By honoring the unfathomable power of Goddess Durga in defeating a buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura, Navratri celebrates the feminine nature of the divine. Navratri is a Sanskrit term where ‘Nav’ translates to ‘nine’ and ‘Ratri’ to ‘night’.
Also known as Durga Puja, this festival comes five times a year: Chaitra Navratri, Gupta Navratri, Sharada Navratri or Maha Navratri, Paush Navratri, Magha Navratri. Among these, Chaitra Navratri and Sharada Navratri are most popular. This 9-night, 10-day festival bears high religious, spiritual, and cultural significance.
What do 9 nights of Navratri stand for?
As per the Kalpas (Puranas), there are three dimensions of Shakti (the feminine energy): Mahakali (strength or power), Mahalakshmi (wealth, passion and material well-being), and Mahasaraswati (knowledge, dissolution, transcendence of the limitations of the mortal body). They are believed to represent the cosmos as the Earth, the Sun and the Moon.
They are also symbolic of the 3 gunas (virtues/qualities): tamas (inertia), rajas (activity, passion) and sattva (knowledge, purity), respectively. Therefore, the first three days are dedicated to Durga or Kali, the next three to Lakshmi, and the last three to Saraswati. The tenth day is called Vijayadashmi (or Dussehra) where ‘Vijaya’ means victory – of good over evil, the victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon king, Ravana.
Ravana’s ten heads represent ten negative qualities – Kaam (Lust), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment), Ahankar (Ego), Bhay (Fear), Irshya (Jealousy), Jadta (Inertia), Dvesh (Hate), and Paschataap (Guilty). Hence, this day also signifies victory over our own minds.