All you need to know about Navaratri and Dussehra…

Dussehra 

Navaratri is one of the greatest Hindu festivals. It symbolises the triumph of good over evil.It is celebrated five times a year. Vasanta Navaratri(beginning of spring), Ashadha Navaratri, Sharadiya Navaratri(Maha Navaratri), Paush/Magha Navaratri and the Magha Navaratri. Out of these, the Sharad Navaratri and the Vasanta Navaratri are considered most important.

Vasanta Navaratri is celebrated for nine days and marks the start of the new year as per the Hindu mythological calendar.

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Sharadiya/Maha Navaratri takes place at the beginning of October around harvest time and, as the name implies, this festival is celebrated for nine days and culminates on the 10th day with Dussehra or Vijaydashami. Nine days are dedicated to nine forms of shakti or cosmic energy and are worshipped. The nine shakti or goddess are Durga, Kali,Amba or Jagadamba,Annapoorna Devi or Gauri,Sarvamangala or Sheetal,Bhairavi,Chandika or Chandi,Lalita,Bhavani,Mookambika or Tara.

Navaratri is a festival in which God is adored as Mother. It is said that Shiva gave permission to Durga to see her mother for nine days in the year and this festival also remembers this visit. Families make an attempt to return home on these days, and leave on the tenth day.

In northern parts of India, Hindus also celebrate Rama’s victory over Ravana during this time. This festival is called Dusser. The ten days represent the ten heads of Ravana, and each day is used by Hindus to get rid of bad characteristics, such as lust and jealousy. The tenth day is known as the Day of Victory.

To celebrate a good harvest and to propitiate the nine planets, women also plant nine different kinds of food grain seeds in small containers during these nine days and then offer the young saplings to the goddess.

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During Navaratri, some devotees of Durga observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. A period of introspection and purification, Navaratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures.

In India, the most colourful and elaborate celebrations take part in Bengal, where huge idols of the goddess are worshipped.
Durga Puja is particularly important for Hindus in Bengal. After having worshiped her for nine days, her image is taken to the streets in a procession and there is much celebration and dancing. To mark Durga leaving her mother after the nine day visit, her image is cast into water.

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Image  credit: Ronit Bhattacharjee

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