Navratri is approaching fast. As children, Navratri was an extremely enjoyable festival. Every evening a fortnight before the festival began, we would dress up and rush for Dandiya practice. I also loved sitting by my mother’s feet at night, listening to stories about powerful gods and goddesses, whose victory we celebrated every year. No matter how tired I was after dancing, I would nag my mother after coming home, till she gave in and narrated stories till I nodded off.
Here are some of the most popular legends behind why we celebrate Navratri:
Navratri story: The Original Legend
Uma was the daughter of the powerful King Daksha. She was hopelessly in love with Lord Shiva since childhood. Her devotion paid off and Shiva came to ask King Daksha for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
King Daksha took one look at Shiva’s matted hair and tattered clothes, with ash all over his body and decided that he would not give away his daughter to this unkempt person. However, Uma stood her ground and King Daksha had to eventually give in. Uma and Shiva got married. Some years later, King Daksha arranged a huge Yagna, for which he purposefully omitted inviting Shiva.
Angered, Uma stepped into the sacrificial fire to commit Sati. Shiva came to know about this, and came to Daksha’s house. He picked up Uma in his hands, and started his terrifying dance, popularly known as the Tandav Nritya. With the terrible energy that goes in the dancing, the world came on the verge of extinction.
Narayana came forward and cut off Uma’s body into pieces. These pieces feel onto different parts of the country (now known as Shakti pits, or Energy pits). Finally, Shiva calmed down, and then Narayana revived Uma for a new life. It is said that every Navratri, she comes to visit her maternal home, along with her four sons, and two sakhis, Jaya & Bijaya.
Navratri story: The killing of Mahishasura
Mahishasura was a demon who has acquired a boon of non-destruction by a man or a god from Lord Shiva. He went on to become a terror in all three worlds. When his acts became unbearable, the devas prayed to Shiva to free them from this oppression. Shiva, then, came together with Vishnu and Brahma, created Devi Durga by combining their powers. She was very beautiful and very powerful. Mahishasura saw her beauty and asked her to marry him. She agreed to marry him, only if he could defeat her in battle. They battled for 9 days and at the end of the ninth day, she killed him. The nine days of Navratri are for celebrating the victory of good over bad.
Navratri story: The killing of Ravana
In many parts of India, Dussehra is the celebrated as the day on which the seventh avatar of Vishnu, Rama, destroyed the powerful Lankan 10-headed king Ravana. Ravana was a strong devotee of Lord Shiva, and he had done long penances to get a boon of indestructibility from gods and goddesses. In his pride, he hadn’t mentioned humans.
Legends has it that Vishnu took the human Rama avatar to get rid of the corrupt king. Ravana had abducted Rama’s wife, Sita, when they were completing their exile. Rama, along with his brother Laxman, & the loyal follower, Hanuman went to Lanka to rescue his wife, and bring her back to safety. Rama defeated Ravana in the famous battle.
This victory is celebrated in the form of Vijayadashmi. Huge effigies of Ravana are built and burnt all over the country. It is a happy occasion for many people as there are melas arranged for people to come together with their families and enjoy thoroughly. Dussehra is a typical example of pride comes before a fall and good always wins, even if it takes a longer time.
Navratri story: Distribution of “Gold” Leaves
Kautsa, the son of a Brahmin called Devdutta, lived in the city of Paithan. After finishing his education at Rishi Varatantu’s gurukul, he wished to offer guru dakshina to his guru, despite his refusal.
When Kautsa insisted, his guru asked for 140 million gold coins, 10 million for each of the 14 sciences he had taught. Kautsa approached King Raghuraja who had unfortunately donated all his wealth.
King Raghuraja asked Lord Indra for help, who in turn summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Kuber rained gold coins, which fell on shami and aapta trees around Raghuraja’s Ayodhya. Kautsa offered the money to his guru and donated the excess to the city of Ayodhya. To celebrate this day, people greet each other with aapta leaves which are considered equivalent to gold.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Whether you believe in mythology or not, these stories are still highly interesting, and fun to share with our kids. It would make them understand better why our festivals are being celebrated the way they are through all these centuries. Share these stories with your children and make them feel great about our wonderful traditions!
What stories have you heard? Are they any different from those above? Share with us, let us spread the light!
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