Navratri is a 9-days festival dedicated to the Goddess Durga and her various forms (avataras). Nav means nine and ratri is translated as nights; navratri literally means nine nights, since devotees celebrate this festival during nine nights.
There are 5 opportunities to celebrate Navratri during the year. In Northern and Western India, people mostly fast during the Chaitra Navratri (march-april) and the Sharad Navratri (october-november).
Devotees fast during Navratri not only to give the Goddess evidence of their love for her, but also to clean their bodies. The holy scriptures (puranas and vedas) state that fasting during this period gives individuals enormous physical and mental strength. Scientific research has shown that the Navratri fast is a perfect way to detox the body. Since devotees are abstaining from salt, the water level in the body is normalised.
The Navratri fasting rules varies among communities and individuals. Of course, the diseased can fast however they want, since the Goddess is a mother to everyone and will definitely understand. Even the scriptures, like for instance the Durga Purana, states the exact same.
When participating in the Navratri vrat (fast), there are certain rules regarding to food intake:
Foods forbidden during fasting
- Non-vegetarian foods, i.e. fish, chicken, meat and eggs
- Regular salt
- Rice or rice flour
- All purpose flour
- Chickpea flour
- Turmeric (haldi)
- Asafoetida (hing)
- Fenugreek seeds (methi)
- Garam Masala
- Dhania Powder
Foods allowed during fasting
- All fruits
- All dry fruits
- All milk products
- Coconut or coconut milk
- Rock salt
- Cumin or cumin powder
- Black pepper powder
- Green cardamom
- Green chili
- Water chestnut flour
- Amaranth or amaranth flour
- Cassave or tapioca pearls
- Buckwheat flour
- Sweet Potatoes
- Raw banana
During Navratri make sure your house is completely clean. We believe that during this period, the Goddess herself visits your home and comes personally to shower her love and blessings on her devotees. Therefore, there should not be any non-vegetarian or alcoholic products at home.
How to Pray or Worship the Goddess
Mental and physical fasting are already ways of worshipping and honouring the Goddess. Both can be very hard and challenges devotees to make an inner quest. For devotees to follow the other rituals related to Navratri, there are certain ways to pray. The method described is the one that I use and is quite simple.
The main mantra used during Navratri is:
Aum Aing Hreeng Kleeng Chamundaya Viche
It consists of beej mantra's that are actually sounds that have different, positive influences on the body. While citing this mantra, focus on the Goddess and the energy point (agni chakra) between the eyebrows. Some devotees repeat this mantra about 108 times a day. When in a hurry citing the mantra for 3, 7, 21 or 58 times is also effective.
Devotees can also cite the Durga Chalisa while praying. Audio versions and translations can be found on the Internet.
After taking a bath in the morning, the Goddess is worshipped and offered prasad. You can offer the Goddess actually everything that you feel like offering. Mostly fruits, kumkum and flowers, especially red ones, are used.
- Day 1: 1 grapefruit.
- Day 2: 2 apples.
- Day 3: 3 bananas.
- Day 4: 4 pears.
- Day 5: 5 bunches of grapes (small ones).
- Day 6: 6 guavas.
- Day 7: 7 cheeko fruits (sapota or mud apple).
- Day 8: 8 custard apples.
- Day 9: 9 oranges.
At night, the Goddess again is worshipped with diyas (candles) and prayers.
There are 3 times when you are allowed to break your fast: on the third day, the eight day or the ninth day. Devotees end their fasting after prayers at night and consume foods that contain salt.
This article shows my method of celebrating Navratri and worshipping the Goddess. There is simply no perfect way of celebrating. In order to find the way that works perfectly for you, you need to experiment with your own passion and love. When you feel the power and the love of the Goddess, when you feel her blessings and her presence, you will realise that you have found the right way for you.