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Navratra Celebrations

Significance to our community

Piyaray Lal Raina

Sept 27, 2000

Navratras start from September 28th. Following my earlier notes about appraising the young minds of our community about the significance of various religious customs, below you will find note regarding the significance of NAVRATRAS for our community. 

May Goddess Durga (Maharagyna) bless you and your family with abundant happiness! 

INTRODUCTION

All over world Hindus celebrate Navratras with great devotion.  Navratras literally means  "nine nights".  These nights are devoted to the worship of Goddess Durga. Navratras, are celebrated twice in a year.  Once in the bright two-week period of Shukla Paksha of the lunar month of Ashwani (Asuj in Kashmiri) corresponding to September/October) from the 1st to the 9th date of the two week period. 

These days of Navratras are celebrated with great fervor especially in West Bengal where it is known as "Durga Puja". The Gujrati Hindus celebrate it with nine days of Garba dance. The second Navratras are celebrated during the first nine days of the bright two-week period of Shukla Paksha of the lunar month of Chaitra corresponding to mid-March to mid-April. 

The timing of the celebrations correspond to the autumnal and vernal equinox which is also the time when seasons change and we harvest crops which adds to the glory of these celebrations.
 

RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND

For the devout these days are the most sacred for it is during these days when Goddess Durga takes a stock of her devotees and grants all boons, removes sins and ensures trouble free life for her devotees.

During this period most of the Hindus go to Temples for prayers. At some places special pandals (platforms) are raised where clay idols of Goddess Durga are installed decorated with various weapons in Her eight arms, riding a lion, with demon Maheshasur lying dead at Her feet. These idols are worshipped for eight days (nine nights) and then immersed in river, lake or pond on the ninth day with great fanfare.

During this period recitation of sacred scriptures such as Durga Sapshudi from Markanday Puran, which narrates how Goddess Durga was blessed and provided with weapons by our Trinity of Gods for vanquishing the demon Maheshasur who had forced Devas to leave heaven and take refuge on earth. Saints and learned ones carry on Pravachans  (discourses) and appraise devotees about the importance of these  days. In Chatturpur Temple in South Delhi, over a million people visit during these days. Musical recitations by famous musicians are offered for the benefit of the Goddess and devotees. For those who offer Jap (repetition of mantras) as the way of meditation, this is the time for marathon Japas of their chosen mantra at least 125,000  (sava lakh) times. For tantrics, it is the time to enrich their tantric shakti by observing various rituals.  The devout ones keep a fast until they spot the moon or by restricting their eating to one time only.  Even those who do not fast, do not eat non-vegetarian food during these days.

On the ninth day after the immersion of the idol in the water the celebrations come to an end.

The Navratras celebration of March/April period are celebrated on a lessor scale but there is no short cut for devout  ones.
 

KASHMIRI NAVRATRA CELEBRATIONS

There are 22 places all around India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari which are considered most scared to Goddess Durga.  In Kashmir,  Khirbawani at Tulamulla is among one such places where she is worshipped as Maharagnya.  KP's are traditionally Shakti worshippers and worship Durga as Maharagnya, Sharika, Jawala, Kali, Tripura etc.

During Navratras people go to various shrines to offer prayers. We recite Bhawani Sahasranam instead of Durga Saptashudi.  Bhawani Sahasranam (1000 names of Goddess Durga) is of Kashmiri Origin and is not known outside Kashmir. Lalita Sahasranam of South India, which has about 100 names common with our Bhawani Shastranam, has the closest resemblance to Bhawani Sahasranam .

Not all KP's observe all nine days as Navratras.  Some people observe it from the 5th  to the 8th day and some only the 8th day which is Ashtami and traditionally a sacred day for our community.  Some KP's take non-vegetarian food for the first  four days if they are not keeping a fast.

The ninth day - Nawmi - which is called Ram Nawmi, is a day of traditional celebrations for us.  On this day, havans are performed especially at temples dedicated to Lord Rama. It is a day when most of KP's visit the places where havan is being performed. We do not have the tradition of making clay models and worshiping them followed by immersion in rivers. Instead some of us sow barley in a pot on 1st day of Navratra and keep it at a sacred place, they water it daily and offer prayers. The household keeps fast and taking meals one time only. On the ninth day, the barley plants are kept for display of the devotees as a symbolic darshan of Goddess Durga. These plants are later immersed in rivers. A good growth of plants symbolizes the acceptance of prayers by Goddess Durga and her happiness, which is sure to bring happiness and prosperity to those involved.

The Navratras of Chaitra (March-April) is of special importance to KP's as it is on the first day of this Navratras we celebrate our new year (Navreh).

After our last migration from Kashmir, our community has begun celebrating these days according to traditions followed by Hindus in their new neighborhoods.  Some people go for Vaishnav Devi yaatra  at Jammu which draws huge number of devotees during these periods and receive blessings of Goddess Vaisnav Devi.
 

DURGA PRAYERS

Seven selected Sholokas of Durga Saptashudi are called Saptashaloki Durga and are recited by devotees daily. These sholakas  have been included in  Vijeshar  Panchang and also   in the KOA recent publication Poozai Poshe. 

These seven shalokas, along with their translation, are as follows:
 

(1)     Gyaninam Api Chetaansi Devi Bhagvati Hi Saa
           Balaat Aakrsihya Mohaaya Mahaamaya Prayachhati

Meaning: Mother Goddess, the greatest pervader of the entire Universe, you are inducing even the mind of knowledgeable to your bondage.

            (2)     Durgay Smritaa Harasi Bheetim Ashaisha Janto
                    Swasthai Smrita Matm Ateeva Shubhaam Dadaasi
                    Daaridra Dukh Bhaya Haarni Kaa Twadanya
                    Sarvopa Kaar Karnaya Sdaarda Chita

Meaning: Mother Durga you are eradicating fright of all living beings who remember you. People who meditate on you, you bless them with wisdom that brings them relief from all directions. O! Mother Goddess, destroyer of poverty and misery, who is else than you whose mind always remains ready to help all.

            (3)     Sarvamangala Mangalyai Shivaay Sarvartha Sadhikay
                    Sharanyai Trambikay Gauri Narayani Namastutay

Meaning: O! Mother Goddess, you are giver of success in everything. O, Mother Goddess of Success, you are giver of all types of protections and peace as Shivi (Consort of Shiva). You are as well Gowri in fruition of endeavors of all those who surrender to you. In your capacity as Narayani (Consort of Narayana), you are remover of all types of troubles. I offer my salutations of you.
 

            (4)     Sharnaagata Deenarta Paritraana Paraayanai
                    Sarva Syaarta Haray Devi Narayani Namostutay

Meaning: O, Narayani, who is always engaged in helping her devotees involved in troubles as also remover of miseries of all, I offer my salutations to you.
 

            (5)     Sarvaswaroopay Sarvaishay Sarva-Shakti-Samanvitay
                    Bhayi-Bhyaa Traadhi No Devi Durgay Devi Namostutay

Meaning: Your manifestation is in every thing and you exist every where. You are possessed with all power and energy. O! Mother Goddess Durga, kindly protect us from all scare and fright. I offer my salutations to you.
 

            (6)     Rogaan Ashaishaan Apahansi Tushtaa
                    Rushta Tu Kaamaan Sakalaan Abheeshtaan
                    Twaam Aashritaanaam Na Vipat Naraanaam
                    Twaam Aashritaa Hyaa Shrayataam Prayanti

Meaning:  O, Mother Goddess, on becoming happy you cast off all diseases and on being otherwise destroy all ambitions. All those who have already surrendered to you, distress never comes near them. All those devotees, of your whom you bless, become blessors of others.
 

            (7)     Sravaa Baadhaa Prashamanam Trilokya Syaa
                    Akhilaishwari Ayvam Ayva Twayaa
                    Karyam Asmay Vyri Vinaashanam

Meaning: O; Mother Goddess, dweller of Universe, clear out hurdles in my way in all three worlds in the same manner as you suppressed Madukaritab and do keep on destroying my enemies.

 (Translations of above shalokas have been rendered by Shri O.N. Kaul 
in the English edition of Vijyashvar Punchang 1998-99 (Janthri))

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