Navratri Celebrations across India

Unity in Diversity – Colorful Navratri Celebrations across India

As the sounds of dhol and clappings of dandiya sticks start echoing, it is the arrival of Navratri season. It is a major festival in Hinduism, marking the celebration of the victory of good over evil when the demon Mahishasura was defeated in a battle with Goddess Durga as an act to restore Dharma. As the name says, ‘Nava’ means ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ means ‘night’, it is a joyous festival of nine nights and ten days, where people all over the world seek blessings of Maa Durga, the Devi Shakti, for happiness, strength, good luck, wealth and prosperity. Each of the nine days is honored with nine different incarnations of Goddess Durga- Goddess Shailputri (day 1), Goddess Brahmacharini (day 2), Goddess Chandraghanta (day 3), Goddess Kushmanda (day 4), Goddess Skandamata (day 5), Goddess Katyayani (day 6), Goddess Kaalratri (day 7), Goddess Mahagauri (day 8) and Goddess Siddhidatri (day 9).

Every part of India celebrates Navratri in their own traditions and customs, expressing the sheer diversity of the festival. Let’s have an insight into the beliefs and lores of these five states for celebrating Navratri.

  1. Gujarat – Colorful nine nights of dance

Navratri is a much-awaited festival for the people of Gujarat. Starting the festivities by worshipping garbo, an earthen pot lit with diyas, symbolic of Goddess Durga and performing the famous Garba and dandiya dances. All the people adorn themselves in their colorful traditional dresses- chaniya-choli for women and turbans kedias for men along with bamboo sticks decorated with ghunghroos for the dandiya raas. People move in a circle around Durga’s shrine dancing their heart out in traditional to modern music styles, starting with simple steps and gradually moving towards frenzied movements.

  1. Rajasthan – Dussehra mela
The famous Ramlila depicting the story of Lord Ram, from the day he was born till he killed Ravana for abducting his wife, Sita. Dussehra Mela is the center of attraction and thousands of people gather on a large ground to celebrate the large effigy of Ravana being busted with crackers, symbolic of the victory of the goodness of Lord Ram over evilness of Ravana. Later, a fair of 20 days is conducted till Dhanteras, which marks the beginning of Diwali. People dress up in fascinating traditional garbs, eat their favorite dishes and children playfully move around in melas.
 
3. Kerala – Thiruvullakavu festival

Navratri in Kerala is known as Thiruvullakavu festival, where the last three days, Ashtami, Navami, and Vijayadashami are celebrated with the worship of Goddess Sarasvati. Keralites focus on education, worship of domestic animals and vehicles, etc., as their way of celebration. They keep their books and musical instruments along with jaggery in front of Goddess Sarasvati for her blessings on Ashtami and take them off on Dashami after a ritual ceremony. The last day (Vijayadashami) is commemorated with beautiful decorations of 108 Durga temples in Kerala.

  1. West Bengal – Durga Puja

Navratri is the most popular festival in West Bengal, celebrated as Durga Puja where thousands of people gather in lighted pandals festooned with flower garlands, mouthwatering food and the sound of dhol creates a lively atmosphere. People come dressed in shiny colorful outfits with great enthusiasm. It is a five-day festival that begins with the remembrance of loved ones who have died, followed by the celebration of arrival of Goddess Durga. For the next three days, Goddess Durga along with Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya are worshipped. Vijayadashami, the tenth day is marked by an emotional procession, where Durga idols are gradually submerged in water as a ceremonious goodbye. Females are dressed in typical white and red Bengali sarees, red bindi, and vermilion.

  1. Maharashtra – Ghatasthapana

Maharashtra has its own unique style of celebrating Navratri by starting the day with Ghatasthapana (sthapana of a ghat). People in rural households mount a water-filled brass or copper jar along with eight agricultural varieties like popular staple grains, mango leaves, coconut, etc. upon a heap of rice kept on a paat (wooden stool). This pot is worshipped all nine days by offering fruits, flower garlands, dry fruits, leaves, naivedya (food offering), and watering the seeds to sprout. The eighth day is marked with yajna for Goddess Durga followed by a ghat puja on ninth day, also called Khande Navami. Men also worship their vehicles and tools on this day.

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