Bilva Nimantran is the festival ascribed to invoking of Sri Durga Mata on the Sashti Tithi of Sarada Navarathri festival. The festival commences on Sashti Tithi and concludes on Vijaya Dashami day.
For the Year 2023, Bilva Nimantran occurs on Friday, 20th October 2023. The exact time of occurrence of Sashti Tithi is to be ascertained from the respective regional calendars.
In this festival, Maa Durga Devi is ritualistically invited and invoked on Bilva Tree. Sri Durga Devi is also worshipped with Bilva leaves on the occasion. Special Pujas are done to Sri Durga Devi for the next four days as well. This period is celebrated as Durga Utsav.
Normally, the auspicious time for the initiation of Bilva Nimantran is said to be the two and half hours prior to sunset on Sashti Tithi date. The time is referred to as Sanyakal. The most preferred time is when both Sashti and the pre-sunset period are combined. If such combination does not happen, usually, the pre-sunset time of Panchami Tithi day is considered as Bilva Nimantran day.
Bilva Nimantran festival commences with the ritual named Kalparamba. It involves rising before sunrise, taking holy bath and keeping a water filled Kalash at the Puja place. After lighting lamps and decking up the Puja place with flowers, incense sticks are also lit. The idol / picture of Sri Durga Devi is decked up with turmeric, sandal paste and vermillion.
At that time, Sankalpa / Pradikgna / Resolution is taken to observe the rituals and do Pujas for the next three days viz., Maha Sapthami, Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami.
At the Sanyakal time of the Bilva Nimantran day, a ritual named Bodhan is observed. Bodhan means awakening. Navarathi festival occurs amid Dakshinayana Punyakal, which is the slumber time for Deities. As Sri Durga Devi is invoked before the onset of Utharayana Punyakal, this ritual is also called as Akal Bodhan. For Bodhan, water filled Kalash is kept at the bottom of the Bilva Tree.
As per the legend, Sri Ramachandra Murthy had done this ritual before He diminished Ravana on Vijaya Dashami day.
After Bodhan, the Bilva Tree is first sanctified. Then Sri Durga Devi idol / picture is symbolically installed. This ritual is called as Adhivas. The ritualistic invitation and invocation of Sri Durga Devi is called as Amantran.
On the Sapthami day, Navptrika Pravesh Puja is done to Sri Durga.
As per the legend, Sri Durga Devi was invoked on Bilva Nimantran for diminishing Mahishasur, the buffalo faced demon on Vijaya Dashami day. As per another belief, Sri Durga Devi is invoked on Bilva Nimantran to signify Her visit to Her maiden home.