Navratri festival is celebrated twice a year, once in Chaitra and Aswayuja. It lasts for nine days in honour of the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga. People observe fast during these nine days, offer prayers and feed the poor. The beginning of summer and winter are two important climatic junctions. They are taken as opportunities to commence worship. These are indicated by Rama Navami in Chaitra and Durga Puja in Aswayuja.
The celebration of Durga Puja reflects the splendid cultural diversity of India. However, the common aim everywhere is to propitiate the Goddess to bestow wealth, prosperity, knowledge and good health. Durga Puja commences on the first day and ends on the tenth day of the bright half of Aswayuja. The tenth day is known as Dussehra or Vijayadashami. It is believed that Lord Shiva permits goddess Durga to visit her mother during these nine days. The festival celebrates her visit to her maternal home and concludes when she returns to her husband.
In West Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated with great gusto, as also in Assam and Meghalaya. In South India, Navratri, as it is called, is celebrated as the festival of dolls meant exclusively for women and girls. Dussehra is celebrated with grandeur and pomp at the Royal Palace in Mysore. As the story goes, Sri Rama vanquished the king of Lanka, Ravana, the 10-faced rakshasa. Therefore, this day is regarded as a day of victory.
Durga Puja is one of those unique festivals where the Almighty is adored as “The Mother”. Many people love to look upon God as their Mother and turn to Her for everything they need. It is said that even Sri Rama worshipped Durga during his war with Ravana and invoked Her help and blessings for his victory. Vijayadashami also has special significance because it is thought to be the day of Sri Rama’s triumph over Ravana, the evil demon. Dussehra is, therefore, India’s annual day of victory. It celebrates the victory of forces of light over forces of darkness.
(Dada J.P. Vaswani is a humanitarian, philosopher, educator, acclaimed writer, powerful orator, messiah of ahimsa, and non-sectarian spiritual leader.)