“Chaitra Navratri” is a Hindu festival usually falling in the month of March-April, corresponding to Chaitra month as per Hindu calendar. “Chaitra Navratri” is a nine nights and ten days festival dedicated to the worship of Hindu goddess Durga. It is the second most important Navratri festival after Sharad Navratri (September-October) and is also called “Vasanta Navaratri”.
The word “Navratri” could be broken into Nav and Ratri; where “Nav” means “nine” and “Ratri” refers to “Night”. Navratri therefore means “nine nights”. Each Navratri Day has its own significance and is associated with a separate form of Goddess Durga.
Chaitra Navratri 2019
Chaitra Navratri 2019 will be celebrated from 6th April (Saturday) to 14th April (Sunday) in the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra.
When is Chaitra Navratri Celebrated?
The festival of Chaitra Navratri begins on the first day of Hindu Luni-Solar month of Chaitra. Being celebrated in spring season, it is also called “Vasanta Navratri”. Chaitra or Vasant Navratri is celebrated in summer solstice and it also marks the beginning of summer season.
The first day of Chaitra Navratri is called “Pratipada” and the last and ninth day is called “Navami”. The last day also corresponds to the 9th day of Shukla Paksha (fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra. Chaitra is also the first month in Hindu calendar; hence the festival is called Chaitra Navratri.
Why is Chaitra (Vasant) Navratri Celebrated?
Chaitra Navratri is celebrated to invoke the blessings of Goddess Durga. Hindus believe that Durga is the “Adi Shakti”, which is a reference to primarily the first power. Goddess Durga, according to Hindu beliefs, was born to eliminate evil and to save good form extinction.
Her worship in the Chaitra month is believed to invoke her blessings and remove all the barriers in devotee’s personal as well as professional life. It is also believed to manifest positivity and transforming the soul, blessing one with abundance and peace.
Devi Bhagwata Purana mentions that the custom of Devi worship was introduced by king Sudarshana of Kosala Kingdom with its capital at Ayodhya who was a ruler of Surya dynasty and an ancestor of Lord Rama. It is believed that Lord Rama took birth on the last day of Chaitra Navratri. Hence the festival is also significant as it marks the birth of a most revered Hindu king – Lord Rama.
Historical Significance/Legend of “Chaitra Navratri”
The legends of “Chaitra Navratri” are mentioned in Devi Bhagwata Purana. Some historians claim that the text of Devi Bhagwata Purana was written in 6th century CE, suggesting that the festival of Chaitra Navratri is being celebrated since.
The story in Purana says that once King Dhruvasindhu of Kosala was out on a hunting spree. Unfortunately the king was killed by a lion leaving his eldest son Sudarshana from queen Manorama as the obvious heir to the throne.
However, this was not acceptable to his second wife Lilavati, who wanted her son Satrujit to succeed the throne. But Satrujit was denied the opportunity as he was the youngest claimant.
This invoked the jealousy of Lilavati’s father – King Yudhajit, who killed king Virasena – the protector and father of queen Manorama. Subsequently, king Yudhajit inducted his grandson prince Satrujit to the Kosala throne and also wanted to kill prince Sudarshana to prevent any further claim to the throne.
Having known about the danger as told by a loyal councilor named Vidhalla; queen Manorama fled with her son Sudarshana and took refuge in a hermitage of sage Bharadwaja, who resided on the banks of river Ganga.
When king Yudhajit came to know about the location of queen Manorama and prince Sudarshana, he went to rishi Bharadwaja’s ashram with intent to kill the prince and secure any further claims to his grandson Satrujit’s throne. However Yudhajit had to return empty handed as he was resisted in his attempts by the sage Bharadwaja as well as his own minister.
One day Vidhalla came to visit queen Manorama and her son Sudarshana. A young son of a priest at the hermitage, mockingly called him as – Kleeba. “Kleeba” in Sanskrit means a eunuch; a reference probably to the informer practices of Vidhalla. Prince Sudarshana took the first syllable of the word and start chanting it as “Kleem”; oblivious of the fact that “Kleem” is sacred to the Devi and is the Beej Mantra to provoke her.
Prince Sudarshana grew up to become a great devotee of Goddess Durga and he also excelled in the art of archery. He spent most of his time in the worship of Durga. This pleased the Goddess who gifted Sudarshana with a powerful bow-arrow and an impenetrable armor.
One day princess Shashikala, daughter of the King of Kashi came to knew about Sudarshana and his dedication to Devi. Being a devotee of the Shakti herself and admiring the qualities of Sudarshana, she decided to marry him.
When her father King Subahu had arranged a Swayamvara (self choose ceremony) for her marriage, she disclosed her affection to Sudarshana, to her mother. Her mother initially tried to persuade her to forget Sudarshana, but later on her insistence she invited Sudarshana and Manorama to participate in the ceremony.
Sudarshana accepted the invitation but Manorama was skeptical, fearing for life of her son. She tried to dissuade Sudarshana from participating in the Swayamvara by telling him that his blood rivals Yudhajit and Satrujit will be also be present at the ceremony and will not leave a chance to kill him.
Sudarshana however was adamant and told her mother that no one could do him unjust harm as he has the blessings of Devi Durga. He went on to Kashi accompanied by his mother, who was too worried to let him go alone.
On the day of Swayamvara ceremony, when king Subahu asked princess Shashikala to choose a prospective husband from among the waiting kings, she told her father about her desire to marry Sudarshana and refused to go to Swayamvara.
Thus, respecting the will of her daughter, king Subahu told the waiting kings and princes about her unwillingness for the Swayamvara and requested them for forgiveness and to go back to their respective kingdoms. Almost all the kings presented remained silent except one – Yudhajit. Somehow Yudhajit knew about the will of Shashikala to marry Sudarshana and in turn took it as his personal insult.
Yudhajit also threatened Subahu of dire consequences and to forcibly marry Shashikala to the former’s grandson Satrujit. Worried, king Subahu asked his daughter to change her mind. Shashikala however was adamant and asked his father to marry her to Sudarshana the same night and let them leave the kingdom together. This way the kingdom of Kashi will be saved from the wrath of angry king Yudhajit.
King Subahu too saw this as the only feasible idea and called for Sudarshana and her mother Manorama. Sudarshana and Shashikala were secretly married in night and were gifted with hundreds of equipped chariots and guards and the both left the kingdom on the same night. As per the custom king Subahu also went with the couple to see them off.
On their way, they met the armies of other retreating kings and Yudhajit. Infuriated to see Sudarshana married to Shashikala, Yudhajit instigated other kings to fight. King Yudhajit and prince Shatrujit also saw this as an opportunity to kill Sudarshana, whom they considered as a threat to their accession to the throne of Kosala.
During the battle Devi Durga manifested herself, mounted on a lion and carrying weapons in her ten arms to support the prince Sudarshana. Her appearance was so furious that even by looking at her, the armies exited. However Yudhajit and Satrujit fought with the Devi and lost their lives in the battle. Other kings started worshipping her in order to please her and calm her anger.
Subsequently after the death of Yudhajit and Satrujit, Sudarshana was crowned the king of Kosala and started the custom of Worshipping Devi.
Historical Changes in Chaitra Navratri Celebrations
The festival of Chaitra Navratri is being celebrated since 6th century BC when King Sudarshana of Kosala introduced the custom after goddess intervened to help him in winning back his succession to the throne. Thus the festival of Chaitra Navratri was celebrated as the major Navaratri festival until Lord Rama (descendent of King Sudarshana) invoke the Goddess during his fight with Ravana; during the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin which usually falls in September to October.
Since then the Ashvin Navratri has become the most prominently celebrated Navratri festival, pushing the “Chaitra Navratri” at second place.
How is “Chaitra Navratri” Celebrated?
Chaitra Navratri is one of the most celebrated Hindu festivals dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga or Maha Shakti or Adi Shakti. The festival is especially popular in the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh etc.
Chaitra Navratri marks the beginning of Gudi Padwa festival in the state of Maharashtra and Ugadi festival in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
Nine day long fairs are organized at the temples of Devi, with people from distant places visiting to worship and seek the blessings of Durga. People even wait for the arrival of Chaitra Navratri to begin a new business or endeavor or a customary ritual.
On the beginning of festival houses are cleaned in order to welcome the Goddess. Worshipping Goddess and fasting for all the nine days and night is a must for the devotees. Devotees are allowed to eat only Sattvic food – fruits, nuts, seed, dairy products etc. Consuming wheat, rice, alcohol and meat is strictly prohibited.
Devotees should also refrain from foul language and evil thoughts, dedicating most of their time in chanting the Mantras. They should also pay emphasis on cleansing of their body as well as the soul.
During the nine day span, three forms of Goddess are worshipped – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. During the first three days goddess Durga is worshipped, who is the goddess of energy. During the next three days, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped who is the goddess of abundance and prosperity. Last three days of Chaitra Navratri are dedicated to the worship of Goddess Saraswati – the goddess of knowledge and wisdom.
The nine day long fast is broken by performing a havan (ritual burning of offerings) on the ninth day. The fast is broken after offering the Prasad to the goddess and consuming it.
All the nine days of Navratri have their own significance, and separate rituals to be performed. The days of Chaitra Navratri and their corresponding rituals are given below-
Day 1 – Pratipada
The first day of Chaitra Navratri is called Pratipada and is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga as Shailaputri. Shailaputri is a manifestation of Goddess Durga and an incarnation of Parvathi. She is also considered the direct incarnation of Mahakali; representing strength and vigor.
Day 2 – Dwitiya
On the second day of Chaitra Navratri devotees worship another incarnation of goddess Parvathi – Brahmacharini. It is that form of Durga which she adopted as Parvathi in her pursuit to gain Lord Shiva’s confidence and love.
Day 3 – Teej
The third day of Chaitra Navratri is known as Teej and is celebrated as “Gauri Teej”; worshipping Devi Chandraghanta, who is the married form of goddess Parvathi.
Day 4 – Chaturthi
The fourth day or Chaturthi is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kushmanda, who is an incarnation of Durga as Goddess Lakshmi. Kushmanda is worshipped as the goddess of vegetation, prosperity and wealth. She is also called Mahalakshmi and Adi Shakti Gauri.
Day 5 – Panchami
The fifth day of Chaitra Navratri is also called Lakshmi Panchami and is dedicated to the worship of Skandmata. Skanda is the second name of Kartikeya.
Day 6 – Shashthi
The sixth day is dedicated to the worship of goddess Katyayani. She is the daughter of sage Katyayana and exhumes courage. She is an incarnation of Parvathi who killed the evil demon Mahisasura.
Day 7 – Saptami
The seventh day is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kalaratri. Kalaratri is considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga. She is believed to have killed the demons Sumbha and Nisumbha. Devotees pray Kalaratri seeking her blessing and protection from any kind of harm.
Day 8 – Ashtami
The day of Ashtami is desiccated to the worship of Mahagauri, who symbolizes peace and intelligence. Devotees worship Mahagauri to purify their souls and decimate their sins.
Day 9 – Navami
The ninth or the last day of Chaitra Navratri is also called “Rama Navami”. On this day goddess Sidhidatri is worshipped. She is believed to bestow excellence and abundance. Rama Navami also marks the birth of Lord Rama (a descendent of King Sudarshana).
Even though the navratri is a nine day is festival it ends on Dashmi or tenth day when devotees bid farewell to the goddess praying for her soon return.
Religious/Cultural Significance of “Chaitra Navratri”
The festival of Chaitra Navratri is significant from the point of view of religion as well as culture. The festival invokes the blessings of all the forms of goddess Durga, providing strength, stamina, vitality, prosperity, abundance, knowledge and wisdom to the devotees. The festival also reflects the religious beliefs and traditions of Hindus. It also reflects the extreme faith which the Hindu devotees bestow on their revered Goddess. It also reaffirms a deep rooted Hindu belief that Goddess Durga is the Mahashakti or the superior power and all the other forms are her reincarnation.
On the cultural side or more the biological side, Chaitra Navratri is celebrated on the onset of summer, when mother earth undergoes a major climatic change. The nine day long fast observed during the Navratri prepares one’s body for the oncoming summer heat. The fast cleanses your digestive system and rejuvenates it before the onset of summer and possible dietary changes.
The worship of Goddess Durga also reflects the place which women enjoy in a Hindu society. It manifests the equality and freedom that the women enjoy in Hindu society and that no Hindu religious custom can be completed without women.
Ancient and Modern Traditions of “Chaitra Navratra”
In ancient days Chaitra Navratra was celebrated observing strict self discipline and dietary restrictions. Devotees spend whole of their days in chanting mantras and worshipping goddess Durga. All the rituals were strictly performed and devotedly followed. In some cases people refrain from normal communicating with others living on only fruits and milk or milk products.
But due to busy schedules and obligations, people today are not able to dedicate much time in worshipping the Goddess; which they make up by visiting temples and chanting mantras whenever they have time. Though the fasting people refrain from eating wheat, rice and other grain products; many new products are being accepted for the intake during fasting in modern times. Today people eat a variety of products like – sabudana (tapioca pearls), Kuttu Atta (buckwheat flour), Makhana (fox nuts), Potato, Vrat ke Chawal (seed of a grass) etc.