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Most of India, especially the Northern and Western parts, is gearing up for the coming biyearly festival of Navratri when nine-forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped with much fanfare and celebration. The Navratri celebrated in summer during the March or April month, is called Vasant Navratri or Chaitra Navratri, while Navratris celebrated in winter during the month of September or October is called the Sharad Navratri.
The literal meaning of the word ‘Navratri’ is nine nights (Nav=nine and ratri=nights). Although there are officially four Navratri’s in a year, only two are celebrated with fervor.
Chaitra Navratri is observed in the Shukla Paksha of the Hindu month of Chaitra and its first day is also celebrated as the first day of Hindu New Year for some Hindu communities, as per the Lunar Calendar. Chaitra Navratri, 2021, will start from 13th April and will be celebrated for nine days, till 22nd April.
Apart from celebrating the start of the Hindu New Year for some parts of India and the change in season, the ninth day of Chaitra Navratri is also very important as devotees celebrate the birth of Lord Rama (Thus also called Rama Navratri).
Kalash Sthapana is an important ritual in Hindu religion when the deity is invoked at the beginning of any auspicious occasion. As the seeds placed in the ‘kalash’ sprout into seedlings, it is believed that the Goddess blesses the family with abundance.
Before performing the ceremony of placing the Kalash, the area is cleaned thoroughly and an idol of the Goddess is placed on a red cloth, there. The idol/picture is offered flowers and a red chunari is placed on the Goddess. The soil is placed in a clay pot and Barley or Saptadhaniya seeds are sprinkled in the soil, leaving someplace in the center for placing the ‘kalasha’.
The ‘kalasha’ used is preferably made of copper. A ‘mauli’(sacred red thread) is tied around the neck of the ‘kalasha’ which is filled with water/Ganga Jal. Cardamom, cloves, coins, etc, are placed in the water. Five mango leaves are immersed in the mouth of the ‘kalasha’. A coconut is placed on the mouth of the ‘kalasha’ which is covered with a red cloth.
The ‘kalasha’ is worshipped by ‘deep’, ‘dhoop’, ‘neivedyam’, flowers and ‘tambolam’(condiments placed on betel leaves) with the chanting of mantras.
Since nine forms of Shakti are worshipped on these 9 days, devotees also like to dress in nine different colors that are believed to appease the Goddess.
On the first day of Navratri, red or green colored clothes are worn.
It is believed that those who observe fast on these days will be blessed with good health and peace of mind. The food for the fast is ‘phalhaar’.
Navratri puja starts with Kalash Sthapana, also called Ghatasthapana, and it is important to perform this during an auspicious time (muhurat).