Updated: Sep 27
Gratitude: I bow down to Maa Durga who defeated the buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. I bow down to her to accept me as her daughter, hold the hands of this insignificant being, and taking to the path to adopting a holistic lifestyle and spreading awareness about the same.
With the Sharad Navratri, let’s celebrate the feminine nature/form 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 the most popular. This 9-night, 10-day festival bears high religious, spiritual, and cultural significance.
What do 9 nights of Navratri stand represent?
The Nine number represents the nine months that are spent in the mother’s womb for the fetus to grow and develop. So, nine days of Navaratri for bodily purification, mental stabilization, and spiritual growth. The Kalpas (Puranas) of Hindu mythology define the 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). These divine powers are also believed to represent the cosmos as the Earth, the Sun and the Moon. Ayurveda defines 3 levels of existence: physical (body), subtle (mind) and causal (soul), which may be associated with these three dimensions of Shakti. Hence, the first three days of Navrati are dedicated to Durga or Kali, the next three to Lakshmi, and the last three to Saraswati.Now “Ratri” can be broken down into “ra” which means solace and “tri” which refers to the three levels of human existence – physical (body), subtle (mind) and causal (soul). Every night, all beings rest, and sleep to recover from the stresses of the day, to wake up rested, relaxed and rejuvenated. Similarly, this period of nine nights is for rest, detoxification and renewal of sorts. Hence the terms “new”, “nine” and “nights”. So, Navaratri is also a time for bringing about solace and rest at all levels of our existence.
Navaratri Practices and their Relation to Ayurvedic principles
Trigunas and Navaratri
These Three Shakti’s are also symbolic of the 3 Gunas (virtues/qualities): tamas (inertia), rajas (activity, passion), and sattva (knowledge, purity), respectively which we are going to discuss further in detail.
The nine days of Navaratri are further broken down into 3-day periods. Each three-day period is attributed to a particular guna (mental quality). The focus is to overcome tamas and rajas (in that order), to finally bring an increase in sattva within ourselves and our environments. Each three-day period is dedicated to a particular Goddess. Now, here the association with religion is a bit strong – probably was a way to connect with the people by giving them a godly figure that they could relate to. But even in these times, whether we are believers or not, we can still get the import of the message, without getting fixated on the religious aspect of things, if we so desire.
The first three days are for the Tamo/ Tamas guna – when we overcome any dullness or lethargy, shake off our ignorance and fear, work towards releasing our stagnant and blocked emotions and energy and work towards getting rid of all negative addictions and mind-body tendencies. This first three-day period is dedicated to Goddess Durga, who symbolizes freedom from fear, instilling determination, willpower, and courage!
The second three-day period is for the Rajo guna or Rajas – when we overcome distraction or turbulence of the mind, transcend our egos, anger, desires, greed, envy, and impatience and turn inward to seek peace, rather than outward for stimulation. This period is for Goddess Lakshmi who symbolizes the abundance of not just wealth, but of other things like food, progeny, talents, courage, and prosperity in general. Overall, the message is that of “abundance” in both spiritual and material terms to bring prosperity and well-being.
The last three-day period is for the Sattva guna – when calmness, clarity, and harmony prevail when we have moved our focus and consciousness inward. In this state, we see the good in everything and look at life, in general, as a learning experience. This period is for Goddess Saraswati who symbolizes knowledge, arts, and purity. Overall, the message is about the free flow of wisdom, and consciousness.
Once Navaratri is over, Vijayadashami (the tenth day – the day of victory) is celebrated. This is the day of culmination in the awakening of our heightened consciousness and knowledge. In many parts of India, new learning is initiated on this day which is called “Vidyaarambam” (beginning of knowledge).
Our consciousness needs to transition from tamas to Rajas to Sattva, in which it blossoms. The message during Navaratri is to harmonize the three Gunas and elevate sattva in the atmosphere. Whenever sattva dominates in life, victory follows.
Fasting During Navratri
Besides religious perspective there is a scientific overview of fasting, fasting helps the human body too.
Detoxification – During Varsha Ritu/ Monsoon, - The strength of the person becomes less, due to vitiation of Vata Dosha and Agni. There is accumulation of Pitta Dosha in this season. However, during Vasant Ritu, Deranged Kapha dosha deposited in Shishira Ritu is liquefied in Vasant Ritu which again reduces digestive fire leading to many diseases or aggravation of diseases which were present in winter.
Now look at the timing of two major Navaratri – it occurs twice a year during “ritusandhi” (between seasons), which is the optimal time according to Ayurveda to detoxify the system.
Ayurveda boasts about fasting as a good way to detoxify the body. Fasting is known to digest ama (toxic build-up) in the body, re-ignite the agni (digestive fire) and in general, to help with maintaining good metabolism & health. Fasting on fruit and water, water alone, juices or certain select foods only etc. is recommended.
Mindfulness – Fasting gives our digestive system time to rest. During fasting human body consumes fat as primary source of energy because of lack of carbohydrates in diet and the metabolic end product of fat is ketone bodies, ketone bodies are the energy source of brain and it promotes more acetylcholine release from nerves which finally increases one’s concentration and calculating ability and it stimulates the release of serotonin which is the hormone for happiness.
Self-discipline – Fasting brings the human body and mind to a more disciplined and ideal state which is difficult to achieve in daily life activities without fasting, this, in turn, helps in weight loss too.
Fast does not mean ‘not eating. Rather it basically means controlling the desires and simultaneously cultivating positive mental attitudes. Desires can be of many types: to eat tasty food, smell, listen to particular music, lust, etc. Fast, therefore, can be of many types. Food fast means controlling the desire for food items that you otherwise may not resist eating. In Navratri, during the first three days, a person is required to indulge in activities that reduce the negativity in the body. Physical purification involves a regular bath (of the external body as well as various orifices); a mental bath which involves self-confession exercises, and willful attempts not to think negatively. During these days, a person tries to restrain himself/herself from thinking, speaking, or doing any activity which can harm another person. These negative thoughts should also not be suppressed or repressed as otherwise; they will manifest into some internal diseases.
The next three days, after the negativity in the mind, has been reduced, involve building positivity in the mind by way of various positive mental exercises. The last three days involve reading and understanding good scriptures and learning from the sins of others. Once you have bid goodbye to negativity in the first three days (representing Kali) and have built up happiness and positivity in the mind (representing Lakshmi) the only thing left is to acquire spiritual knowledge (representing Saraswati).
During these last three days, a person is purified enough to understand and grasp the knowledge of ‘Self’ and to understand and discriminate between good and bad. After the nine days of self-discipline is complete, the person acquires inner happiness which is nothing but one’s exposure or appointment with the true self or the consciousness (Rama).
Here, 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 worldly desire or demons and attaining inner happiness.
Practicing Silence, Meditation
The practice of silence, and mediation – of consciously withdrawing our energy and attention from outer distractions – has been used in different traditions including Ayurveda and Yoga, throughout time as a pathway to physical, mental, and spiritual renewal. Navaratri is a time for celebrations – but also a time for deep silence, inward focus and meditation.
Navratri Decorations at Home
Navratri festival signifies a change in season and weather. During the nine days, our body prepares to transition between hot and cold weather and balances our doshas. By the end of nine days, our bodies & minds get cleanse and rejuvenate from within. We become ready welcome and celebrate the auspicious days with special pujas, fasting, meditations, and Navratri foods.
Declutter your home.
Clutter lying in the house affects mental health. Cleaning & decluttering living spaces have stress-relieving benefits and also give clarity in thoughts. So, begin by discarding or donating items you do not require in the place before buying new home décor items.
Choose the color based on Navratri Day
Each Navratri day is dedicated to a different goddess and is represented by a specific color. This color dedicated to each day is fixed on the first day. It depends on the weekday when Navratri begins, and the remaining eight days of Navratri follow a fixed color sequence.
The secret of the color change lies in the weekday on which Pratipada, the first day of Navaratri, falls. The remaining eight days follow a fixed cycle of colors. The first Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be having White, Red, Royal blue, Yellow, Green, Grey and Orange, respectively. Hence, 7 colors are covered by one-week cycle. In second cycle of week, the first repeating week day follows Pink and purple and/or sky blue, alternatively. Hence, 2 colors cover the remaining 2 days.
Day 1– White (Goddess Shailputri): White is symbol of peace, prayer, faith, and strength. Goddess Shailaputri wearing a white attire is worshipped on this day.
Day 2– Red (Goddess Bhramacharini): This is the favorite color of goddess Durga, it defines power and love and passion. Red fills a person with vigor & vitality.
Day 3– Royal Blue (Goddess Chandraghanta): Royal Blue is a vivid shade of color Blue and represents strong energy, richness and tranquility.
Day 4– Yellow (Goddess Kushmanda): Yellow is the color of Happiness, bring optimism, confidence and enthusiasm. This bright color keeps a person enthusiastic all day long. Goddess Kushmanda, who is also known as the creative power of the Universe, is worshipped on the fourth day.
Day 5– Green (Goddess Skandamata): The green color represents nature and evokes feelings of growth, fertility, peace, prosperity, and serenity. It also represents new beginnings in life. The fifth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Skandmata.
Day 6– Grey (Goddess Katyayani): Grey color represents dignity & connects to the divine power and provide protection. It also represents balanced emotions and keeps the person down-to-earth.
Day 7– Orange (Goddess Kalratri): Orange is the color of fame, name, and money. Worshipping Goddess Navdurga wearing Orange color bestows the person with qualities such as warmth and exuberance. This color is full of positive energy and keeps the person upbeat.
Day 8– Peacock Green (Goddess Mahagauri): Peacock Green implies uniqueness and individuality. It is also a color of compassion and freshness. Stand out in the crowd wearing this exquisite shade of Blue and Green on this day of Navratri.
Day 9– Pink (Goddess Siddhidatri): Wear Pink color on this day of Navratri celebrations. Pink symbolizes universal love, affection and harmony. It is an attractive color, makes the person approachable and simultaneously adds oodles of charm to one’s personality. It also represents hope and the new beginning.
Decorate your home according to the color theme. Place painted terracotta pots, cushion covers, table-cover, rugs, curtains, and flowers, and add to the festivities with color synchronization.
Offerings, Prayers, and Blessing seek on each day during Navratri
In spirituality, as we understand the supreme power/almight is incorporeal and beyond experiencing anything and doesn’t eat anything, the fragrance does reach Him/her. Flowers symbolise calmness, purity, and beauty. Though the Bhog offered to the God is not eaten in literal terms, but it is the way of paying gratitude to almighty that with the emotions that everything in this universe belong to him and we are thankful for all that supreme power has blessed us with. It is the way of offering the the fruit of our love with the return of divine love. This practice makes you feel grounded
How to make an offering to the Almighty:
We understand that everything in the universe is created and driven by energy, whereas God is the supreme source of energy. Even our thoughts also carry a certain amount of energy. Hence asked to set intentions while making offerings and seek from God such that whoever eats that food would get spiritual power and be satisfied by just eating a little. The classic example of this was observed in scripts of Mahabharta when Rishi Durvasa along with Rishis wanted to visit Pandavas for a lunch feast and there was no food left in Draupadi’s kitchen. She prayed to Lord Krishna and offered him a grain of rice and the whole world was fed with the single grain of rice.
On the first day, Goddess Shailaputri is worshipped with Hibiscus flower and pure ghee is offered to the deity in her feet and the deity blesses her devotees with a disease-free life.
Goddess Brahmacharini is worshipped on the second day. She blesses her devotees with purity and piousness if she is offered chrysanthemums or Shevanti flowers. She loves sugar in food. The Goddess also blesses you with long life.
On The third day, Maa Chandraghanta is worshipped with lotus flower and milk or milk sweets to bless the devotee to get rid of all sufferings and worldly problems.
Kushmanda Devi loves jasmine flowers. Her favorite food is maal pua. Offering These two to Devi on the fourth day bestows her devotees – with power, strength, and intellect.
On the fifth day, Skandamata is worshipped with yellow rose flowers. Banana is her favorite bhog. Offer these things to the goddess to get liberated from all the problems in your life and keep yourself physically fit.
Marigold is the favorite flower of Goddess Katyayani. On the sixth day of Navaratri, devotees worship this form of Nava Durga with jasmine flowers and offer her honey as bhog. The goddess blesses her devotees with good health, wealth, and prosperity.
Kaalratri is the seventh incarnation. Offering her pass flora or Krishna Kamal flower/ blue flowers and jaggery may make you fearless, tension-free, and calm.
On the eighth day, Mahagauri is worshipped by offering her Arabian Jasmine or Mogra flowers and coconut. The goddess may bless you with peace and tranquillity. She also fulfills the wishes of childless couples with child.
Siddhidatri Devi loves to be worshipped by Champa flowers. Sesame seeds are offered to please her. The goddess may bless you with power and energy. Also, she may remove the unpleasant things and happenings from your life.
Boost positive energy with soft spiritual music & Satsang
Music uplifts your mood and has healing properties. Listening to soulful, spiritual music during the Navratri days will give a divine ambience to your home. This practice sets your intentions right and make you surrender to the nature and almighty. Some other practices like Sound bowls are known for their calming effect on our minds. Wind chimes and water-based décor items also bring positive vibes to the house. Satsang – “The Association with Satya” which in practice translates to, among other things, communing with other like-minded aspirants of truth and sattva; is another practice that has always been revered by Ayurveda, Yoga and the ancient holistic sciences. It is an important part of Navaratri celebrations.
Use aromatherapy for purification of the home
Aromatherapy helps balance the body and mind. It has healing effects, as per Ayurveda. Urli or a pot with water, fresh desi rose, and jasmine petals is a great décor idea for Navratri days. Incense sticks and dhoop bati give our pleasant aroma to please your senses.
Decorating our homes for Navaratri is a special part of the entire celebration. The festive look and feel of the house enhance our spirituality, positivity, and happiness.
In this day and age of nuclear families and fast-paced living, many of us celebrate our religious festivals, even miles away from our homelands. We do this for various reasons – one of them being to keep the spark of culture alive even for our kids. Yet after reading all of this, it definitely will make you think how rich and noble our traditions are. It is easy to misunderstand that all of our festivals are a form of penance to some or other god, but truly, in a subtle way, these are meant to help ourselves in growing us into better human beings.