Chaitra Navratri is a Hindu festival that celebrates the nine forms of Goddess Durga, the supreme mother goddess who represents power, courage and victory over evil. It is observed in the month of Chaitra (March-April) according to the Hindu lunar calendar, which marks the beginning of a new year. Chaitra Navratri is also known as Vasant Navratri or Spring Navratri, as it coincides with the arrival of spring season.

The festival lasts for nine nights and ten days, starting from the first day (Pratipada) of Chaitra Shukla Paksha (the bright fortnight) and ending on the ninth day (Navami) with Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Each day of Chaitra Navratri is dedicated to a different form of Goddess Durga, who is worshipped with devotion, fasting and rituals.

The nine forms of Goddess Durga are:

  • Shailaputri: The daughter of Himalaya, who rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus.
  • Brahmacharini: The ascetic form, who walks barefoot and holds a rosary and a water pot.
  • Chandraghanta: The warrior form, who has a crescent moon on her forehead and rides a tiger.
  • Kushmanda: The creator form, who has eight arms and resides in the sun.
  • Skandamata: The mother form, who holds her son Skanda (Kartikeya) on her lap and rides a lion.
  • Katyayani: The fierce form, who was born from the anger of gods and slayed demon Mahishasura.
  • Kalaratri: The dark form, who has black skin and three eyes and destroys evil forces.
  • Mahagauri: The fair form, who has white complexion and wears white clothes and jewels.
  • Siddhidatri: The giver form, who grants all kinds of siddhis (supernatural powers) to her devotees.

Chaitra Navratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm across India by different communities. Some common rituals include:

  • Ghatasthapana: The installation of an earthen pot filled with water and grains on an altar decorated with flowers, fruits and leaves. A coconut wrapped in red cloth is placed on top of the pot as a symbol of Goddess Durga. A lamp is lit near the pot for nine days.
  • Kalash Puja: The worship of the sacred pot by offering prayers, incense sticks, vermilion powder etc. every morning and evening for nine days.
  • Durga Saptashati Path: The recitation or listening to the 700 verses from Devi Mahatmyam that narrate the glory of Goddess Durga and her battles with demons.
  • Fasting: Many devotees observe fasts for nine days or on selected days during Chaitra Navratri. They abstain from eating grains, salt etc. Some people eat only fruits or milk products while others eat only one meal per day after sunset. Fasting helps to purify one’s body and mind as well as express devotion to Goddess Durga.

Chaitra Navratri is also associated with various cultural events such as:

  • Garba/Dandiya Raas: A traditional dance performed by men and women wearing colorful clothes in circular movements around an image or idol of Goddess Durga. It originated in Gujarat but has become popular across India during Chaitra Navratri.
  • Ram Leela/Ramlila/Ramayanam/Ram Katha/Ram Charit Manas etc.: Various forms of theatrical performances based on the epic story of Lord Rama’s life that depict his birth, exile, adventures, battles and return to Ayodhya after defeating demon king Ravana.

These performances are held at various places during Chaitra Navratri culminating on Ram Navami.

Chaitra Navratri is a festival that celebrates not only spring season but also spiritual awakening. It reminds us to invoke Goddess Durga’s blessings for overcoming our inner enemies such as ego, anger, greed, lust etc. It also inspires us to follow Lord Rama’s example of righteousness, courage, compassion and devotion.