Nine-Night celebration of divine power | Daily News
Navarathri festival begins today

Nine-Night celebration of divine power

The Hindu community in Sri Lanka and across the globe prepares to observe and celebrate the radiant festival of Navarathri. This year the traditional period of observance commences on October 17 (today) and concludes on October 25. The word Navarathri is derived from the Sanskrit language, and translates as nine nights and has the same meaning in many Asian languages.  

This colourful Hindu festival has been celebrated for centuries. Its rituals are observed for different reasons within the wider Asian Hindu community. According to the ancient Hindu text Vaishnawa Purana, there are four seasonal Navarathri. However, in practice, it is the post-monsoon autumn festival called Sharada Navarathri which is reverently observed in honour of the deity Durga. The devotees worship the nine manifestations (avatar) of Maha Durga.  

The corresponding month in the Hindu calendar is Ashvin, which falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. In India, which is the grand cradle of Hinduism, the Durga Puja (also spelt pooja) is synonymous with Navarathri, where goddess Durga battles and victoriously subdues a demon. The nine days are designated under three clusters to adore Malai Magal, Alai Magal and Kalai Magal.  

A Hindu priest explained, “the Durga Puja festival marks the battle of Goddess Durga against the deceptive and powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura (Asura means demon). The Asura symbolizes the chaos and ignorance hidden inside one’s outer appearance. In deeper context, this signifies the victory of good (Dharma) over evil. On the other hand, it is a harvest festival that appreciates the Goddess as the motherly influence which sustains creation according to Hindu belief. The Durga Puja festival dates coincide with Vijayadashami, where the victory of Rama is exalted. ”  

During the Durga puja, other Hindu deities are also worshipped including Lakshmi (the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth), Saraswati (the Goddess who bestows wisdom and music), Ganesha (who offers good beginnings) and Karthikeya (the God of War). The ritual of this Durga puja can be found in the 12th century scripture of Yasatilaka, which is said to be written by Somadeva where an ancient king offered a puja after a battle victory on an annual basis.  

The Puranas (a vast genre of ancient Indian literature) associate Durga puja with the spring festival. In keeping with this belief, Tamil farmers used to offer a bundle of nine plants called Navapatrika, denoting the nine manifestations. Also, nine grains known as Navadhanya were offered. Today this practice is still seen in Tamil agricultural communities in the Northern Province.  

The Indian religious cultural celebrations include extravagant stage decorations, recital of the legend, enacting of the story, and chanting of Hindu scriptures. I have witnessed the latter at various kovils and it is a beautiful display of devotion.

On the final day, called the Vijayadashami, the statue of Durga is immersed in a river symbolizing her return to the Divine Cosmos.  

On the other hand, the statue symbolizing evil is burnt with fireworks marking the total defeat of evil forces. This festival starts the preparation for another important festival, Diwali or Deepavali (the Festival of Lights), which is celebrated 20 days after Vijayadashami. Diwali is one of the most vibrant religious festivals across the world with its dazzling lights.  

These nine days are solemnly dedicated to the Goddess Durga and her nine avatars, where each day is dedicated to an incarnation of the Goddess.  

Hindu scholars describe the significance of each of these nine days-  

Day 1: Shailaputri

Known as Pratipada, this day is for Shailaputri (meaning “Daughter of Mountain”), also Parvathi. It is in this form that the Goddess is worshipped as the consort of Shiva; she is depicted riding Nandi the cow. The colour of the day is bright crimson (red) which depicts action and vigour.  

Day 2: Brahmcharini

Goddess Brahmcharini, another incarnation of Parvathi, is worshipped. In this form, Parvathi became Sati, her unmarried self. Brahmcharini is worshipped for emancipation or Moksha and endowment of peace. The colour of the day is royal blue which depicts calmness and energy. 

Day 3: Chandraghanta

Tritiya commemorates Chandraghantha - the name derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvathi adorned her forehead with a half-chandra (meaning moon). She is the embodiment of beauty, yellow being the colour for this day.  

Day 4: Kushmunda

Kushmunda is worshipped on Chaturthi. Believed to resonate the power of the universe, Kushmunda is associated with the endowment of vegetation on earth. Green colour dominates this day. She is depicted as having eight arms.  

Day 5: Skandmatha

Skandamatha is worshipped on Panchami, the mother of Karthigeya. The colour grey is symbolic of the transforming strength of a mother when her child is confronted with danger. She is depicted riding a defiant lion, and safely defending the baby.  

Day 6: Katyayani

Born to a sage, Katya, is said to be an incarnation of Durga and is shown to display courage which is symbolized by shades of bright orange. Venerated as a warrior Goddess, this is a violent form of the Goddess Parvathi.  

Day 7: Kalaratri

She is considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga. Parvathi removed her fair skin to destroy Sumbh and Nisumbh, two demons. The colour for the day is white. The other forms associated with Kalaratri are Bhadrakali, Rudrani and Bhairavi. The fierce Kalaratri attired in red is said to destroy ghosts, demons and negative forces.  

Day 8: Mahagauri

Symbolizing intelligence and peace, the colour associated with this day is pink which endorses optimism. In this form, her right hand holds a trident and Mahagauri majestically rides a white bull.  

Day 9: Siddhidatri

On the last day of the festival also known as Navami, people pray to Siddhidaatri. Sitting on a lotus, she is believed to possess all type of Siddhis. She is affectionately known as Saraswati Devi. The last day is believed to be the culmination of all the religious aspirations of those who worshipped.  

Over these nine days, Hindu devotees will visit kovils around the country. However, this year there will be some restrictions due to COVID- 19. The Northern Province will have many pious pujas as villagers collectively celebrate these nine days of devotion. Navarathri is a beautiful confluence of Hindu faith and Tamil culture. It is a time for thoughtful reflection and spiritual refinement of the human. It reflects the multi-religious population of Sri Lanka and powerfully projects our cultural diversity.