Navratras and Durga Puja are the same festival observed in two different ways. According to the Hindu mythology, Navratras is the time when Goddess Durga descends on Earth. Navratras, the festival of nine nights, is celebrated every year to worship Mata Rani, a form of Goddess Durga. This is the time when we worship the divine female power, also called Shakti. The nine incarnations of Ma Shakti are worshipped on each day of the Navratras. It is believed that Shakti (or Durga herself) is the point from where the universe originated and the universe is eventually believed to end at this same point.
Among other rituals followed during Navratras, there is a ritual where wheat seeds (saakh) are sown in an earthen pot. On the ninth day of the Navratras, the saakh pot, along with the baby wheat greens, is immersed in the river. This practice was done since ages to check whether the right time for sowing wheat has arrived.
Durga puja is celebrated during this time, as it is believed that ages back, during this auspicious nine days, Goddess Durga saved Earth from the demon called Mahisasura. For people who observe Durga Puja (Bengalis and the Oriyas), it is all about feasting. On the other hand, people who observe Navratras, believe in fasting to cleanse the system. Alcohol is not consumed during this time. While some people relish the most delicious preparations of non-vegetarian food, for others, it is strictly vegetarian food (no onion and garlic included). People who fast, don’t take any kind of foodgrains, including wheat and rice. But whatever is the eating habit according to the traditions, healthy and nutritious eating is what we should look forward to. Yoga, along with light exercise, is good during both feasting and fasting, and helps in maintaing weight. From the spiritual aspect, fasting is great for mind, body and soul. From the food aspect, we have a few points for those who are fasting.
Have a lot of healthy Sattvik foods, such as milk, yogurt, chenna (paneer) and foods that are derived from these. Keeping yourself hydrated is very important, especially if you are fasting. To avoid dehydration, drink a lot of liquids, including water, coconut water and sugarcane juice. It is believed by dieticians that for those who are fasting, eating the “permissible” foods in moderation and spread over the whole day helps to keep a tab on the metabolic rate. Eating a lot of fried poories is always bad, even if it is made with vrat flour, such as Kuttu ka atta (water chestnut flour).Instead, eat boiled sweet potatoes, roasted makhanas (lotus seeds), Semak chawal or Sabudana (tapioca) dishes as your carbohydrate-replacer. Eat natural sugars, such as honey, sweet potatoes and jaggery. This will help in overall cleansing.
Eating dry fruits is good, but in moderation. In fact, any vrat food can be fattening if eaten in excess. For example, eating three kuttu pooris will add 400 calories, whereas a small bowl of sabudana khichdi has 350 calories. On the contrary, eating a small bowl of Samak ki kheer is only worth 300 calories.
Even according to the ancient Indian science called Ayurveda, during the Navratras, one should eat foods that provide wholesome nourishment, but these foods should be eaten in minimal quantities so that the body can naturally eliminate the toxic buildup during the past rainy season. Fasting is a natural and traditional way to make the body ready for the new season (winters) and it actually helps to strengthen the body and increase the immunity. If you believe in fasting, practice it in the right way. Happy Navratras and Durga Puja to all our readers!