Navaratri is a nine day festival celebrated in India to honour the Mother Goddess in all her avatars (forms). Celebrated twice every year, once in the month Chaitra (March) and then in the month of Ashwin (September-October). The latter consists of the main rituals of placing the idol or image of the Goddess in homes and temples and immersed in water after the nine days of Navaratri. The Navratri 2017 dates of the Ashwin month are from September 21 until September 29. It is one of the festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of India, though the celebrations in one part of the country are quite different than the other. With various customs and traditions, each region of India has its own unique way of celebrating the Navaratri by honouring the various forms of Mother Goddess with their own rituals and ceremonies.
Navratri 2017: Dates and Schedule
|Pratipada, Day 1||21 September||Thursday|
|Dwitiya, Day 2||22 September||Friday|
|Tritiya, Day 3||23 September||Saturday|
|Chaturthi, Day 4||24 September||Sunday|
|Panchami, Day 5||25 September||Monday|
|Shashthi, Day 6||26 September||Tuesday|
|Saptami, Day 7||27 September||Wednesday|
|Astami, Day 8||28 September||Thursday|
|Navami, Day 9||29 September||Friday|
|Dashami, Day 10||30 September||Saturday|
Navratri Celebrations in Western India: Gujarat and Maharashtra
In Gujarat, Navaratri is a grand community event where apart from the ritual, people gather in large number at community grounds to perform the traditional dances of Dandiya Raas and Garba Raas along while singing devotional songs. People dress up in their traditional costumes and spend the evening dancing to the beats of popular traditional Gujarati songs. They also observe Jagran singing bhajans and praising the Goddess all night long.
In Maharashtra, here the first and the last day of Navaratri is especially important. The first day is dedicated to Goddess Durga while the tenth day known as Vijayadashmi is dedicated to Saraswati – the Goddess of Knowledge. This day is considered auspicious to start anything new. Students keep their books and Businessmen keep their account books near the idol to seek blessings on their ventures. However, some parts of Maharashtra especially Mumbai celebrates Navaratri like in Gujarat by organizing events for Garba Raas and Dandiya Raas but with a twist to it. Apart from the traditional dances, Mumbai has also introduced its own version of these dances that has become highly popular as Disco Dandiya where traditional songs are mixed with popular Bollywood songs. Cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara also celebrate Navratri in a similar manner.
Navratri Celebrations in Eastern India
In Bengal and the places around it, the last four days of Navaratri are celebrated as Durga Puja in honor of Goddess Durga. Huge idols of the Goddess are brought home or to community pandals (tents) to be worshiped for all the four days with different pujas for each day. On the last day, the idol is taken out in a procession to be immersed in water. Kolkata is famous for its Durga Puja celebrations and the grand evening Pujas are a highlight of the festival. Bengalis also perform their traditional dances during these days.
Navratri Celebrations in South India
Even within South India, the customs vary from each other. During Navratra in Mysore, the devotees worship the royal deity Chamundi celebrating the festival with grand processions of elephants and horse chariots on the tenth day when the King heads to worship the Goddess at her hilltop temple. While states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, a traditional display of dolls called Bommaikalu is arranged by the women. It is a series of odd steps where the initial steps are filled with dolls of deities, the next steps have saints from across the world. The next few steps display the master artwork of the woman of the house while the last step showcases the children’s work of organizing their toys. Women invite other women to their homes and they exchange, flowers and traditional symbols of a married Indian woman.
While Kerala celebrates this festival in an entirely different manner, on the day of Durgashtami, a ceremonial ritual is performed and any study related work is put off for the evening. The following day marks as Mahanavami, in honor of Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati by performing pujas at home and in temples. Children from ages 3-5 are taken to the temple to seek the Goddess’s blessings and are taught to write their first alphabets in rice on this auspicious day. The tenth day is known as Dusshera, known as the day Lord Rama defeated Ravana and to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, an effigy of Ravana is burnt along with crackers.
Navratri Celebrations in North India
In this part of the country, this festival is known as Navaratras and is observed with a period of fasting for seven days. On the eighth day, the fast is broken by inviting home young girls as an avatar of the Goddess herself known as Kanjak Devis, to be worshipped with traditional ceremonies. Navami is the ninth day of the festival where the seeds of pulses or cereals that were sown on the first day and worshipped all through the days have now sprouted and after the puja, the seedlings are immersed in water. It is a custom indicated towards the harvesting customs of the place. In many parts of North India, Ramaleela – a play on the epic Ramayana is performed. Similar to the celebrations in South India, the tenth day of Navaratri known as Dusshera is celebrated here in the same way by burning the effigies of Ravana. However, here the effigies of Ravana’s brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghanand are also burnt along with Ravana.
While these parts of India have their own different ways of celebrating the festival of Navaratri, they haven’t hesitated in embracing the traditions of others while celebrating their own. Dusshera of Kerala is celebrated in Maharashtra with the same purpose and enthusiasm just like Dandiya Raas and Garba Raas have found their way into almost all Navaratri celebrating parts of India.