''Navaratri,'' a joyous Hindu festival dedicated to feminine divinity

Happy Navaratri greetings, 2022 mynameart.com

There are so many Hindu festivals held  year round across India and among them  Navaratri, meaning 'nine nights' is a popular one and is widely celebrated in almost all Hindu homes no matter they are in villages or in cities. 

Navaratri  (''Sanskrit'';  a synchrony of two words: ''nava'meaning nine and “ratri” meaning night)  comes four times a year and we give much importance to Sharad Navaratri  which is widely held in the fall/Autumn season across India.  The three  Navaratris are Chaitra Navaratri  Paush Navratri and Magha Navratri.  The festivity begins on the  day of Ashwin (as per Hindu calendar) in September/October.  During Navratri in some places  tantrik pujas  are held to propitiate the Devi.  

Durga Puja, West Bengal. indiaonlinepages.com
Above image:  The festival of  Durga Puja (which begins on the first of  October, 2022) is  dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess - MaaDurga or 'Shakti', an embodiment of valor and power.  She is worshipped with reverence over the last five days of Navratri  in the  month of Ashwin. She being a warrior goddess is depicted with fierce look, ten arms, and each hand with  a different weapon - symbolic of power and rage.  The first day of the festival, Mahalaya, begins with remembering Goddess Durga and the final day  marks the end of the period of Shradhh or Pitri-Paksha ......

 Navaratri festival is celebrated in different ways across India. In West Bengal and other NE Indian states Durga puja is a major festival and it is symbolic of the victory of the good over the evil- the Triumph of Goddess Durga over  asura Mahishasura. 

Ram Leela festival.  .mumbailive.com

In northern states Navaratri symbolizes  the victory of Sri Rama (incarnation of god Vishnu) over the Demon king of Lanka - Ravana. On the final day of the Ram Leela, the tall effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbakarnan  are  set on fire, marking the end of evil forces. It is also celebrated in the state  Maharashtra.  

In the southern states  it is believed, the goddesses descend on the earth in order to take part in the festival.  Celebrations are held  normally at  nights consecutively for nine nights. It is considered a joyous festivity in which much importance is given to primary goddesses in the Hindu pantheon  and it is more or less Shakti worship in many states.  Nine different avatars of Shakti are worshiped on each of nine days. In West Bengal Goddess Durga will appear on each day in a different avatar.  

Each night during the festival particularly,  women will  perform  puja to one of the nine forms of Goddess. Normally, the  nine nights are  divided into three  sections. The first one  is  focused on  Durga, the goddess of courage and valor who is known to destroy evil forces like demons, etc. The second is invocation of  goddess of prosperity  Lakshmi and it is followed by worship of goddess of wisdom and art - Saraswati.  The festivity also marks prayer for  fertility, good rain  and successful post monsoon harvest.

Mysore city: Dussehra festival. chukkimane.com

Above image:  Mysore or Mysuru city comes alive during the Dussehra festival and it has  has a long tradition of celebrating the festivity  that began with the Vijayanagar kings in the 15th century. It is a 10-day festival,  culminating on Vijayadashami or tenth day.  Normally, the festivities  will begin began  with the royal couple from the Wadiyar  family performing a special puja to Goddess Chamundeshwari in the temple on top of the Chamundi Hill at Mysore..........

The 10th day celebration  being Dussehra ( Dashera), also known as Vijayadashami in South India, assumes much importance. A major festival in Karnataka, in Mysore city  it is celebrated on a grand scale led by the Prince of the Wadiyar  royal family. The major venue is the popular Mysore palace which is well illuminated and  the idol of Goddess Chamundeswari is taken around on the caparisoned  elephant. 

Vidhyarambam .facebook.com
In the states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra  on the Vijayadasami day the young children aged 3 to 5 are introduced to the world of knowledge, letters  and  learning - initiation into the characters of the syllabary  and  it has been a Hindu  tradition for centuries. Especially in Kerala thousands of kids are initiated  into the world of letters.  The ceremony called Vidhyarambam is held at certain Hindu temples in Kerala  such as  Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple in Thrissur, etc.  On the temple premises  the kid  is made to write the alphabet in mother tongue and the number on a plate of turmeric powder mixed rice under the guidance of a priest and elders in the family.   Panachikkadu Saraswathi Temple in the panachikadu village of Kottayam district, Kerala is well-known for Vidyarambham. Last year 4000 people    booked for Vidyarambham virtually. The bookings were made through Apna Q app. The function started  at 4am and parents could  sit in the mandapam and initiated  the children into the world of knowledge following the instructions of the temple priest.

Koothanoor temple TN Desimap.com

 In the state of Tamil Nadu  Koothanur Maha Saraswathi Temple (built by Rajaraja Chola II; associated with Tamil poet Ottakoothanar) in the town of  Koothanur (Tiruvarur district),  Vijayadasami is the most popular festival and lots of families come here for Vidhyarambham. pl. refer to:  http://www.navrangindia.in/2019/09/vidyarambham-in-kerala.html

In the state of Tamil Nadu  Golu is part and parcel of Navaratri celebration at home  and it is nothing but colorful  festive display of dolls  of various kinds and figurines invariably related to divinity.

Marapachi Bommai.  anarghyaa.com

Tamil Nadu: Navarathri Golu display .wikimedia.org

The displays may be  typically thematic - episodes from the epics of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc.  Also on display will be the dolls of great patriotic persons like Shivaji, Netaji, et al.  Golu goes by different names in other states -  Gombe Habba, Bommai Kolu or Bommala Koluvu. The dolls are on display  on what is called Golupadi - mostly wooden  rack of odd-numbered shelves (usually 3, 5, 7, 9, or 11) arranged in a cascading manner. Ladies in the house set the Golu  at the right time on an auspicious day.  The  traditional practice of keeping wooden figurines of the bride and groom together, called 'Marapacchi Bommai' or 'Pattada Gombe' as part of Golu continues even today.  

In Gujarat the festival is altogether a different one- it is  nine-night dance festival, right from  small villages to cities where people gather in open space each night and  celebrate it. In this state  religious pilgrimage during this festival season focuses mainly on the Shakti Peethas: Ambaji, Pavagadh and Bahuchraji near Mehsana.

As this festival is celebrated with deep devotion and commitment, we get an opportunity to get a break from the monotonous and routine life  and focus on the spiritual aspects. This respite and participation in the festivity instill positivity in our mind that is at peace with our soul.