Chaitra Navratri falls on the 6th of April this year and will go on till the 14th of April 2019. The nine-day festive occasion starts on the first day of the Hindu Lunar-Solar calendar. Chaitra is considered the first month of the Hindu calendar and this is the reason why Navratri that falls in the months of March-April is called Chaitra Navratri. The festival of Chaitra Navratri is also called Vasanta Navratri and Rama Navratri, as the birthday of Lord Rama which is celebrated as Ram Navami, usually falls on the ninth day of Navratri. Navratri, in Sanskrit, means nine nights.
Chaitra Navratri is popular in Northern India, however, it is also celebrated in other parts of the country with the same fervor. In Maharashtra, Chaitra Navratri begins on the same day as Gudi Padwa and in Andhra Pradesh, it starts with Ugadi.
Devotees across the country pray to Goddess Durga by offering flowers, fruits and Prasad. The idols of Goddess Durga are decorated with kumkum, bangles, jeweled attires, and flowers. They clean their homes to welcome the Goddess. Some people also choose to fast during the first and the last day of Navratri, while some fast for all nine days.
The Nine Days
The nine days of Navratri are devoted to the nine forms of Goddess Durga.
||Deity to be Worshipped
||Maa Shailputri Puja
||Maa Brahmacharini Puja
||Maa Chandraghanta Puja
||Maa Kushmanda Puja
||Maa Skandamata Puja
||Maa Katyayani Puja
||Maa Kalaratri Puja
||Maa MahaGauri Puja/Ram Navami
||Maa Siddhidatri Puja
||Maa Katyayani Puja
Most of the rituals and customs observed during Sharad Navratri are also observed during Chaitra Navratri. The rituals followed for Ghatasthapana Puja Vidhi are the same for both the Navratris.
Ghatasthapana as mentioned above, most of the customs and rituals observed are common to both forms of Navratri, however, Ghatasthapana and Sandhi Puja are more popular.
Ghatasthapana is one of the foremost rituals of Navratri as it marks the beginning of the nine days of festivity. Our sacred texts and scriptures have defined the rules and guidelines to perform Ghatasthapana. It is the invocation of Goddess Durga and is not performed during night and Amavasya. The most auspicious time of performing Ghatasthapana is during the first one-third part of the day when Pratipada is prevailing.
Sandhi Puja is performed on the eighth day of Navratri. The day has a special significance as it is done on the moment when Ashtami Tithi ends and Navami Tithi begins. It is believed that Goddess Chamunda appeared during this time to kill the demons, Chanda and Munda.
All throughout the nine days, different forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped and each form is offered a different form of Prasad. For instance, Goddess Chandraghanta is offered a prasad of milk and sweets while Goddess Kalraatri is offered jaggery or sweets made of jaggery and Goddess Katyayani is given honey.
Goddess Shailputri, Goddess Brahmacharini, and Goddess Chandraghanta are offered Jasmine (Chameli), while Goddess Kushmanda and Goddess Skandamata are offered Red color flowers. Goddess Katyayani is offered red color flowers especially rose and Goddess Kalaratri and Goddess Mahagauri are offered Night blooming jasmine (Raat ki Rani)
During the nine days of Navratri, Hindus refrain from eating non-vegetarian food, quit consuming alcohol and smoking. Some also consume food without onions and garlic. The scientific reason behind eating light during Navratri is because of the change in season. Since both forms of Navratri are celebrated during the change of season, our body’s immunity and digestive system weaken during the transitions of the seasons. For this reason, it is recommended to eat light to avoid problems like indigestion and flatulence.
Some of the delicacies served during Navratri are Sabudana khichdi, fruit chaat, kheer, and kuttu ki poori. Ingredients like singhara atta, kuttu atta, milk, fresh vegetables, makhane, and yogurt are preferred to cook with as they are light on the stomach and are easy to digest.