Navratri is one example of a festival that celebrates this diversity. In Sanskrit, the word Navratri means “nine nights”; nava means “nine” and ratri means “nights.” Nine different forms of the goddess are worshipped over the course of nine nights and ten days. It’s almost as if we’re allowing ourselves the time and space to rejuvenate and cleanse ourselves from within. Let us take a look at how people celebrate Navratri in different parts of India and see how diverse they are.
In North India, Navratri commemorates Lord Rama’s victory over the evil king Ravana. It culminates in the Ramlila celebrations, which are performed ceremoniously during Dussehra. On the day of ‘Vijaya Dashami,’ effigies of Ravana and Kumbhakarna are burned to commemorate the victory of good (Rama) over evil forces.
The custom of giving gifts on Navratri is quite common in the north. These could include sweets, Indian clothing for both men and women, and something useful for the home. “My fondest memory of Navratri is being invited by the neighbours on the eighth and ninth day, and being revered like a goddess,” says Shobhita Sharma, a Delhi-based architect, of Kanya Puja. Of course, it didn’t hurt that my other girlfriends and I were given money and candy at the end of the ceremony.”
Navratri is celebrated in Western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat, with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Raas dances. Garba is a graceful form of dance in which women dance in circles around a pot holding a lamp. The word ‘Garba’ or ‘Garbha’ means womb, and the lamp in the pot represents life within a womb in this context. Aside from the Garba, there is the Dandiya dance, in which men and women perform in pairs while holding small, decorated bamboo sticks called dandiyas. Tiny bells called ghungroos are tied to the ends of these dandiyas, which make a jingling sound when the sticks hit each other.
“More than the pujas, we are fond of playing garba, which is organized by every society and club in Gujarat. One can easily find classes for it in every city and town. Plus, we all especially buy new dresses – chaniya-cholis for women, and turbans and kedias for men. Some people even fast during these days, despite which they attend garba each evening. In short, “Navratri is the time to visit Gujarat and take part in these festivities.”
In West Bengal and North East India, the last five days of Sharad Navratri are dedicated to Durga Puja. Devi Durga is depicted riding on a lion, holding various weapons in her hands. The lion represents dharma, or willpower, while the weapons represent the focus and severity required to destroy the negativity in our minds. Durgashtami is traditionally celebrated on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of the eighth year of the eighth year of In temples and other locations, life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are exquisitely crafted and decorated. These idols are then worshipped for five days before being immersed in a river on the fifth.
In south India, Navratri is a time to gather friends, relatives, and neighbours to view the Kolu, which is essentially an exhibition of various dolls and figurines. This exhibition is known as Bombe Habba in Kannada, Bommai Kolu in Tamil, Bomma Gullu in Malayalam, and Bommala Koluvu in Telugu.
In Karnataka, Navratri is known as Dasara. During the nine nights of Navratri, a night-long dance in the form of epic dramas from the puranas is performed. The Mysore Dasara is celebrated with great fanfare and a spectacular show depicting the triumph of good over evil. The royal family of Mysore and their jumbo savari lead the celebrations as the state festival.
Therefore,Navratri is about reconnecting with something much larger than ourselves, and these rituals are tools to help us do so. Furthermore, these nine days have been given to us in order for us to rest, rejuvenate, and connect with ourselves, which in turn helps us connect with our loved ones and celebrate life.