned in chapter 12, verse 12 of the Chaṇḍī Pāṭhaḥ: “In the great periods when yearly worship is performed in the autumn season, this presentation of my glories should be listened to with devotional and full attention.”
For each of the Navaratris, Shree Maa adorns all the deities in the Temple with exquisite new clothing, beautiful jewelry and colorful and fragrant garlands. In Spring Navaratri, the Gods and Goddesses dress up in yellow and in Fall they smile at us in red cloth.
Shree Maa offers special sweets to Divine Mother on each day of Navaratri. On the 7th, 8th and 9th days, ṣringār is offered at the Cosmic Altar. In ṣringār, we adorn Divine Mother and offer Her cloth, perfume, a garland, dakṣinā (offering of wealth), bangles and ornaments, a comb, and any other items that our hearts want to place before Her.
The 10th day is called Vijaya Daśami, Victory Day, and on this day it is traditional for children to offer cloth, dakṣinā, and jewelery to their mothers.
To worship Mother Durgā during Navaratri we can use the Cosmic Pūjā book, the Beginner Durgā Pūjā book, and the Chandi Path. We can also take a saṅkalpa to chant Durga’s mantra (Oṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Duṃ Durgāyai Namaḥ) or Her 108 names (from the Cosmic Puja book) a certain number of times. Alternatively, we can take a saṅkalpa involving the Chaṇḍī Pāṭha or the Cosmic Pūjā.
The possibilities are as endless and beautiful as Divine Mother’s love for Her creation.
Questions and Answers with Swamiji about Navaratri:
- Could you please let me know if there are six Navaratris and are they Varsha, Sharad, Shishir, Hemant, Vasant, Grishma?
Navaratri can be celebrated at any time. Most often it is observed from Pratipad to Navami or from Shashti to Purnima or Amavashya. There are four Navaratris which are special: Magh, Chaitra, Ashadh, and Ashvin. These correspond to winter, spring, summer, and fall.
- How do you observe Navaratri at the Mandir?
Mahalaya is the new moon before the Navaratri begins. We will perform the Cosmic Puja, complete Shraddha and Tarpana, and complete Chandi. The day after Mahalaya is the first day of Navaratri. Every day we will perform the Cosmic Puja, and complete Chandi. We will break the fast on the 8th night (ashtami).
- Can you please suggest any guidelines for people wishing to observe the Navaratri fast in the same way that you do (24 hours X 9 days. No water, no food)?
Start off small and be content with small steps. Observe 24 hours with only water, then drink. Actually you will probably want salt more than water. Then try three days. And eat only fruits and water one time a day for the remainder of the nine days. Slowly you will extend it.
- I am from Orissa, Bhubaneswar. We have a Shri Banadurga Devi temple here. For Navaratri, the temple celebrates 16 days puja. Why do we celebrate 16 days puja in all Devi Temples?
This is a local tradition without scriptural reference. Ask the local priest as to the origins of this tradition.
- We have a protima of Maa Ashtadasabhuja Mahalakshmi Durga for which Puja is done every day. During Navaratri is it necessary or essential to do a Kumbha or Ghata sthapana in addition to this? Or can we do the Puja and all Upacharams to the protima?
Of what material is the murti constructed? If it is clay, you will want to make abhishek in a bowl in front of the deity. Or it may be too messy to pour your baths over the murthi even if it is sculpted from marble. That is why we establish a yantra every day in front of the murthi, and make all the abhishekams to the yantra.
- It is my understanding that no grains, or salty food is to be eaten during Navaratri. It is a symbolic giving up for the goddess. Are fruit and vegetables ok? To fast completely is for a greater tapas, and austerity. Is this correct?
The fasting gives forth a number of benefits. We suggest that everyone observe the vow according to their own capacity: the needs of the body, the activities in which the body must engage during the vow, etc. Some will give up grains and pulses, some will only take fruit and dairy, some will only take water: each according to his or her own capacity.
- How do we count Navratri? Sundown to Sundown? Sunrise to Sunrise? Or Sunrise to Sundown?
We use a Panchanga, an almanac timed according to the phases of the moon.
- Does one fast for 9 days during Navraatri without food, only water?
Some will fast on only water.
- What is the system that You and Shree Maa follow for prayers during Navratri?
We recite the entire Cosmic Puja and Chandi Path every day.
- When during Navaratri do we worship Durga, when Lakshmi, and when Saraswati? What prayers are done during this period? Can Lalita Stotram also be recited?
We perform the entire Cosmic Puja every day. That includes Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasarasvati. Lalita can also be recited, but Chandi Path is not to be neglected.
- I would like to know is it possible to do homa of 108 names of Durga Ma from the Chandi Path for Navaratri?
I would like to know what we can do at home for Navaratri, especially if there are offerings we can make to Shree Ma.
You can make offerings from the “Special Offerings” list. You can offer all that you do to Shree Maa. Especially the food that you cook with mantra, offer with mantra. The other functions you perform can be accompanied by mantra. Picture her image in your mind, and conceive that you are doing for her.
Does the Special Offerings list mean that we make 3 offerings – one for the month, one of the lunar day and one for the day of the week?
Yes, this does mean 3 separate offerings.
- During Navaratri is it necessary to do abhishek to Divine Mother murti?
It depends on what material the murti is constructed and how messy it would be too pour baths over the murti. For example, if it is clay, or, if it is too messy, then you will want to make abhishek in a bowl in front of the deity. This is why we establish a yantra every day in front of the murti, and make all the abhishekams to the yantra.
- Why do some Devi temples in India celebrate 16 days puja for Navaratri??
This is a local tradition without scriptural reference. If one is interested in learning about this, you could ask the local priest in the temple as to the origins of this tradition.