Navratri: Sacred nine nights

If you are anywhere in India this time around the year, you would know what it means to experience ecstasy and agony at the same time. The moment you step out of your home, chaos awaits you.


If you are driving on your own, you are worthy of a “Bravery Award” because handling the kind of stress it causes is a mean business and no child’s play. Alternatively if you choose to take some public transport, by the time you reach your final destination, you would be complete mess and not be able to recognize yourself. However, despite all the odds, it is the most awaited time period of the year for Indians. It is the festive season and everything is so spectacular. Just like you find a lotus in dirt, you ought to thrive in pandemonium. If you look at the bigger picture, there is so much beauty in this chaos. Every single place, be it the markets, the temples, the celebration grounds or melas looks divine. Places are decorated aesthetically and lights are sparkling bright everywhere. People are animated and shopping for new clothes, jewelry, home décor items, gods and goddesses idols etc.

It is the Navratri festival going on. “Nav” means nine and “ratri” means night. Navratri is a very popular event for Indians. The Navratri festivities last for total nine days and nights. It is observed twice each year, once around March-April and the other time, around September-October. Throughout this period, several religious ceremonies and rituals are performed. People often keep fasts or eat strictly vegetarian Navratri special food comprising of fruits, potatoes, desserts made of milk and other dairy products, but no flour. Chanting mantras, religious hymns and prayers devoted to Mother Goddess are an important feature. People of the same community often pool together and organize a whole nightlong event called “Jagran”. In a jagran, people recite sacred text and sing religious songs all night long. Attending a “jagran” is a blissful experience because the whole ambiance there is so positive and energetic that the effect rubs on you. It is bound to take you in a state of trance.

People from different states of India have slight variations in Navratri celebrations. Jagrans and flamboyant navratri melas are common in north India. The Bengali community celebrate “Durga Puja” during this period. Durga puja is the most awaited festival for Bengalis. Pandals/tents are set up where Goddess Durga’s coveted idols are duly seated and people perform prayers all night long. Durga Pooja comes to an end with the immersion of the idols of Goddess Durga in river.

In the state of Gujarat and Rajasthan, Navratri is celebrated in full vigor and Dandiya or Stick dance is a common practice. In fact, Dandiya holds a significant position in Navratri celebrations. The dance is very lively and enthusiastic and sets up the festive mood. The costumes worn by dancers are extremely colorful and glamorous. The women wear traditional gujrati lehenga (skirt), dazzling with mirror work, also called as “Chania Choli” along with heavy bandhini/tie and die stole. Men look equally scintillating in their traditional costumes called “Kedias”. The colorful sticks used as props are made of bamboo. The dancers strike the sticks with their partners as they dance in a circular motion, to the music played. Dandiya is just as much fun to watch as it is to participate.

These celebration grounds are also potential match making sites all over India. Young girls and boys attend all these festivities looking their best in traditional ethnic attires and parents often keep an eye for prospective grooms and brides.

The ninth day is the final day of Navratri celebrations, which is also known as ‘Mahanavami’. On this day, people perform Kanya puja , wherein nine young girls, who have not yet attained puberty are worshiped, fed and offered gifts. That marks the closure of nine days and nights of delightful Navratri celebrations.

Navratri pictures
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Author: Richa Arora

Comments

  1. fascinating says:

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  2. Looks like Navratri is a colorful festivel, this too I’d like to participate on my next trip to India.

    Is it popular only in North India or people celebrate in south India too?

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