New Delhi: The autumn festival season has arrived, and Bengal is getting ready for the year’s largest celebration, Durgotsava. It is not only a religious festival, but it is also a time for reunion, renewal, and celebration of traditional culture and customs. The celebration concludes on the tenth day, known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
Bengalis believe that this is the period when Goddess Durga travels from her house on Mount Kailash to her paternal abode on Earth, and she brings her children also along with her: Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati.
This Bengali festival is associated with various beliefs, myths, stories, folktales, and traditions- one of which is the Navapatrika (nine leaflets mostly tied together).
What is Navapatrika?
Navapatrika comes from two words nava and patrika which mean nine plants. On the seventh day, which is Saptami, Goddess Durga is invoked in a set of nine plants called Navapatrika and fastened to the twigs of a white Aparajita plant (Clitoria ternatea) with a yellow thread.
These nine plants depict the Goddess’ nine incarnations. Navapatrika’s nine plants symbolise nine Goddesses:
Banana plant: Goddess Brahmani
Colocasia plant: Goddess Kalika
Turmeric plant: Goddess Durga
Jayanti plant: Goddess Kartiki
Bel leaves: Goddess Shiva
Pomegranate leaves: Goddess Raktadantika
Asoka leaves: Goddess Shokarahita
Arum plant: Goddess Chamunda
Rice paddy: Goddess Lakshmi
Rituals pertaining to Navapatrika Snan:
The Navapatrika is bathed in river/pond water before daybreak. All the nine Goddesses representing Navapatrika are bathed with waters from 8 different holy places. This bathing ritual is accompanied by varied mantras and diverse musical instruments for different goddesses. During the bathing process, mantras are recited. The Navapatrika is then dressed in a white saree with a red border. After the bathing process, vermilion is sprinkled on the leaves. She is then worshipped with flowers, sandalwood paste, and incense sticks on a decked-up pedestal. Later she is placed on the right side of Lord Ganesh.
The first day of Durga Puja is Navpatrika Puja, also known as Maha Saptami. In Hinduism, a live medium is required to evoke a deity’s spirit. Devotees can communicate with and pay tribute to the Divinity through this live medium. On Bilva Nimantran, Goddess Durga was invoked on the Bilva Tree or its branch before giving Her Puja an invitation for the next day.
Offerings for Navapatrika Puja:
Special offerings are prepared on this day for the Navapatrika Puja. Apart from the sweet offerings, there are many other things offered to the Navapatrika. These are vermillion, mirror, pancha ratna, cowdung, kusha grass, sugar, honey, wood apple leaves, flowers, sesame seeds, four-finger rings, jute ropes, and red thread.
Farewell of Navapatrika:
The Navapatrika farewell ceremony is carried out on the tenth day. Women present the goddess in the Navapatrika form with milk products and sweets. Navapatrika is positioned to the right of the goddess Durga during the puja.
Date and time of Navapatrika Puja in the year 2022:
Date- Sunday, October 2, 2022
Dawn on Navapatrika Day- 05:52 AM
Observational Sunrise on Navpatrika Day- 06:15 AM
Saptami Tithi Begins- 08:46 PM on Oct 01, 2022
Saptami Tithi Ends- 06:47 PM on Oct 02, 2022
Significance of Navapatrika:
Navapatrika was a well-known ancient ritual practiced by peasants and farmers to worship Mother Nature for a plentiful and prosperous harvest. It represents fertility.
Owing to the Durga Puja’s popularity, this ceremony was incorporated into the celebrations. Neither the Vedas nor the Puranas mentions Navapatrika.
The Krittivasi Ramayan, a translation of the Ramayana into Bengali written by Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha in the 15th century, has the oldest mention of it.
This significant Durga Puja ritual, which harmoniously blends both old Vedic and non-Vedic customs, is an illustration of inclusivity.