It is the festival of Navratri. Navratri literally translates to ‘nine nights’ and is one of the most celebrated of Hindu festivals, devoted to Goddess Durga. Navratri festival combines ritualistic puja and fasting. It is accompanied by resplendent celebrations for nine consecutive days and nights. During Navratri, people worship different aspects of Goddess Durga, including Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati. Chanting of mantras, rendition of bhajans and folk songs usually accompany the puja rituals.
Navratri is celebrated in a various ways all over India
Gujarat is the focus of Navratri celebrations with all night-long dance and festivities. ‘Garba’ is a devotional dance form that derives from the folklore of Lord Krishna singing and dancing with the gopis, using ‘dandiya’ or slim wooden sticks.
In Jammu, huge number of devotees make their way to Vaishno Devi shrine as a pilgrimage.
In Himachal Pradesh, the Navratri Mela marks the auspicious occasion of Navratri.
In Punjab, Navratri is known as Navratras or Naratey. The first seven days are for fasting. On the eighth day or Ashtami, devotees break their fasts by inviting young girls home. These girls are treated as the goddess herself. People ceremonially wash their feet, worship them, and offer them food.
The last four days of Navratri take on a dramatic form in Bengal. Called the Durga Puja, this is the biggest Bengali festival. Exquisitely crafted life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up in temples and other places. These idols are worshiped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day.
In Goan temples, a copper pitcher is installed surrounded by clay. Nine varieties of food grains are sown in the clay. All the nine nights are celebrated with devotional songs and religious discourses. At night, the idol of the goddess is placed in a specially-decorated swing, known as ‘Makhar’. For all the nine nights of Navratri, devotees swing the goddess to the tune of temple music.
In North India, the Ramlila is enacted ceremoniously during the Dussehra. On the 10th day of VijayaDashami, the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Meghanada are burnt to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
In South India, during Navratri, people arrange idols on steps. In Tamil Nadu, this arrangement is called ‘golu’. In Mysore, the nine-day Navratri is celebrated as Dasara! This includes folk music renditions, dance performances, wrestling tournaments, and the famous tableau procession! The tableau procession with the embellished elephants, camels and horses start from the brightly-lit Mysore Palace. On the ninth day is Ayudha puja; Ayudha puja or Astra puja is the worshiping of implements. It is celebrated in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu.
A religious fervor and excitement accompanies Navratri celebrations throughout India. While the formal displays and ceremonies may differ, the underlying sentiment and message is the same across communities and states. Today, the celebrations have acquired huge proportions in the UK, Canada, Singapore and the USA, which have sizable Indian population.
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