Sharad Navratri 2017 celebrations began on 21st September, and it will go on for nine days till 29th September 2017. There are a total of four Navratris in a year, but only two of them – Chaitra Navratri and Sharad Navratri – are celebrated in a grand way. Sharad Navratri is believed to be one of the most significant of all the Navratris and is celebrated in the holy month of Ashwin. Shakti or feminine power is celebrated or worshiped during the sacred time of Navratri. This includes, but is not limited to major Hindu goddesses, such as Durga and Kali.
Forms of shakti worshiped during Navratri are: Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba, Annapoorna Devi, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika, Lalita, Bhavani and Mookambika.
The end of Navratri, or the tenth day, marks Dusshera. Dusshera is celebrated as the day Lord Rama defeated the demon King Ravan in Lanka, which is described in detail in the holy Hindu epic, Ramayana. The tenth day is celebrated around the globe by setting extremely large statues of Ravana’s( a deomen in Indian culture) on fire, representing the conquering of good over evil. According to the epic, following this victory Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshman as well as Lord Hanuman travelled back to their kingdom of Ayodhya.
Diwali is celebrated twenty days after, as the day Lord Rama returns to Ayodhya as the king. Diwali is known as the festival of lights, signified through diyas, which were lit to guide Lord Rama coming back to his kingdom, after 14 years of exile.
During these nine days,which are very sacred, Hindus perform several pujas, offer delicious bhog and prasad to Goddess Durga, and observe ritualistic fasts to please their beloved deity. Those observing the fast refrain from consuming any cereals, non-vegetarian food and alcohol. They prepare their daily meals with vrat ingredients like singhara atta, buckwheat flour, sabudana, fresh fruits, sendha namak and samak ke chaawal.
Dedicated to the nine forms of Durga or Navdurga, Navratri is celebrated in honor of Goddess Durga or Shakti – the most powerful feminine power. Among the many rituals of Navratri, there is also a common tradition followed by women across Gujarat and Maharashtra where they dress in beautiful attire according to special Navratri colors dedicated to each of the nine days and the nine forms of Goddess Durga.