Even though Navaratri falls at least five times a year, the one that is celebrated in Singapore is the Maha Navratri or the Sharadiya Navarathri. Maha Navarathri, observed in the lunar month of the Hindu calendar, Ashvin, is the most significant and famous of the five. The nine days of Navaratri are devoted to nine forms of the Goddess Shakti or Goddess Durga. The festival comes to a crescendo on the tenth day with Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra.
Navratri is one of the most significant festivals in the Hindu tradition marking the triumph of good over evil. It also symbolises embarking on the journey from humanness to divinity. Goddess Shakti is representative of the female energy of the universe, the supreme source of all power who is responsible for taking care of the entire cosmos and feeding it. She is often heralded as 'Durga, Durgati Nashini' in a Sanskrit verse which means the divine power which brings an end to all misery and sufferings. This festival is celebrated to call upon her and seek her eternal blessings and protection from afflictions.
As the legend goes, there was once an evil demon called Mahishasura who prayed to the Gods in Heaven as he wished to be invincible. After his continuous penance bore fruit, he became a threat to all the three worlds. To save the three worlds from eternal captivity, all the Gods joined hands to create powerful, feminine energy in the form of Goddess Durga. Mahishasura, who had considered the female power to be too inconsequential to destroy him, did not seek for invulnerability to the feminine energy. What followed was an incessant war for nine days between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, after which the Goddess vanquished the buffalo-headed demon.
Each day of this glorious festival is wholly dedicated to a different incarnation of the Goddess Shakti and a different colour characterises all the days.
Shailaputri (The First Day)
Commonly referred to as Pratipada, the first day of Navarathri is devoted to Shailaputri. Depicted as riding a bull with a lotus in her left hand and a Trishul in her right, it is in this form that the deity is worshipped as the partner of Lord Shiva. The colour of this day is royal blue.
Brahmacharini (The Second Day)
On the second day, also known as Dwitiya, Goddess Brahmacharini is worshipped. This is the unmarried self of Goddess Durga. This incarnation is worshipped for the endowment of prosperity and peace and for attaining moksha. Symbolising serenity and bliss, Brahmacharini is portrayed as holding a kamandalu and a japamala in her hands while walking barefoot. Yellow, depicting energy, is the colour of the day.
Chandraghanta (The Third Day)
Tritiya, or the third day, marks the worshipping of Goddess Chandraghanta, who symbolises bravery and beauty. The name of this incarnation is derived from the belief that after getting married to Shiva, Goddess Durga embellished her forehead with a half-moon. The colour of the day is green, symbolising the enchanting appearance and courage.
Kushmunda (The Fourth Day)
Kushmunda is the representative of the creative energy of the universe. Shown to be seated on a lion, this incarnation has eight arms and is worshipped on the fourth day or Chathurthi. The colour of the day is grey.
Skandamata (The Fifth Day)
Worshipped on the fifth day, or Panchami, the four-armed Skandamata is believed to be the mother of Kartikeya, who is also known as Skanda. Riding a ferocious lion while holding a baby, she represents the strength of a mother that reveals itself when her child is in danger. The colour of the day is orange, symbolising immense strength.
Katyayani (The Sixth Day)
The sixth day, or Shashti, is dedicated to the courageous Katya, who was born to a sage. Also referred to as the warrior goddess, she has four hands and is portrayed as riding a lion. She is believed to be one of the most ferocious forms of Goddess Durga, and her courage is symbolised by the colour white.
Kalratri (The Seventh Day)
Revered on the seventh day, or Saptami, Goddess Kalratri is the most violent incarnation of Goddess Durga. It is a popular belief that on this day, Goddess Durga shuns her fair skin and turns black to defeat the demons Sumbha and Nisumbha. The colour of the day is red, representing vigour and anger.
Mahagauri (The Eighth Day)
Symbolising tranquillity and intelligence, Mahagauri is worshipped on Ashtami, the eighth day. Royal blue, representing optimism and positive vibes, is the colour of the day.
Ayudha (The Ninth Day)
The ninth day, commonly known as Navami, is dedicated to Goddess Ayudha. On this day, people worship their vehicles, equipment, tools and books. They are adorned with vermillion, mango leaves, banana saplings and garlands. The colour associated to this day is pink.
These nine nights and ten days are spent in merry-making and offering prayers, with feasting and enjoyment.
The Dandiya Raas which is the traditional folk dance of Rajasthan and Gujarat is the highlight of the festival. People get decked up in gorgeous ethnic attire and take part in this captivating and energetic dance in the evenings.
Falling on the month of Ashvin on the Hindu lunar calendar, the corresponding dates of Navarathri in 2018 is from the 10th of October to the 18th of October.
Every year, the Singapore Gujarati Society organises Navarathri at different venues within Singapore.
Navaratri is one of the most glorious Hindu festivals and is celebrated with great pomp and pomposity throughout Singapore. The vibrant colours and the faithful devotees give the Lion City an extraordinary aura. This religious festival ironically unites all the different religions together and brings people closer.
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