Nine Nights of Navratri festival
Names of Navratri GoddessesThe names of nine goddesses or "nau devi" are Shailputri mata, Brahmcharini mata, Chandraghanta mata, Kushmanda mata, Sakand mata, Kattyaini mata, Kalratri mata, Mahagauri mata, Siddhidatri mata.The nine-day Navratri festival occurs twice a year once in the month of Chaitra and then in Aswayuja.
Khetri Pujan in NavratrasOn the first day of the Navaratras, a small bed of mud and sand along with jaun or wheat and water is prepared starting the puja and thus seeds are sown on to it. This is called as khetri(wheat grown in mud pot). At the end of the Navratri festival, the shoots are about 3 - 5 inches in length. This is a sign of prosperity and abundance. After the puja, the seedlings (looking like long grass) are pulled out from the mud pot and are poured in the running water like in the river or a pond.
3 Days each for Durga, Lakshmi and SaraswatiThe first three days of Navratre are believed to be dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy, the next three days are dedicated to Lakshmi Maa, the goddess of peace and prosperity and the last three days are dedicated to Saraswati Maa, the goddess of learning and knowledge who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge.
Navratri fasts and Kanya PujanPeople observe fasts during these days and offer prayers to the goddess Durga for health, wealth and prosperity. The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahaashtami or the eighth day although some people do it on Mahanavmi, the ninth day in which devotees break their fast. Kanya Pujan is performed on this day. Young girls representing the forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped on this day. Young boys are also called in the homes. All these young girls and boys go to different homes where the kanya pujan or “kanjak” (in Punjabi) is performed.
These little ones are offered pooris or puris (deep-fried Indian bread), chanas (Bengal gram), halwa (a dessert primarily made of flour and sugar) along with red chunnis (long scarves) and some rupees. Some people also provide gifts to these young ones.