Chaitra Navratri is a nine-day Hindu festival celebrated in the month of Chaitra which coincides with March and April of the English calendar. This festival is dedicated to Goddess Durga and is similar to the Sharad Navratri celebrated during September and October. The difference in the two Navratris is the fact that the ninth day of Chaitra Navratri is celebrated as Ram Navmi, the birth of Lord Rama. And that's why this Navratri is often known as Ram Navratri. Whereas, during Sharad Navratri, the tenth day is celebrated as Dussehra when Lord Rama defeated Ravana.
How it is celebrated:
The customs of Chaitra Navratri is similar to that of Sharad Navratri. The nine days are dedicated to the nine forms of Goddess Durga. However, the ninth day is celebrated as Ram Navmi and is dedicated to Lord Rama. The nine days are marked by day-long vrats however the devotee is free to choose the days on which they want to observe the fast. The festival is more widely celebrated in North India. In Maharashtra, the onset of Chaitra Navratri is marked by Gudi Parva and in Andhra Pradesh by Ugadi.
The Story Behind Chaitra Navratri:
The story that is told on Chaitra Navratri is similar to the one narrated during Sharad Navratri. It is believed that during Navratri, Lord Shiva allowed his consort Goddess Durga to visit her parental house for nine days. And it is during this visit that she slaughtered the demon Mahishasura.
Another legend that is widely narrated during Chaitra Navratri is the creation of the world by Lord Brahma. According to Brahma Purana, Lord Brahma initiated the creation of the world on the commands of Goddess Durga who descended on the earth during Chaitra Navratri. And hence she is addressed as the Ma Durga or the mother of the universe by her devotees.
Watching from the feminist lens:
Navratri is often regarded as a celebration of women empowerment because it upholds the power of a woman by worshiping Goddess Durga. The deity is considered as the manifestation of power, truth, education, peace, rebellion, a caring mother and a beloved wife. In a way, the nine faces of Goddess Durga signifies that a woman deserves to have emotions like anger, rebel against what is wrong, seek education, have a happy marriage and embrace motherhood if that makes her happy.
But, the nine-day festival is rooted in the idea that Goddess Durga is a married woman who comes back to her parents’ house for a few days when she is treated and worshiped like queen or goddess. But on the tenth day, she has to leave and go back to her matrimonial house. This again imposes the binary of how after marriage, a woman’s real house is her matrimonial home while at the parental house where she grew up she becomes a guest. Why even today society peddles narratives of women's alienation in her parental house? Why does it legitimise the idea that a woman is uprooted from her own family after marriage and can visit them only by her husband's permission?
Views expressed are the author's own.