Navarathri, which translates as nine nights, is the time to propitiate the nine forms of the Supreme Goddess (Adi Parashakti) over as many days.
Observing a fast during Navarathri (Navarathri ‘vratham’) is the ideal way of offering prayers to the Goddess and seeking the divinity’s blessings. The fast has to start in the month of Kanni according to the Malayalam calendar on the day after the new moon day (Amavasi). In other words, the first nine days of the bright lunar fortnight are the Navarathri days.
This year, the fast has to start on Wednesday, October 10. The first three days of the Navarathri festival are dedicated to Parvathy Devi, the next three days to Lakshmi Devi and the last three days to Saraswathy Devi.
The Supreme Goddess is also revered as Durga on the Durgashtami Day, as Lakshmi on Mahnavami Day and as Saraswathy on Vijayadasami Day.
It is believed that people under the influence of Moon (Chandra dasa), Mars (Chovva dasa) and Venus (Sukra dasa) can overcome their difficulties by observing the fast.
There is a misconception that only students need to observe the Navarathri fast. In fact, people of any age can do so for seeking the blessings of the Supreme Mother.
Those who are unable to fast on all nine days can observe the ritual for 7, 5, 3 or one days. In Kerala, the seventh, eighth and ninth day are given much importance and many devotees observe the fast on these three days. Still, fasting on all the nine days is considered ideal.
Navarathri is the occasion for cleansing the body and mind by fasting. Devotees observing the fast may wake up early before dawn, carry out their morning ablutions and light a traditional lamp. They have to then recite prayers dedicated to the Goddess. The most preferred prayer is the chanting of Lalitha Sahasra Namam.
During the Navarathri, avoid eating fish and meat. Rice or food items made of rice may be taken only once a day. Apart from food, purity should be ensured in speech and actions.
Devotees may pray at a Devi temple immediately after a bath on all the nine days, to invite divine grace. It is believed that when the Goddess is pleased through the Navarathri fast, devotees can obtain wealth, prosperity and success.