Navratri, as the name suggests is a nine day long festival wherein the Cosmic Goddess is worshiped in her different forms. It is celebrated from the first day of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashwin. Coming around the end of September, it generally coincides with the end of rains.
The day after the Navratri i.e. the tenth day, is known as either Vijayadashami (the day of victory) or as Dussehra (the defeat of the ten headed one). This day which is both a day of religious observance as well as a day of celebration is believed by many to be the day to be when Goddess Durga defeated and killed the demon Mahishasura. This day is also remembered by the Hindus as the day of fall of another evil force, Ravana, who was slayed at the hands of Lord Rama.
Navratri is celebrated all over India. Pious people fast for the sake of their revered Goddess. Her temples are frequented through the nine days. Women drape themselves in different color sarees throughout the festival. One could see a variety of colors flaunted, from grey on the first day, white on the third, purple on the ninth and so on.
In the Western India, the nights are celebrated with a form of dance called ‘Garba’, played using sticks which are struck together by the young men and women, creating a beautiful melody, which echoes through the silent hours. And then at the end of the festival comes the day of Durga Puja. Idols of Goddess Durga portraying her slaying Mahishasura are set up in many places, especially in the lands of Orrisa and West Bengal. The south too celebrates this festival with glory. Their tradition of Golu Dolls is well known.
Among the Maharashtrians, Goddess Laxmi and Saraswati are worshipped. On the day of Vijayadashami, weapons are blessed and offered ‘apta’ leaves. Punjabis spend the first seven days in fasting, and on the eighth, the young girls of those localities are themselves treated as devis. Their feet are ceremoniously washed and blessing sought from them.
There are also instances of animal sacrifices to the devis in Nepal, in Puri in Orrisa, and in other places throughout India.
On the whole, Navratri is a festival of joy and this festive mood reverberates throughout the nation with varied traditions of different regions, all centered on the principle of celebration of the victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil.
(Feature image source: Flickr)