Navrati is a time for joy and celebration. As soon as the last month of the Hindu year begins, festivities signaling the beginning of the New Year also begin. For the first nine days of the bright half of the month of Aso, devotees celebrate Navratri by fasting and dancing around a murti of the Goddess Shakti, recalling her victory over evil. Shakti is also known as Amba, Ambica, Bhavani, Chamunda, and Durga. BAPS mandirs around the world host Navratri festivities in a wholesome and religious environment. Despite the growing trend to sing and dance to pop songs in a lounge/club type of environment, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sasntha has been able to maintain purity in the observance of this popular Hindu festival.
Mahishasura, an asura, received a boon that he would never be killed by a human. Mahishasura wreaked havoc in the three worlds, which greatly worried Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Durga manifested on this Earth to vanquish Mahishasura. Indra Dev, Vishnu Bhagwan, and Shiva each gave their weapon, respectively, the vajra, the chakra, and the trishul, to Durga. She fought for 9 days. On the 10th day, she defeated the evil Mahishasura. Hence, the 10th day is known as Vijayadashmi.
The Skand Purana also provides a detailed account of how Mahishasura was vanquished. Once, Mahishasura visited Mt. Arunachal. Here, his eyes fell on Parvati, who at the time was performing austerities. Mahishasura was so attracted to her that he appeared disguised as an old man and asked her questions about the nature of her austerities. Parvati explained that she was doing tap to please the powerful Shiva and marry him. Mahishasura pleaded, “I am also powerful. Marry me instead.” Shiva persuaded Parvati to challenge Mahishasura to a duel. After a long battle, Parvati defeated Mahishasura in battle.
- For nine nights, devotees dance and celebrate the festival with devotion. Many women fast to celebrate Mataji’s victory over evil.
- On the 10th day, a puja is performed of Shakti Mataji’s clay murti. Devotees take the murti to a body of water. Here, they sing bhajans and perform folk dances while chanting divine mantras. Then, they submerge the murti in the water.