Celebrating Navratri in India in a 100 different ways!

29 glorious states, 29 and more iconic festivals, and some 100 ways of celebrating. Little wonder then that India and Indian films break into dance and song at every occasion. Why even the Harvesting Season is brought in with festivities on different days, in different states of India, but each is a prayer for productivity. Yes don’t even get me started with our Gods oh and even their names. Pray, Goddess Durga has a 108 names to herself. And now with the festive season upon us, join me as I peek into the different ways of celebrating Navratri across India. Sheer diversity in celebrating I say.

Invoking the Stree Shakti (woman power):

It is believed that during these 9 pious days, Goddess Durga demolishes all evil thoughts and cleanses our mind, Goddess Lakshmi blesses us with pure thoughts and Goddess Sarasvati confers true knowledge to her devotees. During Navratri festival, India gears up with multi-fragrant festival baskets decorated with plenty of culture, rituals, traditions and heritage, but each with a different regional touch.

Of the 100 ways to celebrate Navratri across the Indian States, here are the top 7:

Delhi/Punjab The festival is known as the “Navaratras” here where traditionally during this festival people fast for the first seven days and then break the fast on the eighth (Ashtami) or ninth (Navami) day. On the Navami, they invite 9 little girls (kanjak devis) and a boy, and worship them. Punjabis also hold “Jagratas” where they sing songs all night in honour of Goddess Shakti (Durga, remember the 108 names).

Kerala – Navratri has gained a secular colour in this state. All credit goes to ‘Vidyarambham which means “the beginning of learning” that is celebrated on the 10th day of Navratri. Here the last three days are very important. In fact Keralites celebrate this festival in an entirely different way from Punjabis. On the Ashtami day, a ceremonial ritual is performed and all study related work are put off by the evening of this day. On the ninth day, Goddess Sarasvati puja is performed where books and tools are kept for puja (worship) and Goddess Sarasvati is worshipped. This is called “Poojavaippu”. The following day, books and tools are removed and this tenth day is called “vijayadasami” where children are initiated into learning. Children between 3-5 years are taken to the temple and are taught to write their first alphabets in rice. This day marks the beginning of any type of learning. The secret to Kerala’s 100% literacy rate is out!! May be it is all about Vidyarambham during Navratri.

Tamil Nadu – The spiritual focus appears slightly different here from the other states. Though Navratri is celebrated to honour the various forms of the Mother Goddess, Sarasvati Maa, the goddess of arts, wisdom and learning seems to be getting a little more importance. So, Navratri here is an occasion to express and further artistic skills. First three days of this festival are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the next three to Goddess Durga and the last three days to Goddess Sarasvati. Almost all households keep “Kolu”. Dolls or miniature versions of the idols of God called Kolu are arranged on small wooden steps and decorated. People are invited home to worship Kolu and are offered Prasad. Traditional dance and music performances happen for all the nine days in a big way.

Gujarat – In Gujrat, ‘Navratri’ is full of songs, colours, dandiya raas and Garbi worship. Garbi symbolizes “Shakti power”. Interestingly, Gujrati women fast for all the nine days and bring an earthen pot home and make holes in the pot. They light this pot every evening and perform aarti to Goddess Durga. This pot is called Garbi. The Gujarati men and women dress up in their traditional outfit – chanya choli and kurta and dance dandya for all the nine days.

Himachal Much before the Navratri celebration starts across the nation, the gods of Himachal start their journey from their ancestral towns, on the shoulders of their devotees. On the tenth day of Navrataras, their journey culminates in a small town, now popular tourist destination, Kullu. On this day, the idols from the main temple in Kullu also join in this huge procession, which is famously known as ‘Kullu Dusshera’.

Karnataka – Apart from the Kolu and exchange of gifts like coconuts, sweets and clothes, scenes from various epics and puranas are enacted in Karnataka. Navratri is referred to as “Dasera” here. The ‘Mysore Dasera’, the royal festival depicting the triumph over evil, in fact is of legendary grandeur. It is observed as the state festival and entire Mysore is dressed up as a bride. Dasera is steered by the royal family of Mysore and their Jumbo savari (what is it?) is world-famous.

West Bengal /Kolkata – Kolkata and Durga puja should be considered synonyms. Navratri celebration in Bengal has gained a worldwide popularity. People of Bengal celebrate the last four days of the Navratras in such a pomp and show which outshines the other Navratras celebrations. Life size idols of Goddess Durga are erected in pandals and maha arti is performed every evening. During the festival days, the Bengali women and girls dress up in gorgeous saries and dresses and men in dhoti kurta. The ‘Dhunuchi naach’, the mild fragrance of shiuli, the familiar sound of Dhak can give a tug to every Bengali heart. On the tenth day, the idols of Durga Maa gets immersed in water (visarjan) with the grand celebrations and processions.

I don’t know if turning vegetarian for all 9 days of Navratri is practised across all states of India, but surely celebrating woman power seems sacrosanct. It does not matter how we celebrate the goddess, the inner shakti within us, as far as she purifies our mind and soul and renders us stronger than before. May your inner Shakti be with you!

Comments (3)

prernasinha2000 Posted on Oct 19, 2015

I love the energy that Navratri brings along. Of course my favourite is the Garba and Dandiya celebration

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Sneha Rane Posted on Oct 19, 2015

This was so informative. Thanks for sharing, Jayanti :)

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Nidhi KM Posted on Oct 19, 2015

Such a nicely explained story. I loved the way it has been put up

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Jayanti Ramnath

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