Navratri: The Celebrations In Various Parts of India

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Navratri literally means "Nine days". It is one of the most looked forward festivals of India, which is celebrated twice a year, once in the beginning of the summer and then again at the onset of winter. The one at the onset of winter marks the beginning of the festive season, whereby, after the nine days of worshiping Ma Durga, the tenth day culminates in Dussehra. And then we have Karvachauth and Diwali.

The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar. In the first three days, the Goddess Durga is worshiped. Durga literally means removal of miseries of life. Durga is also referred to as Devi (Goddess) and Shakti (energy). She is worshiped for the first three days to destroy all our impurities and defects.

The next three days, the goddess is worshiped as Lakshmi, who bestows wealth on her devotees.

The final three days is spent worshiping the Goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to live a happy life, we need blessings of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, hence the worship of nine days.

Navratri is celebrated in different ways in India. In the North, people keep fast. They worship the Goddess as Sheranwali Maa, whose shrine is in Vaishno Devi near Katra, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. And during this time, Jagran and Mata ki Chowki are kept by people. In Jagran, the whole night is spent singing songs of Mata, while in Chowki, the program is for about three hours.

The markets sell every item needed in the pooja of Mata - from red chunri to special food that is eaten during the fast. Kuttu and Singhada atta (flour) are used to make roti, and eaten with aloo ki sabzi or dahi. Popular food chains, Nirulas and Haldirams, bring out special thalis for people keeping the fast. During the nine days, pious Hindus do not eat eggs and non vegetarian food.

On the eight day is Ashtami. On this day women cook poori, kaale chane (black grams) and halwa (a sweet dish made of semolina), and invite young girls to their homes. These young girls are seen as manifestation of Mata, and they are given food and gift items, which could be anything from a decorative plate, a lunch box, chunri, bangles etc. Some observe the same ritual on the ninth day - the Navami.

Another ritual in the North is the sowing of jaun seeds. Jaun seeds are sowed in special clay pots that are available in the market during this time. It is believed that the growth of the shoots during the nine days determines the extent of prosperity Mata will bestow on her devotee.

In West Bengal, the nine days are celebrated as Durga Pooja. In every area, tents are erected, known as pandals. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-sized clay idols of Godddess Durga, depicting her slaying the demon Mahisasura, are set up in these pandals.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Also have a look at some such Durga Puja pandals in our Lens View section.]

In Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated as Garba and Dandiya. Women, men, and children wear special ethnic wear, and play the Dandiya - a dance with sticks. In Mumbai, during the Navratri festival, Bollywood celebrities make special public appearances in different areas, which add to the festivities.

Doesn’t matter where you are in India during Navratri, these nine days are always an onset to the biggest Indian festival, Deepawali - the festival of Lights.

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