Navratri: Different Celebration Of Nine Divine Nights
In a country with a myriad of religions, customs and beliefs, blended expertly in colours of democracy, there is one festival that stands out for other, perhaps in part due to the vibrancy of its celebrations, or perhaps due to the diversity of it. The Navratri is in many ways a celebration of celebrations. Spread over a period of nine days, this festival of celebration is dedicated to the worship of nine devis named:Kushmanda, Skandmata, Katyayani, Mahagauri, Siddhidhatri, Kalratri, Chandraghanta, Shailpurti and Brahmacharini. The festival is a riot of fasts, japas and vegetarianism, with the air in and around the hoisted mandals filled with chanting of texts, all epitomising the power of the Goddess. The idols of Goddess are placed in homes and temples. Throughout India, Navratri is celebrated in diverse ways and the celebration highlights the culturally rich aspect of our incredible India.
The festival is celebrated all over India but in different ways but he most flamboyant and renowned Navratri celebrations can be seen in western India, throughout the State of Gujarat and Mumbai.
Women celebrating saumangalyam
Maharashtra celebrates Navratri with great fun and revelry. The puja is performed daily by adorning the deity with fresh garland on each of the nine days. On the tenth day, the garlands are removed and the idol is immersed in the sea. People invite young girls, who have not attained puberty to their house and offer them food of their choice.
For the Maharashtrians, Navratri is an auspicious time to initiate new beginnings, buying a new home or a car. Women invite their female friends to their homes and gift them with a coconut, beetle leaves and beetle nuts. They put haldi and kumkum on the foreheads of the married women as a gesture of ‘Saumangalyam’ (remaining the wife of her husband until her last breath). The Navratri celebrations in Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai, bear resemblance to Gujarat owing to its geographical proximity to the state. Each and every locality has its own garba and dandiya nights celebrations and the whole family drenches itself in the festive spirit. Dancing takes over stadiums and clubs throughout the city. While some of it has retained a traditional flavor, the introduction of disco dandiya has given Mumbai’s Navaratri celebrations a glamorous and modern twist. Nowadays, people unleash their dancing to a fusion of remixed beats and loud Hindi pop music.
Pune being a Cultural city of Maharashtra, is one of Major Place for Celebration of Durga Puja. All the Probashi’s gather togather in their respective Durga Pandal for the festival. Biswa Bharati, Bhosari is one of newly added Durga Puja in Pune, which enhance the lightening of Maa Durga. The tradition & cultural truly makes you feel that you are not in Kolkata.
In Goa great festivities take place in all the temples, especially Devi temples like in Shanta Durga Temple and other temples of ShreeMhalasa Narayani, Shree Vijayadurga. People fast and observe festivities at home. Except temples there are Bengali Associations in Goa who celebrate Durga Puja in the traditional Bengali way. There are approximately 15 Durga Pujas conducted every year in whole Goa. The Durga Puja of Vasco’s Goa Banga Committee is 46 years old as in 2012. Artisans and priests come from West Bengal.
Gujarat’s Navratri Festival, is “a circle of ecstasy” that throbs non-stop for nine nights with millions of fantastically costumed devotees swaying in a fusion of dance and devotion. Although this festival is celebrated throughout India, nowhere is it performed with more panache and fervor than in Gujarat. The first three days of Navaratri are attributed to tamo guna (it leads to depression, fear and emotional instability) the second three to rajo guna (this leads to anxiety and feverishness) and the last three days tosattva guna (when Sattva dominates then we are clear, focused, peaceful and dynamic). Human consciousness sails through the tamo and rajo gunas and blossoms in the sattva guna of the last three days. The three primeval gunas are considered as the feminine force of our magnificent universe. A legendary unique Folk Dance form also has variations with Dandia or stick Raas.There are different styles of executing dandiya steps like Dodhiyu, simple five, simple seven, popatiyu, Trikoniya (hand movement which forms an imagery triangle), Lehree, three claps, butterfly, hudo, two claps and many more.
Starting the day with pious poojas, the people fast and spend the rest of the day in religious oblivion and conclude it with feverous dance and music by men and women in vibrant costumes, rich jewellery and dandia creating a kaleidoscopic beauty. Another important ritual is the sowing of barley seeds on the first day. The barley seeds will rise in to shoots by the 10th day and are distributed among friends and loved ones. The 10th day is celebrated as ‘Vijayada-shmi’, a day representing the victory of the valiant Lord Ram against evil king Ravan. Gujarat is a must visit during the navratri for blessings as well as a massive celebration with dance, devotion and drumbeats. The entire city is decorated like a bride with clusters of joyous people letting their hair down. Blending in fast steps synchronized with the dandia sticks and rich notes, the dance celebrations go on till wee hours of dawn.
Traditionally, village girls carrying attractively designed earthen pots on their heads go from door to door and dance ceremoniously. The celebrations of Navratri in Ahmedabad bring in a lot of visitors from across the world.
Celebrations In Northern India
The beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh celebrates Navratri with utmost devotion. Navratri is a time when people meet up with their relatives to collectively pay their respect to the Almighty. It is the most important festival for the Hindus of Himachal. The tenth day of this grand festive season is called Kullu Dusshera in the state. Unlike other states, the festival begins in Himachal when it ends elsewhere. People mark this day to rejoice the return of victorious Lord Rama to Ayodhya. Songs and dance are common ways to express devotion and exhibitions of various items are set-up. On Dusshera or Dashami, the deities from the temples of the village are taken out in processions.
In Kashmir, Hindus celebrate Navratri in a subtle manner. Devotees fast for nine days on water and perform puja at home. In an important ritual, devotees go to Maa Kher Bhawani, a prominent deity, who is said to warn her devotees about impending catastrophe by turning the nearby lake water into black.
Here, dance and music is avoided as believers devote time in prayer and contemplation of the Goddess. At some places, barley is grown in earthen pots. It is believed that if the growth of barley is good, then the year would bring luck, peace and prosperity.
The Punjabis have a unique way of paying obeisance to Goddess Shakti. Most of the people in Punjab go on a fast for the first seven days. They also organize a jagraata (keeping awake whole night by singing devotional songs dedicated to the Goddess). On the eighth day or Ashtami, the fast is broken by organizing a bhandara for 9 young girls (Kanjika). A bhandara usually means a feast that includes puris and halawa chana. The girls are also gifted with a red chunri. The ninth day is then called Navami which means literally the ninth day of this holy and pious period. On both the days people ceremonially wash girl’s feet, worship them and then offer food to the “girl-goddesses” giving them the traditional puri, halwa and chana to eat, along with bangles and the red chunnis to wear with a token amount of money as shagun.
In Delhi including Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, it is traditional to plant barley seeds in earthen pots on the first day of Navratri. On the day of Dasara, the nine-day old sprouts (called noratras or nortas or of nav ratris or nine nights) are used as symbols of luck. Men place them in their caps or behind their ears. In most of the colonies of Delhi, Dasha-Hara is seen being celebrated with utter faith and in honor of Rama. During these 10 days many plays and dramas based on Ramayana are performed. These are called Ramlila.
There are outdoor fairs and large parades with effigies of Ravana (a mythical king of ancient Sri Lanka), his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghanad. The effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening. After Dasara, the hot summer ends, especially in North India. The celebration of the navratri is almost as same as in Punjab. The name of the festival is changed, this becomes Navratras instead of navratri. There is a prevalent practice is of sowing pulses, cereals and other seeds on the first day of this festival in a pot which is watered for nine days at the end of which the seeds sprout. This pot is worshiped throughout the nine days and is known as Khetri. After the pooja, on the tenth day, these seedlings or the Khetri as this is referred to be submerged in water preferably in Yamuna. Another main feature of Navaratri celebrations in Delhi is the Ramlila performances that take place in the evenings all over the city. These plays reenact scenes from the much loved Hindu epic the Ramayana. They tell the life story of Lord Rama, culminating with his defeat of the demon Ravan on the tenth day, Dussehra.
In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the Dasara festival starts with the performance of Ramlila which is unique as it is based on the musical rendering of the katha or story of Lord Rama. It is based on the theatrical traditions set by Uday Shankar during his stay in Almora; these traditions were further enriched by Mohan Upreti and Brijendra Lal Sah. Known as the Almora or Kumaon style, Ramlila has been recognised by UNESCO in its 2008 report as one of the representative styles of Ramlila in India.
Eastern India’s Navratri
Vijoya Dashami or Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Puja in two different ways in Odisha. In Shakti Peethas or temples of the goddesses, the Durga Puja is observed with rituals for a period of 10 to 16 days, known as Shodasa Upachara. The goddess Durga is also worshipped by devotees in different pandals throughout the state. The pandals are beautifully decorated. The last day of the Sharodiya Durga Puja is known as Vijayadashami. After the last ritual Aparajita Puja is performed to the goddess, a tearful farewell is offered to her.
Women offer Dahi-Pakhal (cooked rice soaked in water, with curd), Pitha (baked cakes), Mitha (sweets) and fried fish to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locale and finally are immersed in a nearby river or lake. After the immersion of the deity, people across the state celebrate Ravan Podi, in which they burn an effigy of the demon Ravan. The Durga Puja festivities are also prominent in Maa Katak Chandi Temple. Maa Cuttack Chandi is the presiding deity of Cuttack. The goddess popularly called as Maa Katak Chandi, sits and rules on the heart of the ancient city. She is worshipped as Bhuvaneswari. Maa Chandi is worshipped in various incarnations of Durga during the puja. In Cuttack, people strongly believe Maa Katak Chandi as ‘The Living Goddess’.
The largest Pujas are held in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Balasore, Sambalpur and Rourkela. Shaheed Nagar, Nayapalli and Rasulgarh spend the most on the idols, decorations, lighting, and other elements. It is thus one of the prime festivals of Odisha as well. People in Odisha celebrate it on a large scale. The Goddess Durga is among the sacred goddesses of Odisha. The celebrations are quite similar to the neighbouring state of West Bengal.
In eastern India, especially in Bengal, the Durga Puja is the principal festival during Navaratri. It is celebrated with gaiety and devotion through public ceremonies of “Sarbojanin Puja” or community worship. Huge decorative temporary structures called “pandals” are constructed to house these grand prayer services, followed by mass feeding, and cultural functions. The earthen icons of Goddess Durga, accompanied by those of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikya, are taken out on the tenth day in a triumphal procession to the nearby river, where they are ceremonially immersed. Bengali ladies give an emotion-charged send-off to Durga amidst ululations and drumbeats. This marks the end of the goddess’ brief visit to the earth. As Durga leaves for Mount Kailash, the abode of her husband Shiva, it’s time for “Bijoya” or Vijayadashami, when people visit each other’s homes, hug each other and exchange sweets.
The last four days of Sharad Navaratri take on a particularly dramatic form in the state of West Bengal in East India where they are celebrated as Durga Puja. This is the biggest festival of the year in this state. 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 worshiped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day.
West Bengal and Eastern India: In West Bengal, Navratri is celebrated as Durga Pooja, where beautiful idols of the Goddess are decorated and adorned, and worshiped for a period of nine days and immersed on the tenth day. Different manifestations of Durga are worshiped every night and this is one of the biggest and most important festivals for the people of West Bengal. For these ceremonies Pandals (temporary public booths) are erected. Poshchim Banga looks drenched in bright and vibrant colors as Maa Durga descends from the heaven to visit her maternal home on Earth. She is received with much love and warmth and her arrival and departure are overwhelming, for she departs only to return the following year. A literal visit to the capital city during Durga Puja is ‘a must watch‘ in one’s lifetime. The city takes on hues of bright red with auspicious signs and freshness. Celebrations heighten as ‘dhakis’ beat traditional drums in houses. The festivity starts from Bodhon or Mahashashti or the sixth day of the festival to the visarjan (immersion) of the clay idol on the tenth day. Bengalis regale in the festival by buying new clothes, jewellery, visiting pandals etc.
The capital of Bengal, Kolkata, alone boasts of more than 10,000 pandals vying for attention of the happy masses hopping on their feet. In Orissa the festival is celebrated in a similar manner due to proximity between the two states.
Durga Puja is one of the major festivals in Bihar. Hundreds of pandals are set up with carnivals. The city witnesses a huge surge in visitors in the four days from Maha Saptami. More than 100 exhibits, known as Pandals are setup across the city. Ancient Places of Patna Durga Puja includes Bari and Chhoti Patan Devi, Maa Shitla Mandir Agamkuan etc. Some of the popular puja pandals include New Dak Bunglow Road, Shiv Mandir Khajpura, Shri Krishna Puri, Durga Ashram etc. In Purnea district which has a significance number of Bengali population organizes many Durga Puja but the most famous one is by Bhatta Durga Bari Samiti established in 1924. They conducts many cultural and educational competition since sashti till Navami.
Navratri in Southern Colours
In southern India celebrations constitute a display of images of goddesses at home for nine days amidst much pomp and gaiety with pooja and archans conducted for the goddesses. Various cities of southern India celebrate navratri in its own way.
‘Batukamma Panduga‘ is celebrated during Navratri in Andhra Pradesh, especially in the Telangana region. ‘Batukamma Panduga’ means ‘Come Alive Mother Goddess’. These nine days are dedicated to shakti and are celebrated in a very unique way. Women prepare ‘Batukamma’ which is actually a beautiful flower stack, arranged with seasonal flowers, in seven layers. It is made to look like a pot made of flowers. Batuku in Telugu means life and Amma, as we all know, means mother. So, this festival is devoted to celebrating universal motherhood. Women wear silk sarees and gold ornaments and make the most of these nine days.
After preparing their respective Batukamma’s, women gather in the evening for the ritual. They place them in the centre and dance around them by singing folk songs dedicated to Goddess Shakti. Then they march towards a lake or any other water body and set afloat their Batukammas.
This Dravidian state adds a regional touch to the celebrations. Women belonging to the Iyer community invite married women to their homes in the evenings and gift them with accessories like bangles, earrings and other items that are symbolic of their marital status. These are suggestive of prayers for their husbands and their long lives. A coconut, beetle leaves and beetle nuts, and money are also given as gifts to these women. A special recipe called ‘Sundal’ made of lentil seeds and pulses is made on each day and served to the guests.
Some people also display a ‘Golu’ at their homes. ‘Golu` is an arrangement made on a make-shift staircase with nine stairs. Each stair symbolizes each day of Navratri. Decorative items, idols of Gods and Goddesses are placed on the stairs. In most cases, the dolls that are used for the ‘Golu’ are handed over from generation to generation. Here the nine nights of Navratri are dedicated to the three Goddesses, Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati. In a raised platform the clay idols of these three deities with their consorts, Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma are placed and worshipped. The main room of worship contains a pitcher made of clay, silver or copper. The pitcher is placed in the centre of the room; its mouth covered with a coconut, worshipped symbolically as Durga.
Unlike Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Kerala celebrates only the last three days of Navratri. Ashtami, Navami and Vijaya Dashmi are of utmost importance for the Keralites. This South Indian state that tops the literacy rate in the country, considers these three days as the most auspicious time to initiate learning. They place books, musical instruments (if any) in front of Goddess Saraswati’s idol on the day of Ashtami. The books are worshipped and people pray to the Goddess for granting them wisdom and knowledge. On the tenth day, the books are taken out for reading.
Durga Puja is the onset of starting formal education of children aged 3-5 years. Ayudya Puja is celebrated on ashtami, the eighth day of Navratri, during which the tools available in home are worshipped. It is a local custom to not use any tool on this day. On Navmi, the books and records symbolising Goddess Saraswati are worshipped.
The Saraswati temple at Kottayam is a major attraction during this period as devotees throng to take a dip in the mysterious holy pond whose source is yet unknown. At Thekkegram in Palghat, there are no idols but mirrors which reflect the image of the devotee. One has to bow before own reflection in the mirror, which indicates that God is within us. Ponnani’s famous Durga Temple, the Thrikkavu Temple, is reknowned for Navratri celebrations and vidyarambham (beginning of formal education).
Karnataka will be celebrating its 402nd Navratri this year. Its way of celebrating Navratri dates back to the times of Raja Wodeyar in the 1610. The way people spend these nine nights are absolutely historic in nature, for they follow the same trend which was followed by the great Vijayanagara dynasty. It’s called ‘Naada Habba’ in the state. However, the basic reason for the celebrations remains the same – victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasur, who happened to be a resident of Mysore. The celebrations include procession of elephants on the streets. Fairs and exhibitions of handicrafts and artifacts are common feature.
Goddess Chamundeswari is the family deity of the Royal House of Mysore and during Dussehra; caparisoned elephants carry her idol in procession across the streets. The famous Mysore Palace is illuminated with lights for a month marking the joy and gaiety of the festival. Many cultural performances are presented before the king in the Durbar Hall of the Palace. The whole city is decorated with bright light and colorful patterns for ten days. In fact, many people visit Mysore from all over the country to watch this vibrant event. There is also a floating festival in the temple tank at the foot of Chamundi Hill and a procession of chariots around the temple at the top.
(Compiled by Heena Nanda)
Durga Puja In North-east India
The seven States of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh, also known as the seven sisters, form the Northeast region of India. Most of the region is still in sync with nature as it is covered by forested hills and valleys interspersed by rivers and wetlands with a rich biodiversity. The region has a variety of ethnic communities and tribes who are its original inhabitants. Yet it is a mini-India as over the decades people from every corner of India have come here for work or business and settled down making it their home. Its socio-cultural customs and festivals are thus a unique blend of the indigenous and the Indian, the natural and the supernatural.
The region’s most popular festivals are linked to nature and agriculture which is the mainstay of the people. Like the Bihu in Assam, Nongkrem and Wangala festivals of Meghalaya, Chapchar Kut of Mizoram, Solum in Arunachal Pradesh, Sekrenyi of Nagaland or Garia Puja of Tripura to name a few. Besides each State is a kaleidoscope of ethnic communities and tribes each of whom have their own distinct customs and festivals. But the essence of each festival in the Northeast is spreading universal brotherhood through communal feasting, music, song and dance. Even though religious festivals in the region are observed by the people according to their faith, Durga puja is a time when the entire region irrespective of State, community, ethnicity, tribe or religion is immersed in a festive spirit.
In Assam community pandals are set up in almost all urban localities and many villages to celebrate the festival. The capital city of Guwahati has over a thousand puja pandals. And in Silchar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, the main towns of the Barak valley dominated by Bengali Hindus, the celebrations are equally widespread. Idols of the Goddess are made by local artisans although some puja committees get experts from Kolkata. Puja pandals are attractively decorated and to create public awareness a recent trend has been to have thematic displays highlighting the problems plaguing society like inflation, crime against women, corruption, violence, terrorism, flash- floods, rhino poaching etc. Competitions are held for the best pandal and the top three are awarded. A unique feature is also the performance of the Brahma Kumaris who pose live as Durga, Saraswati, Ganesh and Mahisasur in some of the pandals. Thousands of people throng the puja mandaps and a festive air prevails. Durga puja is also conducted in the Kamakhya temple at Guwahati for five days. Kamakhya is known as a shaktipeeth where the procreative organ, yoni, of Parvati fell during Lord Shiva’s tandav across the country.
Tripura also celebrates Durga puja extensively. Last year there were 2151 community pujas with 351 in the capital Agartala. Several people from the Muslim, Christian and Buddhist communities also jointly organize community pujas in different parts of the State. Moreover hundreds of pujas are organized by both tribals and non-tribals in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council areas. This is a welcome sign of communal harmony for peace and the State’s development.
Manipur started celebrating Durga puja from 1714, when the then king Pamheiba Ningtou embraced Hinduism. The main centre of worship is the Kalimai temple in Imphal and Hiyangthang Lairembi near Imphal. Here Durga puja is synchronized with puja to the traditional Meitei Goddess Panthoibi Iratpa who according to Meitei society is the Goddess of creation. Therefore both Goddesses are worshipped simultaneously as they represent “power”- the power of creation and the power of annihilation.
In Meghalaya, the festival is celebrated in about 200 Sarbajanin Durga Puja pandals mainly in the capital Shillong which has a large Bengali community. However the Jaintiyas an indigenous tribe of Meghalaya too worship the Goddess in the ancient temple of Nartiang near Shillong. Aizawl the capital of Mizoram has a long tradition of observing Durga puja dating back to 1904 when it was first organized at Shakti Mandir by some Bengali government employees. Today, even though the number of pujas are limited, it is now a new event in the Mizo calendar and is not only confined to one community alone but celebrated by all Christian tribal clans. Itanagar the capital of Arunachal Pradesh has been holding Durga pujas since the last four decades. Parasuram Kund in the State is one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites. While Malinithan at Likabil is the site where Shaktism and Savism have converged. Hence even though Arunachalis are basically nature worshippers or Buddhists they have a legacy of the Indian religious ethos. In comparison to the other States the Durga puja festival is subdued in Nagaland where it is observed in the capital of Kohima and the commercial hub of the State, Dimapur. The last day of Durga puja, Vijay Dashami, is also celebrated as Dussehra. Ram Lilas are held at many places with giant statues of Ravan going up in flames with a burst of fire-crackers.
Originally nature worshippers, with the passage of time Hinduism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity have influenced the religious beliefs of the people of the Northeast. Also, earlier Durga puja was considered to be a predominantly Bengali festival. But now, come Durga puja and everybody together celebrates the triumph of good over evil.