The festival of Navratri is a celebration of female power or shakti for nine nights during the month of Ashvin (Note: Hindus follow a lunisolar calendar). This usually coincides with the English months of September and October.
Nav meaning “nine” and ratri meaning “night”. Each night coincides with a form of Devi such as Kali, Saraswati, Durga and Laxmi. Navratri is celebrated in many ways across India’s diverse regions. For some it is a time of fasting and praying. That means a strict vegetarian diet with no onion, garlic and mushrooms. The Navratri Thali is especially famous during this period. In addition, devotees abstain from activities like drinking and smoking.
People perform special prayers to acknowledge important assets such as cheque books, laptops, even cars. It is not uncommon to see garlands of marigolds and sona patti (mango leaves) dangling on motorbikes, cars, bicycles, and the entrances of homes during Navratri.
One popular ritual during Navratri is Kanya Puja. Nine young girls are dressed to embody the nine forms of the Goddess. They are worshipped by bathing their feet, and through making offerings of food, clothing and jewelry.
In West Bengal, Navratri is better known as Durga Puja. Huge images of Goddess Durga are created by specialized potters and sculptors. Depicting her destructon of the demon Mahishasura, the images stand tall with their vivid bright colors and ornate decoration. Pandals are erected and are lit up with colored lights and red flags. On the tenth night of Navratri called Vijayadashami or Dusshera, the images of Goddess Durga are immersed in rivers or water reservoirs.
In some parts of Northern India, Dussehra is associated with the victory of the Lord Rama over the demon Ravana. Many cities hold a week long play Ram Lila, dramatizing different episodes from the famous Indian epic Ramayana. On the last night, huge effigies of the demon Ravana are burnt, signifying the triumph of good over evil.
But for many others especially youngsters, Navratri is a time for dancing and feasting. The two traditional dances Garba and Dandiya draw thousands to dance halls. These dance forms are a form of mock-fight, symbolizing the nine-day battle between Goddess Durga and the demon king Mahishasura.
So, what are you waiting for? Come discover the Goddess inside you. Welcome to Navratri!