What is this festival all about?
Dussehra/Navratri is one of the prominent Hindu festivals celebrated in the regions of India Subcontinent. It is celebrated in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, the seventh month of the Luni-Solar calendar, which falls in the Gregorian months of September and October.
Dussehra is celebrated for various reasons and celebrated differently around India. In the Southern, Eastern and Northeastern states of India, the festival is called Navratri and celebrated to worship the different forms of Goddesses Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati. Though the nine nights of Puja are devoted to goddesses Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati equally, Saraswati the goddess of arts, wisdom and learning – appears to be getting a little more importance in South India. And so the South Indians view the Durga Puja as an occasion to express and further their artistic skills. Like the rest of India, the festival has been an occasion for performance arts, particularly Hindu temple dances such as Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam.
In Northern and Western parts of the country, the festival is synonymously called Dussehra. In these regions, the festival signifies the end of ‘Ramlila’ and celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. On the very same occasion; Arjuna alone defeated entire Kaurava army consisting of 100,000s of soldiers, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Ashwatthama, Kripa, Duryodhana, Dushyasana, Shakuni etc. – there by significantly quoting a natural example of victory of Good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma). Alternatively it marks a reverence for one of the aspects of goddess Devi such as Durga or Saraswati.
Variation is celebrations:
Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. Some fast, others feast. Some revere the same Mother Goddess but different aspects of her, while others revere avatars of Vishnu, particularly of Rama.
Eastern India, Odisha, West Bengal and Nepal
The Navaratri is celebrated as the Durga Puja festival in West Bengal. It is the most important annual festival to Bengali Hindus and a major social and public event in eastern and northeastern states of India, where it dominates the religious life. The occasion is celebrated with thousands of temporary stages called pandals are built in community squares, roadside shrines and large Durga temples in West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, eastern Nepal, Assam, Tripura and nearby regions.
In North India, Navaratri is marked by the numerous Ramlila events, where episodes from the story of Rama and Ravana are enacted by teams of artists in rural and urban centers, inside temples or in temporarily constructed stages. This Hindu tradition of festive performance arts was inscribed by UNESCO as one of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” in 2008.
Navratri festival in Gujarat is one of the main festivals. The traditional method includes fasting for a day, or partially every of the nine days such as 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 womb of the family and universe. The clay pot is lit, and this is believed to represent the one Atman (soul, self).
In Karnataka, Navaratri is observed by lighting up Hindu temples, cultural sites and my regal processions. It is locally called Dasara and it is the state festival of Karnataka. Of the many celebrations, the Mysuru Dasara is a major one and is popular for its festivities.
In Kerala and in some parts of Karnataka three days: Ashtami, Navami, and Vijayadashami of Sharada Navaratri are celebrated as Saraswati Puja in which books are worshiped. The books are placed for Puja on the Ashtami day in own houses, traditional nursery schools, or in temples. On Vijayadasami day, the books are ceremoniously taken out for reading and writing after worshiping Saraswati. Vijaya Dashami day is considered auspicious for initiating the children into writing and reading, which is called Vidyāraṃbhaṃ.
Navaratri has been a historic tradition within Tamil Nadu, with Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga goddesses the focus. The festivities begin with Vedic chants inaugurating the dances and other ceremonies. Other Tamil Hindu temples, such as those associated with Sri Vaishnavism, also celebrate the Navratri festivities. Another notable Tamil tradition is a celebration of the festival with Golu dolls. These include gods, goddesses, animals, birds and rural life all in a miniature design. People set up their own creative themes in their homes, called Kolu, friends and families invite each other to visit their homes to view Kolu displays, then exchange gifts and sweets.
In Telangana, Navratri is celebrated as in the rest of India and it ends with Dasara. During the Navaratri nights, a notable Telangana tradition involves Telugu Hindu women who produce Bathukamma for Navratri goddesses. It is an artistic flower decorations driven event, particularly using marigolds, which revere three different aspects Devi, called Tridevi. First three days, the goddess Durga (Parvati) is revered. The next three days, goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. Over the last three days, locals revere the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati.
Navaratri in Sikhism and Jainism
Navaratri and goddess worship is mentioned in the historic Sikhism literature, particularly in the Dasam Granth traditionally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh. According to Louis Fenech, the Sikhs have historically mirrored the reverence for Devi Shakti and the worship of weapons in a manner similar to those by Shakta Hindus.
The Jains have observed the social and cultural celebrations of Navaratri with Hindus, such as the folk dances.
However the festival may be celebrated, it all signifies either a victory or knowledge and enthusiasm. People pray for victory like Lord Rama, wisdom like Goddess Saraswati, courage like Durga, wealth like Lakshmi and world peace. And above all, not to forget the diversity of the Mother India in even festivals.