Vrindavan, 2017.09.23 (VT): Navaratri means ‘nine nights spent worshipping shakti’, the female principle of divine energy. The Navaratri festival takes place twice per year and is currently underway. This year the festival falls from 21st to 29th September.
Every Navaratri, crowds gather at popular Durga temples, especially Katyayani temple, where the gopis of Vrindavan are said to have prayed to Mother Durga to get Krishna as their husband.
Srimad Bhagavatam 10.22 includes this prayer from the gopis of Vrindavan:
“Katyayani Mahamaye Mahayoginyadhishwari
Nanda Gopa Sutam Devi Patim Me Kuru Te Nama”
“O Katyayani! Hey! Hey Mahayogini! Oh, all-powerful goddess! We bow down to you and beg you to make the son of Nand our husband.”
The Mother Goddess is also considered to be a Brajwasi herself, as she was born in Gokul as the twin sister of Shri Krishna. The Durga Saptashati 11.42states:
“Nanda gopa grihe jaata yashoda garbha sambavaa“
“I will be born in Nanda’s house from the womb of Yashoda.”
Yogamaya Devi, Shri Radha-Govinda Dev Temple, Vrindavan
Ram lila is also inseparable from Durga lila. Sita and Ram met when Sita was picking flowers for Durga pooja and Sita prayed to Goddess Durga for Sri Ram to become her husband. Sant Tulsidas mentions in Sri Ram Stuti that Sita entered into a state of spiritual ecstasy after worshipping Mother Durga and Sri Ram prayed to Mother Durga for victory before engaging in war with Ravan.
Writing for Hindi Vrindavan Today, historian Tarun Sharma describes the importance of Navaratri, which is celebrated in almost every home in Braj. In the tradition exemplified by Sita Ram, devotees pray to Mother Durga for success before undergoing difficult work.
During Navaratri, the atmosphere in Braj is festive. On the morning of the 8th and 9th days, people welcome young girls into their homes and honour them with specially-cooked festival food and gifts. There are street parades and kirtans and an evening fair with rides for children at the showground outside Katyayani temple.
In almost every neighbourhood, temporary Durga temples are erected and children dance in front of the deity. After nine days, the Navaratri deities are dismantled, which serves as a reminder of the impermanence of everything material.