Sharad Navratri, celebrated in the holy month of Ashwin as per the Hindu calendar, is also called Maha Navratri. It is one of the most significant amongst all the four Navratris celebrated in a year which are Chaitra Navratri, Paush Navratri, Magha Navratri and Sharad Navratri. This year, Navratri started on the 21st September 2017(Pratipada) and would end on 29th September. Navratri is celebrated for nine auspicious days and the ninth day of festival is known as Navami or Mahanavami. Mahanavami 2017 falls on 29th September.
Significance of Navami 2017
Navami is believed to be the last day of Goddess Durga’s fight with the buffalo demon Mahishasura. The battle that continued for days, ended on the tenth day, which we celebrate as Vijay Dashmi, on which Goddess Durga defeated Mahishasura. In parts of Bengal, where Durga Puja is celebrated with great gusto, pandals can be seen bustling with a huge crowd making merry in the festive vibe, gorging on delicious snacks and participating in cultural events, since it is the last day before Maa Durga takes her ride back to heaven. The rituals for Navami start with a holy bath followed with a special Shodhasopachar of the deity.
Ayudha or Astra Puja on Navami
In Karnataka, there is also a ritual of performing Ayudha Puja. It is performed on Ashwayuja Shudda Navami, also known as Mahanavami. On this occasion, weapons of the Goddess are worshiped. It is also a significant occasion for soldiers and artisans for whom it is an occasion to revere their weapons and tools. The puja is done to please the divine force and to be able to gain victory in every endeavor. The principal Shakti goddesses worshiped during the Ayudha puja are Saraswati (the Goddess of wisdom, arts and literature), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) and Parvati(the divine mother). In Mysore, the Royal sword also worshiped and is taken around the city in a procession on lavishly decorated elephants.
Kanya Puja or Kanjak
Another common ritual followed across the country is that of Kanya puja or Kanjak. This is usually performed on the eighth or the ninth (Navami) day of Navratri. Nine little girls that represent the nine forms of Goddess Durga welcomed into the house by first washing their feet and then tying moli (red thread) around their wrists. These girls seated in a line and given halwa, poori and chole (also known as ‘bhog’). These young girls that haven’t yet hit puberty seen as the embodiment of goddess Durga.
Telangana also celebrates the Bathukamma Panduga or the Bathukamma festival on Navami. This is a flower festival where the women of the house create beautiful flower arrangements and decorations in seven concentric layers in the shape of the Temple of Gopuram. ‘Bathukamma’ literally translates into ‘Mother Goddess come Alive’. The flower arrangements are an attempt to invoke Goddess Gauri-a form of Durga. This festival celebrates the glory and beauty of womanhood. Women wear new clothes and jewellery on this day.