Navaratri (nine nights) is one of the Hindu festivals. Navaratri takes place at the beginning of October around harvest time and, as the name implies, this festival is celebrated for nine days.
There were many different explanations of this holiday and it was difficult to know what to say on this page. It seems different regions have different twists on this holiday. So the two main themes I saw when researching this holiday were:
1) The explanation of the holiday is one of good conquering over evil.
According to the Hindu legend, a demon by the name of Mahishasura had earned favor from Lord Shiva after a long penance. Lord Shiva was so overwhelmed with his devotion that he granted him a boon – no man or deity could kill him. Mahishasura, pleased with his boon started reigning terror over the Universe. Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv created a female deity, who had the ultimate power, was radiant and extremely beautiful.
She was named Durga, or Shakti or Pavrati, and the Lords bestowed upon her their weapons which symbolize her ten hands – Indra’s Vajra, Shiva’s Trishul, Vishnu’s Sudarshan chakra, Varun’s conch, Agni’s spear, Vasuki`s snake, Yama’s iron rod, sword and shield, Vishwakarma’s axe and finally Lord Himavat gifted her with her jewels and a lion to ride on.
When Mahishasura and Durga met in battlefield, she kept defeating demon after demon which enraged him and he changed into a buffalo. Durga’s lion engaged the buffalo in a battle and Durga killed Mahishasura. Thus, we call her “Mahishasuramardini”. The battle went on for nine days and nine nights, hence the name ‘Navratri’. - See more here
2) Navaratri is about celebrating the Supreme Goddess in her different forms. The holiday is divided into sets of three days to adore different aspects of the supreme goddess. On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga, in order to destroy all impurities, vices and defects.. Durga is one of the many incarnations of Shiva's wife. She is also known as Parvati (see the post on Ganesh Chaturhi). The next three days, the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi , who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth. The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order have all-round success in life, one would need the blessings of all three aspects of the divine mother (http://hinduism.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/a/navaratri.htm) .
During Navaratri, some devotees observe a fast and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. It is a period of introspection and purification, Navaratri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures. Some celebrate it by buying new clothes, eating specially prepared food and sweets and by dancing.
I also saw several sites that said planting seeds is a part of the holiday. Seeds are planted on the first day and then they will have sprung up in sprouts by the 9th and these sprouts are then plucked and given to guests as a sign of a blessing from God.
To explain to the boys I kept it simple. I said this holiday is about celebrating the Mother in the Hindu religion, and it celebrates different sides of the Mother. All people have different parts of themselves, the one that is a child, or a friend, or a thinker, or an artist- and this holiday celebrates those different sides of the main Mother figure in Hindusim. I also said it is a holiday that celebrates good things being more powerful then bad things. So even when bad things happen we can learn from our mistakes and do better the next time. Anything else I think would have been a little too abstract for them.
For our craft we decorated flower pots as a nod to the planting of seeds tradition. So instead of planting seeds we made a wind chime. You will need a few different sizes of flower pots, some paint, and some rope. I was hoping to have 9 pots for the 9 days, but alas only 6 were available- so that'w what we used.
I had all three of the boys paint the flower pots. There was some wild mixing and some careful painting, along with some finger painting- but together they make a wonderful wind chime.
Next let the pots dry. For assembly put a rope through the largest pot first and make a loop from which your wind chime can be hung. Then thread the long rope through each of the holes in the pots and knot the rope where you want each pot to sit.
For our food. I decided to go savory on this one. This was my first attempt at cooking with Paneer. Again living in Germany and not being so awesome at the German language I had to guess what was Paneer-like cheese. This time I got lucky on the first try, unlike my attempt at whipped cream when we made our Confucius birthday cake, and it turned out really yummy. All three of the boys ate it up for lunch and my husband ate the leftovers, so this will go into our regular rotation. We were inspired by this recipe here. I made a few changes because of what we had or rather didn't have in the pantry.
- paneer or another cheese that won't melt immediately when heated and has a texture similar to firm tofu.
- can of tomato puree
- dash of cloves
- dash of cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin
- black pepper
- 2 tomatoes diced
- grated tsp of fresh ginger
- 3 green chilies
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Cut the paneer or cheese into 1” cubes. Cut each tomato into 8 parts. Deseed and chop the green chilies.
Heat the olive oil and add the ginger. Saute the ginger and add the tomato puree.
Add the spices and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add the cheese cubes and allow to simmer for 5-6 mins. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 2-3 mins. Serve hot.
At the end of Navarati is the holiday of Dasara, so stay tuned for the Dasara food and craft!