The word Navaratri means nine nights in Sanskrit; nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine different forms of the goddess are worshipped. It’s almost as if we’re giving ourselves the time and space to rejuvenate and cleanse from within. Let us peek into the different ways of celebrating Navratri across India and witness its sheer diversity.
NAVRATRI CELEBRATION IN NORTHERN INDIA
In North India, Navratri is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over the evil king Ravana. It culminates in the celebrations of the Ramlila which is enacted ceremoniously during Dussehra. The effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, are burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil forces on the ‘Vijaya Dashami’ day.
These nine days are filled with special pujas, yagnas, homas, fasting, meditations, silence, singing and dancing honoring Mother Divine, her entire creation- all forms of life, all forms of art, music and knowledge. She is worshipped as the savior of mankind from ignorance and all forms of evil.
NAVRATRI CELEBRATION IN WESTERN INDIA
In Western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Raas dance. Garba is a graceful form of dance, wherein women dance gracefully in circles around a pot containing a lamp. The word ‘Garba’ or ‘Garbha’ means womb, and in this context the lamp in the pot, symbolically represent life within a womb. Besides the Garba is the Dandiya dance, in which men and women participate in pairs with small, decorated bamboo sticks, called dandiyas in their hands. At the end of these dandiyas are tied tiny bells called ghungroos that make a jingling sound when the sticks hit one another. The dance has a complex rhythm. The dancers begin with a slow tempo, and go into frenzied movements, in such a manner that each person in a circle not only performs a solo dance with his own sticks, but also strikes his partner’s dandiyas in style!
NAVRATRI CELEBRATION IN EASTERN INDIA
The last five days of Sharad Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja in West Bengal, north-eastern part of India. Devi Durga is shown with various weapons in her hand, riding on a lion. Lion signifies the dharma, the will power, while the weapons denote the focus and severity needed to destroy the negativity in our minds. Eighth day is traditionally Durgashtami. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up in temples and other places. These idols are then worshipped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day.
NAVRATRI CELEBRATION IN SOUTHERN INDIA
In south India, Navratri is the time to invite friends, relatives and neighbors over to look at the Kolu, which is essentially an exhibition of various dolls and figurines. In Kannada, this exhibition is called Bombe Habba, Bommai Kolu in Tamil, Bomma Gullu in Malayalam, and Bommala Koluvu in Telugu.
Navratri is referred to as Dasara in Karnataka. Yakshagana, a night-long dance in the form of epic dramas from puranas are enacted during the nine nights of navratri. The ‘Mysore Dasara is celebrated with great pomp and show depicting the triumph over evil. It is observed as the state festival steered by the royal family of Mysore and their Jumbo savari.
The Ayudha Puja is conducted in many parts of South India on the Mahanavami (Ninth) day with much fanfare. Agricultural implements, all kinds of tools, books, musical instruments, equipments, machinery and automobiles are decorated and worshipped on this day along with the worship of Goddess Saraswati.
The 10th day is celebrated as ‘Vijaya Dashami’. It is the day of “Vidyaarambam” in Kerala, where young children are initiated into learning. In the southern city of Mysore Dussehra is celebrated with grand processions on the streets carrying Goddess Chamundi.
In the end, Navratri is really about reconnecting with something much bigger than us and these rituals are tools that help us do that. Plus, these nine days have been given to us to rest, rejuvenate and connect with ourselves which, in turn, helps us connect better with our loved ones and celebrate life.