You may know this already. Or you’ve guessed it right! The number nine has a lot of significance attached to the Hindu festival called ‘Navratri’. ‘Nav’ means nine and ‘Ratri’ means night in Sanskrit. So, ‘Navratri’ means nine nights. Not surprising then, that this popular festival is celebrated over nine nights.
Let’s move to the next logical number…ten. Here are ten interesting aspects about Navratri.
1. Victory after nine days and nights: Navratri is a celebration of Goddess Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura. A victory of good over evil. To end the atrocities of the demon, the Gods created Durga. Mahishasura wanted to marry her as he was fascinated by her beauty. Durga agreed on the condition that he defeats her in battle first. The battle went on for nine days and nine nights. On the tenth day, Durga emerged victorious as she killed the evil, buffalo-headed demon.
2. Buffalo sacrifice: Mahishasura had the head of a buffalo. So the unfortunate animal is sacrificed during Navratri in many parts of the country. The animal has to be beheaded with a single stroke. In West Bengal, a priest recites a mantra in the ear of the animal before the sacrifice, to free it from the cycle of life and death.
3. The nine divine forms of Devi: During the nine nights, nine different forms or avatars of the Devi are worshipped –a different form each night.
4. The Legend of Ram: Another legend in North India says that Lord Ram worshiped Goddess Durga’s nine forms over nine days. As a result, he was granted the strength to kill the evil Ravan and free Sita.
5. Nine days of leave: Goddess Durga was given permission by Lord Shiva to visit her mother for nine days in the year. Navratri is said to commemorate this visit every year.
6. Worshipping the nine planets: To propitiate the nine planets for a life of happiness and plenty, in some parts of Western India, ladies plant nine different kinds of food grain seeds in small pots during the nine days of Navratri. The young saplings are then offered to the Goddess.
7. Worshipping computers to cutlasses: On the ninth day of Navratri in Karnataka, implements used to earn a livelihood are worshipped. In some places even weapons are worshipped. So, don’t be surprised if on Ayudha Puja day in Bangalore – the Silicon Valley of India, you see computers, CDs, and software books being worshipped. Of course, vehicles, machinery, rifles, machetes and cutlasses are also worshipped.
8. Five Navratris per year: There are five Navratris celebrated in a year. Thank God we don’t have nine! Of these, Sharad Navratri is the most important.
9. Contemporary Garba and Dandiya: Garba and Dandiya are two traditional dance forms that have merged into one in contemporary times. The dance is extremely popular during the Navratri festivities. In Garba, the movement of the dancers in circles symbolizes the circle of life…moving from life to death to rebirth.
10. Navratri and the‘Romeo Squads’: Despite the traditional rituals of Navratri, it is celebrated in a very movie-like, larger than life way these days. Celebrities from Bollywood, large sets, professional singers, and dancers make Navratri a festival of dance, music and merriment. Just like in the movies, the police are around at these events to prevent eve-teasing. The ‘Anti Romeo’ police squads of Surat city are famous during Navratri.