Navaratri (nine nights) is an important Hindu Festival. It is celebrated every year in various parts of India during the Autumn season. Celebration spans into nine nights and ten days and observed for different reasons across india.
One story associated with Navaratri is the victory of Goddess Durga over the Daemon Mahishasura and the celebration after that. It was a victory of Good over Evil. These nine days are dedicated to Goddess Durga in her nine Avatars or incarnation (Nava Durga).
Another story is the victory of Sri Rama over the Daemon King Ravana. Ravana was the king of Asuras who abducted Maa Sita while Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were spending their life in exile in the forest. Sri Rama with the help of Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sugreeva, Jambavan and the entire team of monkeys fought with Ravana and killed him and brought Sita back to Ayodhya – his kingdom. This was also a victory of Good over Evil.
In the Eastern and Northeastern states of India, the Navaratri is celebrated on account of the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura. Northern and Western states celebrates the festival which is synonymous with “Rama Leela” and Dussehra, celebrating the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. In the Southern states it is celebrated on the victory of Lord Rama or Saraswathi (Goddess for Vidya and Wisdom).
The final day is the 10th day, called Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra. This also starts the preparations for another important festival Diwali or Deepavali (the festival of lights) which comes twenty days after the 10th day of Navaratri. In whatever name it is called, the festival marks the victory of Good over Evil.
There are four seasonal Navaratri. But in practice, the post-monsoon autumn festival, which is called Sharada Navaratri is the widely celebrated one. This comes in the bright half of the Hindu Calendar month “Ashwin”, falling typically between September and October.
Navaratri is also called as Nauratri, Navarathri, Navratan and Nauratan.
Navaratri celebrations start from the first day. The rituals vary from place to place. Durga Puja is the main thing. It is celebrated in individual houses and also in temples and/or public places. Statues of Durga are kept and special pooja done to please the Goddess. On the tenth day which is the Vijaya Dashami/Dussehra, these statues are immersed in water body like rivers and ocean. Also the statues representing Evil is burnt with fireworks, marking the Evil’s destruction.
Golu or Doll Festival is an important celebration during Navaratri. It is a thematic display of legends from Hindu texts. The Golu or the Doll is usually made out of clay locally and brightly painted. They are normally arranged in odd number of tiers, narrating some story. Families visit each other with gifts to have a view of each other’s Golu Display. Special food (usually grains) will be made each day and offered to the god/goddess and shared between the visitors. Classical music sessions are also common.
Where Navaratri is celebrated as “Rama Lila”, instead of statues of Durga, it will be statues of Rama. Ravana represents the Evil and on the tenth day, an Effigy of Ravana will be burnt.
Ayudha Pooja and Aksharabhyasam
Ayudha Pooja and Ezhuthiniruthu (Aksharabhyasam) are done in Kerala and Tamilnadu on the 10th day. In Kerala, books will be kept for pooja starting the 8th day (evening) and taken out only on the 10th day after the pooja. Children start their education (reading and writing) at the age of three, on the Vijaya Dashami day. Read the article “Ezhuthiniruthu or Aksharabhyasam” for details. Pooja is done on Instruments, Equipment and Vehicles are also on the Vijaya Dashami day.
In Kerala and Tamilnadu, Classical/Carnatic Music Festival will be organized by various cultural societies in connection with the Navaratri during the nine nights. Musicians and Artists from various places will attend these functions.
The rituals and practices vary from region to region. However, the theme is same everywhere which is the victory of Good over Evil.