Over the years Navratri has dramatically changed, so much so that some feel, it doesn’t resemble anything close to the original form. Until few centuries ago when India was mostly an agrarian society, the way Navratri was celebrated was pure and simple. Three things marked the celebrations: a) fasting, b) worshipping and c) celebrating.
Devotees used to fast in varied forms – by way of eating less, not eating at all, absolving from eating grains, or having only specific fruits. Worshipping was the second thing that devotees across the erstwhile ‘akhand bharat’ used to do. Worshipping idols, portraits, and even dancing and worshipping around earthen pots (garbha, or womb) as it is regarded as the source of life. Celebrating the victory of good over evil is another aspect of Navratri that cuts across religious lines, be it Vaishnav Hindus or Shaiv Hindus.
The most popular form of Navratri known to Indians is the ‘Garba’ or ‘dandiya’ played in Western and Eastern India. But not many would know that dandiya was played in the olden days to enact the fight between Maa Durga and Mahishasur, the buffalo demon. In those days, Navratri was celebrated amongst small groups of villagers who would gather during evenings and position an earthen pot with lamp inside in the midst of an open ground. Fold singers used to sing praises to Goddess Durga and recount her strength and valour in killing the demon king who had defeated Gods. Today, there are very few who can remember the original thought process – rather today’s devotees tend to get in to ghetto to play Dandiya on Filmi music. Says Sujata Subramanian, a resident of Mumbai: “The latest ‘innovation’ is silent Navratri with ‘revellers’ (and not necessarily devotees) donning a headphone which plays music right into their ears.”
Did you know
• Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh celebrate Navratri as Golu, and they celebrate by displaying dolls as they are a symbol of feminine power.
• In Mysore, district of Karnataka decorated elephants are taken out in a procession. The streets are colorfully decorated. The royal deity of Mysore, Chamundi is worshipped on this day. Computers, books, vehicles, kitchen tools are worshipped on the 9th day.
• In Kerala, in the last three days, books are worshipped.
• In Delhi, the Navratri celebrations are characterised by the Ramlila plays that take place over the city.
• In the northern and western states, the festival celebrates the battle and victory of god Rama over the demon king Ravana. In both cases, the festival celebrates the victory of the good over evil.
• In Punjab, Kanya puja is done on the 8th day of the festival before breaking the fast. These girls of prepubescent age are offered puris, chana, halwa, and red scarves.
• In Maharashtra the 10th day is considered auspicious for starting a new business, buying a house, etc.
Besides, did you know that depending on the region, different forms of the Goddess Durga are worshipped around Navratri
1. Durga, the invincible
2. Bhadrakali, the auspicious and fortunate
3. Amba or Jagdamba, mother of the universe
4. Annapoorna, the giver of food
5. Sarvamangala, the giver of joy all around
6. Bhairavi, the terrifying
7. Chandika, the violent
8. Lalita, the beautiful
9. Bhavani, the giver of life