Navratri or the nine days' festival celebrating the nine forms of Goddess Durga comes twice in a year. The one that's celebrated in the month of March-April which is the first month of the Hindu Lunar Calendar year (Vikram Samvat) is known as Chaitra Navratri named after the Hindu month. Sharad Navratri is celebrated in the month of October-November.
Chaitra or Vasant Navratri also marks the beginning of the spring season. This nine day celebration ends with Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama. This year, Chaitra Navratri began on 31st March, 2014 and it will end on 8th April, 2014.
The nine forms of Goddess Durga are as follows:
The nine days are devoted to worshipping these nine forms of Durga. It is the most auspicious festival which is celebrated in the Northern part of India. It is followed by religious rituals for nine days. Devotees observe fast to seek the blessings of Goddess Durga. The atmosphere is filled with religious songs and dance. Navratri food is special in its own way and the stress is on satvik food. Delicacies especially made from sabudaana and kuttu ka aata are served during this time. On the first day of Navratri, barley seeds are sown in a mud pot in the pooja room and on the eighth or nine day these seedlings are offered to the Goddess.
Navratri ends with the kanya-poojan or worshipping young girls on the eighth or the ninth day. On this day, nine young girls are worshipped, fed halwa, puri and black chana apart from giving gifts. Onion and garlic are strictly prohibited during this time and those who observe fast have a meal only once in a day. During this time, worshippers of Goddess durga throng temples to seek her blessings and fulfill their wishes. Jagrans take place during the night time in which all night religious songs are sung in praise of Maa Durga. Durga suktam is chanted both in the morning and evening in the worship of Maa Durga. It is very auspicious to worship Durga Suktam yantra during this time. Reciting Gayatri Mantra every day during this period is also considered to be very auspicious.
The nine days are divided into three parts in which the first three days celebrate the valour and power of Maa Durga, which is invoked to destroy all the impurities, the mid three days celebrate the wealth and prosperity bestowed upon by Goddess Lakshmi and the last three days commemorates the wisdom of Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Durga is often referred to as Shakti and bestows power on her devotees.
Happy Navratri 2014!!