“Sarva mangala maangalye Shive sarvaartha saadhike Sharanye Tryambake Gauri Naaraayani namostute”
(You are the all-auspicious Shivaa, the Shakti aspect. You grant all my wishes. O Triyambake, the Three-eyed one, you are also Gauri, the fair One and Naraayani, Vishnu’s Sister. I humbly bow at your Lotus Feet)
If we break the word Navratri it means means the ‘nine nights’ where ‘Nava’ means ‘nine’, and ‘ratri’ means ‘night’. It actually means nine nights for Hindu deity Ma Durga who has nine forms. This festival is observed twice a year, once in the beginning of summer and again at the onset of winter. This nine days long festival is celebrated at the beginning of autumn every year, when everything in nature starts undergoing transformation. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Devi are worshipped. The Navratri falls in the month of September or October is known as Sharada Navaratri on the tenth day of which Vijayadashami or “Dussehra” is celebrated.
Navratri rituals: Each day of the Navratri is dedicated to the Puja one particular aspect of the Devi, as mentioned below:
- The first day is the day of Kalash Puja or the Ghatasthapana. This is also the day of the Shailaputri Puja.
- The second day is the Preeti Dwitiya, which includes the Brahmacharini Puja
- The third day is the day for Chandrakanta Puja or Chandraghanta Puja
- The fourth day is for the Kushmanda Puja
- On the fifth day, the Lalita Panchami, the Skandamata Puja is performed
- Katyayani Puja is performed on the sixth day, the Maha Shashti or the Durga Shashti
- The seventh day of the Navratri is known as the Durga Saptami or Maha Saptami and includes the Kaalratri Puja
- On the eighth day or the Maha Ashtami, the Mahagauri Puja is performed. It is also called Durgashtami Puja or Veerashtami Puja
- The ninth day is the Mahanavami or the Maharnavami and includes the Siddhidatri Puja, also called the Durga Navami Puja
- The tenth and final day of Navratri is the Vijaya Dashami or the Dusshera. On this day the Shami Puja or Aparajitha Puja is performed.
Celebration in Jammu: Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. Here in Jammu, people sow barley grains in a bowl on the first day of Navratri. This is indicative of indicative of fertility worship and is commonly known as “Khetri”. Most of the people keep fast for seven days. On the eighth day they break their fast and reap the grown Khetri with Kanjak Poojan. People ceremonially feet of Little Girls as Girl Goddess, worship them and then offer them the traditional puri, halwa and chana to eat along with bangles and the red chunnis (scarves) to wear with a token amount of money as “shagun”. The reaped Khetri is then submerged into nearby water source mainly Tawi. People also perform Hawan on this occassion. Some people in Jammu perform this activity on ninth day of Navratri also.
People of Jammu also visit different temples for these nine days especially Bawe Wali Mata, Vaishno Devi and other shrines of Maa Durga across Jammu. Especially Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra see heavy rush pilgrims came to pay their obeisance during Navratras from all across the country.
Avoiding meat, alcoholic drinks, grains, wheat and onion during Navratris is also a very common practice among the people of the state.
Ramlila: The Ramlila is an enactment of Rama’s story and, indeed, the entire Ramayana epic for the nine long days of Navratri which used to culminate with burning effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Meghanada on Dusherra which indicates the victory of good over evil. This custom was an integral part Navratri during the old times but now has lost his sheen. In 1990’s, almost every mohalla in Jammu used to hold Ramlila in their nearby grounds of temple but now it is hardly seen anywhere.
Navratri Festival in Katra: In order to showcase and highlight the regional culture, heritage and traditions of the area during this period, the Jammu & Kashmir State Tourism Department has instituted the Navratri Festival as an annual event to be held in Katra, he base camp of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi yatra for all the nine auspicious days of the Navratris which has now become main highlight of Navratra in Jammu and Kashmir. This festival showcases the religious traditions as well as the popular culture of the region among the millions of pilgrims who visit the Vaishno Devi Shrine during this period.
Modern day Navratri in Jammu: With Jammu adopting different cultures with time, the change can also be seen in the celebration of Navratri in the city. ‘Dandiya’, a famous Gujrati dance performed during Navratra’s by the youngsters in the state of Maharashtra and Gujrat have started making in-roads in city of temples from the last of couple of years. Jammu is getting familiar with dandiya festival and the participation in this dance from the last couple of years speaks about the interest of people by participating in it and is getting famous day by day. Also Jammu is adopting the ‘Durga Pooja Culture’ here.