India is one of the most culturally diverse nations that has its deep roots in traditions. Within the country, religion plays a definitive and focal role in the life of each and every individual.
Navratri is one such festival where people celebrate it in diversity. It is a nine-day festival celebrated in different ways across India. Although there are common elements that can be found in all celebrations, each state has its own unique way of observing the festival. From food to rituals and dress codes, every state has its own take on Navratri.
While some states observe it by fasting or keeping a strict vegetarian diet for nine days, others practice it by giving up certain vices like smoking or drinking for nine days. Some states also have their own set of rituals that involve cleaning houses, lighting earthen lamps (Aarti), singing folk songs (Garbi), and dancing to specific beats (Dandiya).
So without waiting let us peek into different ways of celebrating Navratri around India with its sheer diversity.
Garba in Gujarat
The Gujarati Navratri is celebrated in a grand fashion with dances like Garba and dandiya. People enjoy a mix of traditional and modern songs as they dance along to the beats.
People also enjoy a variety of sweets like kheer, halva, and gud (jaggery) during this festival.
During Navratri, people in Gujarat use Mehendi to decorate their hands and feet. Women offer garlands to the Goddess during the evenings when the temples are lit with lamps and the sounds of bells can be heard.
Recall the iconic dance of Deepika Padukone in Nagado sang dhol song from Ramleela movie? Well, the festival is also known as ‘Garba Raas’ in Gujarat, where men and women perform a traditional dance around garbo (an earthen pot that is used for aarti).
To celebrate the ritual, people wear rich and colorful outfits, mostly made on vibrant embroidered fabrics or mirror-work embroidery. Females wear Chaniya Choli, a colorful 3-piece attire that comprises a blouse, skirt or lehenga, and dupatta.
They even carry Bandhani Dupatta during Garba. Along with this, they adorn themselves with jewelry like earrings, bangles, and necklaces.
Men usually wear Kurta-pajama or Dhoti and carry colorful turbans to match their costumes. The more enthusiastic men often wear colorful embroidered jackets to match their kurta. Another traditional outfit that Gujrati men wear is Kafni pajamas with a Ghagra (a short round kurta).
Fair in Rajasthan
Rajasthan celebrates Navratri with a lot of gusto and zeal during which the people of the state enjoy folk dances and songs. During this festival, Rajasthani women smear colored powders of lac, kumkum, and Mehendi on their foreheads and wear beautiful, colorful clothes. During Navratri, the people of Rajasthan offer plants and flowers as offerings to the goddess. They also mark various stages of this festival with a special dish called ‘khichdi’.
All these nine days are celebrated by worshipping all forms of Goddess Durga. Do you guys know that in Rajasthan there are two different types of Navratri? One is the Vasant Navratri which is celebrated at the beginning of the summer season whereas, the other is Sharad Navratri which is celebrated at the beginning of the winter.
The occasion holds special significance for the people of Jaipur as it is home to the famous temple of Sheetla Mata in Amer fort. Sheetla Mata is another incarnation of Goddess Durga that represents power. Thousands of devotees visit the fort during these nine days of Navratri.
The mela symbolizes the beginning of the festival where you can witness people wearing traditional outfits.
Durga Puja in Bengal and Eastern States
In West Bengal as well as most of the eastern states such as Tripura, Odisha, and Assam, Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja. It is celebrated as an annual festival that commemorates the triumph of Durga over the shape-shifting demon - Mahishasura.
During the celebration, elaborate pandals and life-size statutes of the Goddess are installed in every neighborhood. On the day, women wear Laal Paar Saree, which is a white/ off-white cotton or silk saree with a red border.
Dancing to the upbeat dholak, going on a pandal spree, munching on delicious bhogs, and wearing beautiful attire is a must-do things during Durga puja in West Bengal.
Ramlila in UP & Bihar
People in UP and Bihar celebrate Navratri and Dussehra with Ramleela, an enactment of Lord Rama’s life. Magnificent theatre performance on its own, significant incidence from Ramayana is picked & played by local theatre artist. Each day, the story progresses & after nine days, the triumph of good over evil is celebrated in the form of the Dussehra festival.
Mock statues of Ravana along with Kumbhakarana and Meghanada are burnt to show the end of evil, as firecrackers light up the sky & people revel at the end of 10-day festivities.
Kullu Dussehra of Himachal Pradesh
The celebration of the festival takes place in Himachal Pradesh on the 10th day of the Navratri. Just the time when celebration in other state is about to end. The festival in the state is known as Kullu Dussehra as it is the most popular festival in Kullu Valley.
On this day, the valley is all decked up with bright hues of decorations adorning the streets. A huge parade carrying idols of gods and goddesses to the main ground is a highlight of the festival.
Females dress in their traditional outfit Pattoo which is a piece of fabric that is thicker and heavier than shawls, and has fast and bright colors. Whereas, men wear Chola, a long woolen coat with pleats.
Cultural performances mark the day and provide a unique opportunity for visitors to familiarize themselves with local culture. The celebration concludes with famous performances of Lankadahan near the Beas river. Definitely an experience that would stay in our minds for a lifetime!
This is just a small list of States where Navratri is celebrated differently. There are more such states that enjoy the festival with their own essence, like in Tamil Nadu people perform Ayudha Puja on the ninth day, and in Andhra Pradhesh people worship Mother Gauri for nine days to bless them with conjugal bliss.
In the end, Navratri is all about reconnecting with something that is bigger than our beliefs and these ritual are the only tools that assist us to do that. Moreover, these 9-days have been given to us for rejuvenating ourselves which in return help to connect with our loved ones and acknowledge life.
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