Navratri

Navratri commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon, Mahishasur, who had started toturing innocent people. At the call of the gods, Goddess Durga, astride a lion, fought with the demon and cut off his head.

Navratri is a joyous Hindu festival which is celebrated during early fall season - from the first to the ninth date of Ashwin Shukla Paksha of the Hindu calendar (late September / early October). The goddess in the form of the Universal Mother is worshiped for nine nights and hence the name nava-ratri. On the tenth day, the festival comes to an end with a special puja called Vijaya Dasami.

Navaratri festival, which becomes Durga Puja in Bengal and Eastern India towards the latter part, is devoted to Mother Goddess known as Durga; Bhadrakali; Amba or Jagadamba; Annapurna; Sarvamangala; Bhairavi; Chandika; Lalita; and Bhavani. It marks the universal resurgence of the power of creation over destruction.

Navratri Celebrations at Different Places
Navratri, is celebrated differently in different parts of India. In North India, it is characterized by fasts and solemnity. People read Ramayana during this time. Ram-Leela, a stage play of Ramayana, the story of Lord Rama, is performed during Navratri. It is considered auspicious to start new ventures especially on education and other arts on Vijaya Dashami day. it is also common in India to see children start their first music or dance lessons or other educational ventures on Vijaya Dashami.

In Bengal, Durga Pooja is celebrated with boundless fervour and devotion in most households apart from the gaily-decorated puja mandaps that are erected in almost every loaclity. the puja pandals have beautifully decorated images of Goddess Durga and community pujas are organised. Families visit each other to share feasts and exchange gifts. The festivities start with the first day called Mahalaya, when people remember their ancestors (tarpan) and 'chakku dan', the ritual of drawing the eyes of image of the goddess, is performed. The first day as well as the following days of Sashthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami or Bijoya Dashami have their own unique rituals. The religious ceremonies start on Saptami or the seventh day and are observed till Dashami, the tenth day. 'Bodhun', the ritual of infusing life to the Goddess, is performed on Saptami, On Sashthi, mothers keep a fast and pray for the well being of their children. On the 10th day, Bijoya dashami, the idols are taken in elaborate processions for immersion in the river or the Sea.

In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, pujas are offered for three days to each of the three goddess, Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi and dolls called Bommai Kolu are installed and decorated. gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets are exchanged. Scenes culled from various stories in the epics and puranas are displayed. After the Saraswati puja on the ninth day, the whole set up is taken down on Vijayadashami. Vijayadashami is an auspicious occasion for children to commence their education in classical dance and music, and to pay homeage to their teachers.

In Gujarat and in some parts of Maharashtra and rajasthan, it is a festival or worship, dance and music. The most fascinating and colourful celebration of Navratri is the dandiya-raas and the garba. For nine nights, women, decked in finery, dance the garba around an earthen lamp or a kalash (pitcher) , symbol of the divine power. The men sing and dance, clapping their hands in rythmic movements, or do the Dandi dance (stick dance). Beautifully decorated mandap are set up for playing garba & dandiya. Young men-women wear colourful traditional dresses.