Myriad ways to celebrate victory of Good over Evil

The festival of Navratri is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of India. Largely, the festival of Navratri has a common theme that depicts the victory of Good over Evil through regionally famous epic or legends such as the Ramayana or the Devi Mahatmya.

Theoretically, there are a total of four seasonal Navratras – Sharad, Chaitra, Aashad, and Magh. In practice, Sharad Navratris, is the most significant one.

The post-monsoon autumn festival is the most important annual festival to Bengali Hindus and a major social and public event in eastern and northeastern states of India. Known as Durga Puja, the festival marks the victory of the goddess Durga in the battle against the shape-shifting, deceptive, and powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura.

Staging of Ramlila is common in north India.

In the northern and western parts of the country, the festival is synonymous with “Rama Lila” and Dussehra at the end of the Navaratri, when the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Indrajit are burnt to celebrate the victory of good (Rama) over evil forces.

In Bihar, Durga is worshipped alongside Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartikey, and Ganesha. In other parts like Sitamarhi and close to the Nepal border, the spring Navaratri attracts a large Rama Navami fair, which marks the birth of Lord Rama.

Navaratri in Gujarat is one of the state’s main festivals. The traditional celebrations include fasting for a day, or partially fasting each of the nine days by not eating grains or just taking liquid foods, in remembrance of one of nine aspects of Shakti goddess. The prayers are dedicated to a symbolic clay pot called garbo, as a remembrance of the womb of the family and universe. The clay pot is lit, and this is believed to represent the one Atman (soul, self). Garba/dandiya dance of Gujarat is now spreading to other communities in India and wherever the diaspora is.

Locally called Dasara, this is the state festival of Karnataka. The Mysuru Dasara is famous for its festivities. Another Navaratri tradition in Karnataka has been decorating a part of one’s home with art dolls called Gombe or Bombe. Garba dancing is a Navaratri tradition in Gujarat Throughout the ten days of Dasara celebrations, the Mysore Palace is lit up with thousands of lights.

Called Dasara locally, it is a state festival with the main celebration in Mysuru.

Navaratri celebrations vary across Maharashtra and the specific rites differ between regions, even if they are called the same and dedicated to the same deity. The most common celebration begins on the first day of Navaratri with Ghatasthapana, which literally means “mounting of a jar”. A lamp is lighted symbolizing knowledge and household prosperity, and kept alight through the nine nights of Navaratri.

This year, Dusehra falls on October 15 following Navratri.

Images courtesy of (Photo courtesy India Today) and (Photo courtesy PTI)

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