During Navratri, Hindus worship the Goddess of Shakti (the Godly power confirming the good over the evil) in its different incarnated forms in various regions of India. Nava means nine and Ratri means nights, and thus the very name of the festival denotes that it goes on for nine nights.

People, irrespective of gender and age, participate in dance performances on all types of numbers starting from traditional folk to film songs. The last day of the festival is commonly called Vijayadashami or Dussehra and it is celebrated by distributing sweets, burning crackers and participating in majestic dance performances.

Types of Navratri

Navratri is celebrated five times a year.

  1. VasantaNavratri or Basanta Navratri (March or April)
  2. Gupta Navarathri or Gayatri or Shakambhari Navarathri or Ashadha (June or July)
  3. SharadaNavarathri or Ashvina Navratri (September–October).

This is most significant of all the Navratri celebrations and is called Maha Navarathri or the Great Navratri.

  1. PaushNavarathri (December–January)
  2. MaghaNavarathri (January–February)

Customs and Traditions of Navratri

Navratri is celebrated in almost all the states of India. Rituals and customs of Navratri thus vary from one part to another.

A.    Navratri in North India and Western India

In the northern states the Chaitra Navratri and the Sharad Navratri are observed by keeping fast during nine days and worshiping the mother goddess (who embodies power) in different forms like,

  • Durga
  • Bhadrakali
  • Amba or Jagadamba
  • Annapurna
  • Sarvamangala
  • Bhairavi
  • Chandi
  • Lalita
  • Bhavani
  • Mookambika

The Navratri and Dussehra are celebrated luxuriously all over Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh.

Navratri in Gujarat and neighboring states

Navratri is the prime festival of the Gujarat. Garba, the unique dance form of Gujarat is performed on the folk songs during the nine nights. The dancers swirl their body in circular patterns while performing the dance. This dance is sometimes performed around centrally placed illuminated lanterns, fire or statues of different incarnated forms of the mother Goddess. Garba in Sanskrit means gestation or pregnancy. The illuminated clay lanterns placed centrally stand for life (fetus in the womb), the dancer pays respect to the Mother Goddess (Durga) who embodies the feminine form of divinity. Garba is generally done in a circle so as to symbolize the Hindu idea of time.

While doing Garba, women wear attractive attires like chaniya cholis (skirts and blouses embellished with beads, shells, small mirrors, and zariwork), jhumkas ( gorgeous earrings) necklaces, bindis, bajubandh (arm ornaments), chudas and kangans (types of bangles), kamarbandh (ornament worn on waist), payals (anklets). Men are not far behind – they wear Kafni pyjamas (a type of cotton trouser), Kediyu (a short round kurta above the knees), pagadi on the head with bandhini dupatta, kadas (bangles) and Mojiris (special type of footware)

Navratri is also famous for Dandiya-Raas dance (dance with two short thick sticks). Dandiya is a traditional folk form of Vrindavan, in Uttar Pradesh, and it is also performed during Holi (Festival of Color) and Raslila (festival of Lord Krishna).

Though Garba and Dandiya both originated from Gujarat and Vrindavan respectively they are widely accepted and performed across India irrespective of any kind of ‘regionality’ during Navratri.

B.     Navratri in Eastern India

In Eastern India, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam the last four days of Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja. People were new clothes and worship clay idols of the Goddess Durga slaying the devil Mahishasura, in the decorative pandals.

On the Vijaya Dashami as a part of the ritual, married women play Sindurkhela (playing with the sacred red powder named Sindur, which is worn by the married women on their forehead). Everyone share sweets and good wishes among friends and family on the occasion.

C.      Navratri in South India

In Goa, the Saraswat Brahmin temples are wonderfully festooned and the idols are taken out for worship.

In Karnataka, the festival is observed as Ayudha Puja where people worship things used in daily life like computers, books, vehicles, or kitchen tools, during the tenth day that is known as Mysore Dasara.

In Kerala, three days Ashtami, Navami, and Vijaya Dashami are celebrated by worshiping Sarasvati (Goddess of Education)

In Andhra Pradesh, especially in the Telangana region, people celebrate Bathukamma festival which is also a kind of Navratri celebration.

Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses.

Legends behind Navratri

As Navratri is celebrated in numerous forms there are several myths attached to it. According to the Hindu Mythology, a demon named Mahishasura impressed and gained invincible power as an award from Lord Shiva. He started misappropriating his power by terrorizing the Gods.

To stop him Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva created a female figure that symbolized power and named her Durga or Shakti. Durga ultimately assassinated the demon. This victory over the evil is celebrated during the Navratri.

Dussehra, the concluding day of Navratri, celebrates Rama’s victory over Ravana (as in Hindu epic Ramayana) burning mammoth effigies of the demon.

 Cultural importance of Navratri

Navratri is of immense cultural importance all over India. People from all corners of world visit different parts of India to experience the effervescent festive mood. Various forms of Navratri that are celebrated in North India are also popular and rejoiced abroad in countries like UK, Us, Australia, Canada etc.

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