3 October, 2018
We are right now in the Pitru Paksha, preceding the auspicious festival of Navaratri. Navaratri means the nine nights and ten days celebrated indicating the various forms of the Goddess Durga. In different parts of India, this festival has different significances and traditions and stories associated with it.
In eastern parts of India, especially in West Bengal, this period is celebrated as Durga Puja. It is one of the biggest festivals for people, and Durga Puja pandals come up in all parts of the state, in almost every city. Huge idols of Goddess Durga are installed and worshipped with devotion and gaiety, throughout the nine days. Here, the belief is that Goddess Durga, overcame the demon, Mahishashura and hence, people celebrate the win of the good over the evil.
Along with Goddess Durga, the other goddesses like Lakshmi, Saraswati, etc. are also worshipped in few parts. After the celebrations, on Vijayadashami day, the statue of the Goddess is taken in a grand procession to a water body like sea, river, lake or ocean and immersed, in it.
In North India, Navaratri is the time to enjoy the ‘Ram Lila’, where the stories of Ram and his triumph over the evil Ravana are enacted as plays in many parts. It is believed that the festival is celebrated in honor of Ram’s victory of the evil Ravana, who had abducted his wife, Devi Sita. People visit temples, partake in Pujas, and on Vijayadashami day, huge effigies of Ravana are burnt by shooting a fire arrow, to indicate Lord Ram’s victory symbolically. Many people in these parts also observe fast on the nine days.
In these parts, Gujarat is famous for the way it celebrates its Navaratri, with a lot of pomp, fun, enthusiasm, devotion, song, and dance. Here, the Garba dance is played with the Dandiya sticks, where groups of people get together and dance in huge circles. All nine days, mark festivities, Pujas, and prayers, and in the evening, people get together and enjoy the dancing.
In the South, this festival has become world famous, because of the Mysore Dusshera, which is a huge tourist attraction. Here, the nine days mark great devotion and festivities, led by the Mysore King, the Wodeyars. The Goddess Chamundeshwari is taken out in a procession on the Vijayadashami day, on decorated elephants, accompanied by many folk dances and artists performing in the procession. Also, the whole Mysore city and the palace are illuminated, and it is indeed a great sight to watch.
In most parts of South India, people also perform Saraswati Puja, in honor of the Goddess of learning, and kids usually keep their books for Puja and learning does not happen from the eighth day to the tenth day, especially in Kerala. This is also the time when ‘Vidyarambam’ or the initiation of a young one is done, into the world of studies.
Ayudha Puja is also observed in many parts of South India, wherein people worship their tools and vehicles. Also, in many regions, especially in Tamil Nadu, they have the display of many dolls called Bomma Kolu, Gombe, etc. is done. People decorate a part of their house with various dolls depicting many things, including the lives of the gods and goddesses, and the belief is to keep adding one new doll every year. These are passed on to generations in families. In Telangana, women prepare and offer Bathukamma, a flower decoration to the Goddesses.
While many parts of India, celebrate it differently, there is a common thread of fun, devotion, festivities, prayers, family get together, lots of food and rituals happening across. It is a time for people to thank the god for the triumph of good over evil, to pray for the betterment of the society in general and also share their happiness with others.
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