Navratri - All About the Festival, Traditions, Sadhana, Quotes and More
Navratri is a celebration of the divine feminine that is replete with rich traditions like golu and dandia, elaborate rituals of worshipping Devi, and powerful sadhana that one can use for their spiritual growth.
What Is Navratri and When Is Navratri in 2022?
Did you know that there is a Navratri every month? “Navratri” literally means “Nine nights” in Sanskrit. The first nine nights after the new moon in the lunar calendar are called Navratri, a period considered feminine in nature.
Navratri 2022 begins on 26 September 2022 and ends on 4 October 2022.
Although Navratri comes every month, there are 4 significant Navratris in a year - Sharada Navratri which follows the autumnal equinox, Magha Navratri (also known as Vasant Panchami) following the winter solstice, Chaitra Navratri, which falls after the spring equinox, and Ashada Navratri, marking the period after the summer solstice.
In Yogic culture, which follows the lunar calendar, the summer solstice marks the beginning of Dakshinayana or the southern run of the sun. This period is known as sadhanapada and many festivals associated with the divine feminine are celebrated during this period. Particularly, the Sharada Navratri, which starts after the auspicious day of Mahalaya Amavasya (Pitru Paksha), marks the start of the Devi Pada – the quarter of the year when the whole northern hemisphere of the Earth imbibes the gentleness of the divine feminine. In the Indian culture, this is a time when Devi is celebrated in all her aspects and all her glory through nine days of offerings, rituals and celebrations.
According to Hindu legends, Mahishasura was a demon with a buffalo’s head who received a boon from Brahma, the God of Creation, that no man or god could kill him. What followed was a reign of terror where gods and humans alike were subjected to the horrors of Mahishasura’s rule. It was then that Devi took the form of Durga. Riding fiercely on a lion and armed with the divine weapons of all the other gods, she battled the demon for nine days and nights. These nine days are traditionally eulogized during the nine nights of Navratri, culminating in the goddess’ victory on the tenth day of Vijayadashami.
But there are deeper spiritual dimensions to this much beloved tale of yore.
Why Fast During Navratri?
Navratri Vrat or Navratri fast is observed on all nine days in most parts of India. Culturally, Navratri is a celebration of the feminine as the vanquisher of evils. This is a time when everything on the planet slows down and physically, too, the body enters a period of lethargy, spurred on by the change in seasons with the onset of winter. Fasting during this time is conducive to building immunity in the body by cleansing out all the toxins that may have accumulated. Spiritually, observing a fast or replacing the intake of heavy grains with sattvic foods like fresh fruits and vegetables brings energy and balance to the system. In southern India, a different lentil dish is prepared every evening as lentils are a rich source of protein that can boost the immunity in the system.
Read more about the spiritual significance of fasting here.
Sadhguru has created a special sadhana that can be done during this Navratri period to help a devotee become more receptive to Devi's grace. Especially if you are fasting during Navratri, the sadhana will be a support to the system during this time.
Read out more about the sadhana.
What Do the Nine Days of Navratri Represent?
Navratri is traditionally celebrated during the first nine nights following the new moon in the Devi Pada (the quarter after the autumnal equinox), which is traditionally known as the Sharada Navratri. Each day, a different form of the goddess is worshipped, with celebrations finding unique expressions in the various cultures spread across the country.
Navratri Celebrations Across India
As varied as the local cultures are throughout India, so too are the celebrations of Navratri, which come in different flavors in different parts of the country. However, the spirit of Navratri and the wisdom of these old traditions is a common thread tying all these diverse celebrations together.
In the east and northeast, the goddess is celebrated as Durga, the vanquisher of the evil demon Mahishasura. The last 4 days of Navratri are celebrated with fasts during the day and festivities during the night, with the 8th day being Durgashtami – a day wholly dedicated to the worship of the goddess Durga. The 9th day, Mahanavami is believed to be the day evil was finally slain by the divine. The festivities end on Vijayadashami – the day after Navratri ends – honoring the goddess’ victory.
In the northern part of the country, the 10th day is celebrated as Dussehra, marking the victory of Rama over Ravana. Ramleela, enactment of the story of Ramayana, is performed in various festival grounds through the nine days leading up to Dussehra. In the Kullu region in Himachal, “Kullu Dussehra” marks the return of Rama to Ayodhya. Idols are taken out of the temples on a procession through the streets of Himachal on this day.
Devotees in Punjab observe a fast during the first 7 days of Navratri, and hold jaagrans. The fast is broken on the last two days, and nine little girls and a little boy (called “Kanjika”) are worshipped as the image of the divine. Truly representative of the intermingling of cultures, this tradition is also practiced in Maharashtra, particularly around Mumbai, where it is interspersed with traditions from other places, such as Garba or Dandiya Raas which originate from Gujarat.
The Gujarati custom of Garba and Dandiya dances during Navratri has become very popular in the rest of the country as well. Traditionally, the dance forms are an artistic dramatization of a mock fight between the goddess Durga and Mahishasura. The Garba is danced around an earthen pot (garbo) with a lamp inside, called a “Garbha Deep” – symbolizing the body made of earth, within which life resides. Dandiya is a more energetic and vibrant dance, usually danced after the evening arati using sticks which symbolize the sword of Goddess Durga, also earning it the name of “The Sword Dance.” During the nine nights of Navratri, a fast is observed during the day and broken in the evening, followed by festivities and dances.
Navratri takes on different forms in southern India. In Telangana, Goddess Parvati is worshipped these nine nights in the festival of “Bathukamma Panduga.” Every day, flowers are arranged in the shape of an idol called “Bathukamma,” and on the 8th day – ashtami – all the women in the community gather together with their Bathukamma for “Saddula Bathukamma” and perform traditional dances and songs around them. Afterwards, the Bathukamma – sometimes also made of clay on this day – is offered to a water body and prasadam is distributed.
Karnataka is famous for the Mysore Dasara which is a state festival spanning 10 days, starting with Navratri and ending on the day of Vijayadashami. The tradition is believed to have been introduced by the Vijayanagar kings in the 15th century and Mysore Dasara festivities have preserved their form for nearly six centuries. Devi is worshipped as Chamundeshwari and the festival celebrates the slaying of Mahishasura.
In Tamil Nadu, the 9 days of Navratri are wholly dedicated to worship of the feminine in various ways. The first three days are dedicated to Durga (the destroyer of impurities), the next three are for Lakshmi (the one who bestows spiritual wealth), and the last three devoted to Saraswati (the goddess of wisdom and knowledge). Golu – a festive display of idols, dolls and figurines – is set up in each household. The nine days of Navratri are a festive affair with women visiting each other’s homes – symbolic of inviting the goddess home in her various forms – and offering songs to Devi. Gifts of kumkum, bangles, mirrors, and other items connected to the divine feminine are offered to the visitors.
On the 9th day, Saraswati Pooja and Ayudha Pooja are offered to Goddess Saraswati – the goddess of wisdom and learning, and the form Devi takes on the last three days of Navratri. Books, musical instruments, and other work-related items are kept next to the golu and worshipped. There is also a pooja done for vehicles and tools as a part of Ayudha Pooja – which translates directly to “worshipping weapons or tools.” The 10th day of Vijayadashami is the day of victory of the divine in all her forms. This is a day believed to bless one with success on all endeavors one embarks upon. Traditionally in southern India, and particularly in Tamil Nadu, on this day children are enrolled in new classes, such as classical music and dance.
Another interesting aspect of Navratri in Tamil Nadu is the tradition of making different lentils each day. The spiritual tradition says that the each of the nine lentils is one of the nava-dhaanyas or associated with the nine planets in celestial lore. Culturally, it is believed that different protein-rich lentils are prepared on each of the nine days to boost immunity as the season changes and the weather gets colder during this time of the year.
“Bommai Kolu” (or Golu) in Tamil, or “Bomma Gullu” in Malayalam, also known as “Bomme Habba” in Kannada or “Bommala Koluvu” in Telugu, is an integral part of Navratri celebrations in southern India.
Built up of a number of steps, ranging in odd numbers between 1 and 11, the golu has idols or dolls displayed on different steps. The display is set up on the auspicious day of Mahalaya Amavasya. Dolls in a golu are traditionally made of clay, wood, or other earthy materials, bringing the stabilizing energy of earth into the household. Devi always has the seat of honor on the topmost step of the Golu, with a kalasham (a silver pot filled with rice and coins and adorned with turmeric, vermillion and silk cloth and covered by a coconut soaked in turmeric and mango leaves on top) representing the Mother Goddess and all the wealth – not just material – that she bestows. There are also idols of the Goddess in her three forms of Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. The next steps are dedicated to the idols of saints and spiritual masters of the past, honoring those who paved the way for us. Following this are dolls depicting scenes from various mythologies to remind us of the lessons learnt from these stories. Then come bommais showing scenes from our everyday life to remind us of our culture and traditions, such as weddings, temple activities, and music concerts. . Businesses and crafts claim the next step in the golu, with the merchant community usually portrayed by chettiyar and chettichi dolls. The final step of the golu is dedicated to wooden dolls of people, animals and birds as a reminder of our roots and connection to all life on the planet. Sometimes, the golu can also follow a theme and there are intricate scenes set up accordingly These can vary from zoos and amusement parks (in houses with small children) to elaborate retellings of the tales of lore.
An interesting aspect of a golu is the mandatory presence of “marapachi bommai” – traditional wooden dolls made from country wood (neem wood), or sometimes red sandalwood that come with both spiritual and medicinal benefits. In the olden days, toys for children were traditionally made from marapachi, as the culture recognized the benefits of these dolls. This is a practice still kept alive in some parts of southern India today.
On Vijayadashami, after the evening pooja and arati, the dolls in the golu are symbolically laid down to put them to sleep and packed away the next day, only to be taken out for the next Navratri.
Navratri Celebrations at Isha Yoga Center
Navratri at Isha Yoga Center is a grand celebration with special poojas, classical music and dance concerts, folk performances, and the spectacular Linga Bhairavi procession and Maha Arati in front of Nandi.
A large Golu of 7 steps is set up on the steps of the Suryakund mandapam, honoring the local culture and traditions. Devi is the highlight of the golu in the form of a well-adorned kalasham. In the golu at Isha, the Saptarishis and Nayanmars are exalted, and stories from their lives elaborately displayed through artful earthen dolls and crafts. Traditional village scenes, and the lives of people and animals are colorfully exhibited with Isha’s unique crafty touch. Mythological scenes are also tastefully depicted. And bringing all of it together is the presence of Adiyogi, adding to the vibrancy of Devi’s presence. Sometimes, the golu at the ashram also follows a theme such as the Rally for Rivers theme that was followed three years ago.
Navratri Pooja is offered to Devi on each of the 9 days, which includes an elaborate abhishekam of 11 offerings, and music and dance extolling the glory of Devi. For the first 3 days, Devi is adorned in kumkum, expressing the raw energy of Durga. The next 3 days, she is covered in rich haridram, glowing with the spiritual wealth of goddess Lakshmi. The last 3 days see Devi coated in chandanam, exuding the transcendental wisdom of Saraswati. The pooja is a powerful opportunity for devotees to imbibe Devi’s grace from wherever they are, by registering online at lingabhairavi.org.
Devi brings color and vibrancy of life to all she touches and during this time when she shines her brightest, each evening is filled with resplendent cultural programs ranging from classical music and dance to folk performances. Musicians and dancers from across the country, and students from Isha Samskriti all come together to offer their art to Devi, adding color and joy to the festivities.
Watch the cultural performances online at youtube.com/ishafoundation.
Participate in Devi Abhishekams and Navratri Sadhana at youtube.com/lingabhairavi.
Here are 25 Devi quotes by Sadhguru that capture the essence of Devi in all her complexity and glory. Let Sadhguru’s words take you deeper into the colorful and vibrant world of Devi – the Divine Feminine.
Music is a wonderful way to evoke devotion and can transport one to a completely different realm within. No celebration is complete without music and Navratri is no exception! Here are some artfully rendered Devi songs to brighten up your Navratri even more.
Wish your loved ones a Happy Navratri in style with these 15 Navratri wishes.