Navratri Celebrations in Different Regions across India
Maha Navratri or Navaratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight (Shukla paksha) of the lunar month of Ashvin. It ends with the Vijayadashami or Dussehra celebrations on the tenth day (Dashami) of the fortnight. The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar and may have some slight regional variations. Also, the different incarnations/names of Goddess worshipped depend on the regional traditions. Hence, in the ten-day celebration from pratipada to Dashami, the daily observances and the days of importance vary with different regions in India.
In the regions in North India, Chaitra Navratri and Sharad Navratri are widely observed. It includes fasting and worshipping the forms of Mother Goddess. The 9-day celebrations of Chaitra Navratri culminate in Ram Navami and that of Sharad Navratri in Durga Pooja or Dussehra. The Dussehra celebrations in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh is particularly famous.
In Bengal, the last 4 days of Sharad Navaratri are celebrated with much fervor. Those days are observed as Durga Pooja and it is the most important annual festival in the state. Idols of Goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahishasura are erected in temples and other places. These idols are decorated and worshipped during these four days and are immersed in the river on the fifth day (Dashami).
In Punjab, the Navratri festival is known as Navaratras or Naratey where the first seven days are for fasting. On the eighth day (Ashtami), devotees break their fasts by inviting young girls to their homes where they are treated as the goddess herself. They are called ‘Kanyak Devis’ and devotees ceremonially wash their feet, worship them and offer traditional delicacies along with bangles, red scarves and a token amount of money called ‘shagun’. Another practice during Navaratras is sowing seeds (pulses or cereals) in a pot on the first day and watering it for the nine days. This practice indicating fertility worship is known as Khetri. The pot is worshipped throughout the nine days, at the end of which the seeds get sprouted.
Navratri is one of the major festivals in Gujarat where devotees celebrate with dancing and singing. Every night of the festival is celebrated by performing Garba or Dayan Raas dance. Devotees conduct Durga Pooja and then accompany together to perform Garba with a live orchestra. For the past few years, the Government of Gujarat has been organizing the 9 days long Navratri celebrations where natives as well as people from abroad, take part.
In Goa, on the first day of the month Ashwin, devotees install a copper pitcher surrounded by clay in temples or houses. 9 varieties of food grains are sown in it. Devotees celebrate all the nine nights, reciting religious discourses and devotional songs. Also, they arrange a specially decorated swing called Makhar in which an idol of Goddess is placed and is swung according to the music played. This ritual accompanied by orchestra and lamps is called Makharotsav.
In Maharashtra, Ghatasthapana is celebrated from the first day of the month of Ashwin. Ghat arrangement includes an earthen pot filled with water and surrounded by clay in which food grains are sown and allowed to sprout for nine days. Five stems of jowar are also placed over the pot which completes the ‘Ghat’. Women devotees worship the pot for nine days, offering rituals and a garland of flowers, leaves, fruits, dry fruits, etc. Water is also offered to get the seeds sprouted.
Some people conduct Kali Pooja on days 1 and 2, Laxmi Pooja on days 3, 4, 5 and Saraswati Pooja on days 6, 7, 8 & 9 along with Ghatasthapana. A yajna or home is offered to Goddess Durga on the eighth day. On a ninth day, after the Ghat Pooja, it is dissolved by taking off the sprouted leaves of the grains. Some families invite a woman from Matang community and offer food. The woman is treated as a form of the Goddess and blessings are sought from her. On the occasion of Dussehra or Vijayadashmi, devotees worship iron utensils and weapons. The iron equipment is washed and leaves of Apta (called ‘sona’) and sprouted grains are offered. Vidyarambhan – the ceremony marking the beginning of children’s learning is also observed on this day.
Arranging Kolu is an important Navratri observation in Tamil Nadu. It includes a step-like arrangement on which idols/dolls are displayed. The women in the neighbourhood invite each other to see the Kolu displays in their homes. They also exchange sweets. Conducting pooja, reciting slokas or hymns and offering food items to the Goddess is also a part of this observation. On the 9th day, Saraswati – the Goddess of wisdom is worshipped. Books, musical instruments, etc. are kept for pooja and worshipped. Ayudha Pooja or worship of vehicles and tools is another important observation on this day. All industries and mechanical shops in Tamil Nadu conduct Ayudha Pooja at their premises.
The 10th day or Vijayadasami symbolizes a new prosperous beginning devoid of all evils. New ventures started on this day are believed to flourish and kids are often let to start their education on this day. In the evening of Vijayadashami day, prayers are offered to thank God before dismantling the Kolu.
Navratri is celebrated as Dussehra in Karnataka. Ayudha Pooja on Mahanavami (ninth day) is a major observation here and whatever tools/instruments a person uses in his daily life or for his livelihood is kept for worshipping. Devotees believe that the new ventures started on this day can bring success.
The 10 day long Dussehra celebrations have a great fervor in Mysore. King Raja Wodeyar-I of Mysore has declared it as the official festival of the state in 1610. Colorful processions are organized here on the 9th and the 10th days of the festival. The traditional Dussehra procession on Vijayadashami (tenth day) is locally known as Jumboo Savari. During this procession starting from the Mysore palace, an image of Goddess Chamundeshwari will be carried on the back of a decorated elephant. A huge mass of people participates in this procession which also includes music bands, dance groups, elephants, horses, and camels. The procession ends at Bannimantapa where a banni tree is worshipped. The tenth-day celebrations end with a torchlight parade ‘Panjina Kavayatthu’ on the night of Vijayadashami.
The major Navaratri observation in Kerala is the worship of Goddess Saraswati from Ashtami (8th day) to Vijayadashami. It is observed at temples, homes, schools, and offices as well. Books are kept for worship on Ashtami and they are ceremoniously taken out on Vijayadashami after conducting the Pooja. Ayudha Pooja – the worship of tools and vehicles is also a major observation here.
Vidyarambham – initiating children into reading and writing is the most important Navratri observation in Kerala. The event is conducted at homes and temples where the priest or an elderly person initiates children to write ‘Om Harisree Ganapathaye Namah’ on a plate filled with rice. Millions of children are thus initiated into the world of letters and knowledge on Vijayadashami day.
In Telangana, a region of Andhra Pradesh, Navratri is celebrated as Bathukamma. Here, the 9 days are divided into sets of 3 days and the three different aspects of the supreme Goddess are worshipped. The three different aspects of the Tridevis are Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. On the first 3 days, Durga or Kali is worshipped symbolizing the destruction of evils. On the next 3 days, Goddess Lakshmi is adored who bestows wealth and prosperity. In the final 3 days, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped to earn her blessings in our pursuit of knowledge. Thus we would find significant variations in Navratri celebrations in different parts of India. However, the core concept behind the celebration remains the same throughout; which is the worship of different aspects of the divine femininity of the supreme Goddess. In some places, the Dussehra celebration is a commemoration of the victory of Lord Ram over Ravana. Thus on Vijayadashami day, effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Meghanada are burnt as part of the celebration.
Significances of Navratri
The Hindu concept of Durga or Shakthi is a manifestation of the omnipresent energy of the universe. She is the energy behind the creation, preservation, and destruction. During Navratri, we worship the different aspects of this energy and this agrees with the scientific fact that energy can neither be created nor be destroyed.
Hinduism gives much importance to the mother aspect of God. The universe or the world we live in has the qualities of a mother. Just as a mother loves, cares and gives all comforts to her children, nature provides everything for preserving life. The divine power controls the movement of celestial bodies. It makes the Earth rotate and revolve around the Sun; causing day and night and climatic changes, creating a perfect abode for sustaining life. Hence, we worship this energy as Mother Goddess.
We observe Navaratri at the beginning of summer and at the beginning of winter which are the two important junctures of climatic change. Our ancestors have chosen these occasions as the sacred opportunities for worshipping the divine energy.
Courtesy: Indian Astrology Software