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October 12, 2004 > Navarathri or Nine Nights

Navarathri or Nine Nights

by Praveena Raman

Variously called Dusshera (10 days) or Navarathri (nine days) in different parts of India, it is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. This 10-day long festival is usually celebrated September through October. This year, Navarathri begins on October 13th and culminates on October 23rd.

In different parts of India people celebrate Navarathri/Dusshera in various ways. In many places, Durga (goddess of power and strength) is worshiped for Navarathri (nine nights), and on the 10th day or Vijayadasami, Saraswati (goddess of learning and music) is worshiped. In ancient and medieval India, Dusshera was celebrated mainly as a royal festival with the war-goddess Durga being worshipped by Kshatriya rulers. Many of these kings selected Dusshera to invoke the blessings of Durga to start military operations.

In West Bengal and the neighboring states of Assam and Orissa, Durga is worshipped as a symbol of Shakti, commemorating her victory over the demon Mahishasura. Calcutta comes alive at Durga Puja when images of the goddess are carried through the streets to be immersed in the river, after nine days of celebration. Five days later, on the full-moon night, people worship Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) on the same spot where Durga was installed.

In Punjab (Northern state in India), Navarathri is a period of fasting, while in Gujarat (West India), every evening during the nine nights women join the Garba dance around an earthen lamp, singing and clapping in rhythmic movements. They sing praises of the goddess.

In Tamil Nadu (South India), the first three days of the Navarathri festival are dedicated to the Durga, the following three days are dedicated to Lakshmi and the last three days are dedicated to Saraswati.

Dusshera is celebrated here as a doll festival or Golu. Houses display dolls of gods, goddesses, mythological characters and other cultural dolls. The dolls are arranged and displayed in a step like fashion and people visit each other's houses to see them. In Himachal Pradesh, images of gods from all over the valley are brought together in decorated palanquins to celebrate Dusshera, and a fair is held in the region. In Mysore and Andhra Pradesh, the festival is celebrated as the victory of Rama (good) over Ravana (evil). Friends and relatives greet each other and exchange sweets and pleasantries.

For more information on the festival see the related article on www.tricityvoice.com.

 
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