Navratri Fasting Procedure
The festive season of Navratri begins on the first day of Ashvin, the seventh month of the lunisolar Hindu calendar. As the month falls in the season of Sharad (early autumn), it is also called the Sharad Navratri.
The festivities begin by performing the Ghata Pratipada or Ghatasthapana, where a pot is placed in a hallowed corner and a lamp is lit inside the pot, which is kept alighted throughout the nine days days. The followers then offer prayers and chant mantras to appease Shailaputri Maa, who is among the first of the Navrupas of the Devi to be worshiped. The deity is draped in a grey saree while devotees preferably clad themselves in yellow. The day is concluded with evening aarti, where devotees gather to sing bhajans dedicated to the Goddess.
While some of the devotees observe a very stringent form of the fast and abstain from even drinking water or any other fluids, others restrict themselves to one meal a day, generally the lunch. A variety of dishes are prepared using potato, saboodana, singhare ka atta but the use of common salt or other spices is prohibited. Rock salt or Sendha Namak is generally used as a substitute for common salt in the recipes. The elders observing the fast include fruits and juices in their diet and some even consume milk, tea, or coffee. Though over the years the norms for observing the fast have become more flexible, the devotees abstain completely from the consumption of alcohol and non-vegetarian food during these nine days.
For each of the next eight days, a different incarnation of Adi Shakti – Brahmcharñi, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri – are worshiped. Each deity is dressed in a particular colour and the devotees also adorn a particular hue which is considered auspicious for that particular day.
On Dwitiya or the second day of Navratri, Chandra Darshan Brahmacharini Pujan is performed for Devi Brahmcharñi. The second incarnation, dressed in orange is a symbol of elegance, divinity and spirituality. Green is the colour which worshippers choose to wear on this day.
The third incarnation Chandraghanta is worshiped on Tritiya, who is an embodiment of bravery, peace, and serenity. The devotees perform Sindoor Tritiya Chandraghanta Pujan, while adorned in the color, grey. Married women observe the Sindhoor Tritiya Sowbhagya Teej, for the long-life and prosperity of their husbands.
The deity of Kushmanda or the creator of universe is festooned in red on the fourth day and the devotees perform Bhouma Chaturthi pujan donned in orange.
Skandamata is the incarnation of the Supreme Being and is worshiped on Panchami. Decorated in blue, the deity is known to destroy demons and protect her followers. Upang Lalita Vrat Skandamata Pujan is performed on this day when the devotees adorn white to please the Devi.
Shasthi is the day when Katyayani, one of the fiercest forms of Durga is worshiped who adorns yellow attire. Devotees who observe the Saraswati Awahan Katyayani Pujan chose to wear red, a colour that is supposed to be auspicious on this day.
Kaalraatri, the one who destroys evil and ignorance and is also one among the Adi Shakti’s most violent incarnates is worshiped on the seventh day or the Saptami. Though fearsome, she is believed to end the negativity around her believers. While the color blue is considered auspicious for devotees, the deity is adorned in green on this day; both of which are the colors of a peacock.
Ashtami or the eighth day of Navratri marks the end of fasting for several devotees. They offer prayers to Mahagauri and perform the Kanchika Pujan, where young girls who are considered a manifestation of the Devi herself are worshiped. The Kanchikaas are served various delicacies such as puris (deep fried Indian bread), halwa (sweet dish made of suji) and Bengal gram curry. The devotees then end the fast by consuming the Prasad.
Some people end their fast on the occasion of Navami by following the same rituals. Devi Siddhidatri is worshiped on this day, who is believed to possess supernatural powers. The devotees adorn the color purple on the occasion of Navami, the same color donned by the deity.
The Kanchika Pujan marks the end of nine day long ceremonies and on the tenth day the Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami is celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil. Goddess Durga is ceremoniously bid adieu with hopes that happiness and prosperity prevail everywhere with her blessings.
Tips For Observing Fast
Apart from the religious significance of observing the fast, it also has enormous health benefits. It is a means of detoxifying and desalting the body naturally. With our sedentary lifestyles, it has become increasingly difficult to shed off the extra kilos and fasting is a natural way to maintain a healthy body. But like any other weight loss technique caution must be maintained and one should consider all factors before deciding on the right way to fast. These handy tips will help you reap the benefits of fasting during the auspicious occasion of Navratri.
- It is advisable for first time fasters, that instead of observing fast for entire duration of Navratri, they start with fasting for a day or two. Instead of observing the nirajal fast, where one abstains from even drinking water, first-timers can perform partial fasting.
- A healthy and easily digestible meal of grains and vegetables, preferably during lunch is advisable. They should consume 7-8 glasses of fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
- Nuts and fruits are rich sources of vitamins and are ideal for consumption during the fasting. Natural fruit juices also help in keeping the body hydrated.
- While many believe that it is not advisable to indulge in exercise during fasting, mild exercise can aid the process of detoxifying, while alleviating mental and spiritual awareness. Meditation and yoga help in relieving stress and expedite the healing process of the body and the soul.