Navratri is one of the most significant festivals of the Hindus celebrated all across the world. This is also one of the most ancient festivals dating back to the times immemorable. This year the nine-day festival would be observed from September 29 to October 27. The word Navratri is derived from two Sanskrit words—’nava’ meaning nine and ‘ratri’ meaning night.
The legend associated with Navratri speaks about the great battle that took place between the powerful demon Mahishasura and Goddess Durga. Mahishasura was blessed with immortality by Lord Brahma under one condition that the powerful Mahishasura could be defeated only by a woman. Armed with the blessing of immortality and confidence, Mahishasura attacked the Trilok–earth, heaven and hell. Since only a woman could defeat him, even the Gods didn’t stand a chance against him. The worried Gods prayed to Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva to help them defeat their worst enemy.
Looking at the helpless Gods, Lord Vishu took the decision to create a woman to defeat Mahishasura since as per Lord Brahma’s boon, none but only a woman can defeat the demon. Now, Lord Shiva, who is also known as the god of destruction, is the most powerful god. So, everyone approached him for help. Then Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma put all their powers together in the woman Lord Vishnu had created to demolish Mahishasura. It is believed that Goddess Durga is a reincarnation of Goddess Parvati, who is the wife of Lord Shiva. Shakti—another avatar of Goddess Parvati—is the goddess of power that runs through the universe.
After the three powerful Gods—Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva)—created Goddess Durga, she fought with Mahishasura for 15 long days. It was a fight that shook the trilok—earth, heaven and hell. During the fight, the clever Mahishasura kept changing his form to confuse his opponent Goddess Durga. Ultimately, when the demon took the form of a buffalo, the Goddess Durga pierced his chest with her ‘trishul’ (a forked weapon) killing him instantly.
So, on each day of Navaratri different avatars of Goddess Durga is worshipped. On the first day, people worship Goddess Shailputri while Goddess Brahmacharini is worshipped on the second day. On the third day people pay homage to Goddess Chandraghanta; on the fourth day Goddess Kushmanda is worshipped; on the fifth day Goddess Skandamata is worshipped; on the sixth day Goddess Katyayani is worshipped; on the seventh day Goddess Kaalratri is worshipped; on the eighth day Goddess Mahagauri is worshipped and on the last and final day people worship the Goddess Siddhidatri.
The Navaratri festival that celebrates the defeat of Mahishasura by Goddess Durga signifies the victory of good over evil. In some parts of India, people observe fast during Navaratri. On the last day the perform puja and break their fast.