Navratri Vrat or Navaratri Vratam is an important fast observed by Hindus during Ashvini (October 8th to 16th). It is believed that devotees who observe fasting during Navratri fasting will find happiness on earth and will receive ‘moksha’ thereafter. Legend has it that the Goddess Durga HERSELF narrated the manner of observing navratri vrat to an ardent devotee. The Vratam is observed by both men and women and Navratri mantra is chanted during the period.
The Navratri fast is observed from the first day to the ninth day of Ashvini month. There is a lot of sanctimony attached to the ritual.
People take bath both in the morning and evening during this period.
Most devotees take only a single meal during the day. Non-vegetarian food is totally avoided. Some people confine to milk and fruits during the nine days.
How to perform the rituals?
A Kalasham is prepared at home and the water is changed daily for nine days. The kalasham is placed on rice grains over a banana leaf in the puja room. Goddess Durga is worshipped during the first three days, Goddess Lakshmi for the next three days, and Goddess Saraswathi during the last three days.
Each day fresh flowers and fruits are offered to the Goddesses. Arati is performed and bhajans sung.
In South India, there is the display of dolls and idols – Kolu (in Tamil) and the placing of Kalasham, which represents the Goddesses. These dolls are placed on nicely fabricated platforms and form “steps” or raised structures of 5 or 7 or 9. The children get excited in placing the clay as well as porcelain dolls.
Mango leaf festoons are installed on doors, windows and in puja room. Fresh Kolams are drawn on all the nine days. Women are specially invited from the neighbourhood. They come in their silk fineries and sing a bhajan before the kolu. “Sundal” (a fried Bengal gram delicacy) is distributed to one and sundry. It is common to give gifts to the invited women; usually it is a bag containing betel leaves, betel nuts, a pair of round turmeric roots, a coconut, fruits, sweets, flowers, a small gift such as eye kohl, kumkuma, bangles, comb etc.
This is the period of celebration of women. A kannika (young girl before puberty) is worshipped. Some people do the Kannika Pooja it on all nine days; their tiny feet and ankles smeared with a paste of rich red vermillion in a traditional motiff. New clothes are distributed and only after they have been served the first offering, the rest can join in for lunch.
The Mantras and Bhajans to be recited
Devi Mahatmya (Durga Saptashati) and Sri Lalita Sahasranama are recited during the period. The important Navratri mantra is ‘Aaim hreem kleem chamundayai vichche.’
Some devotees conduct special homas and pujas during the period like Sucharita & Anuradha Kramana Saraswathi Fire Ritual, Brzee Lakshmi fire ritual, Chandi Fire ritual, and Suhasini Pooja
On the ninth day, all books, pen and whatever implements that a person uses for his/her livelihood is worshipped and is not touched on the day.
On the tenth day, that is the Vijayadashami day in South India, young children are initiated into the world of learning. Businessman start new ventures on that day and that day is considered the most auspicious day in the year.
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