What is Navratri?
As embarrassing as it sounds, I do not what Navratri is. The word Navratri only meant 9 days of fasting and garba to me, and apart from that I was completely clueless. So I decided to dig a little deeper and find out what it is all about.
Literally, Navratri means nine nights.
During these nine nights and ten days, the three forms of the goddess -Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi – are invoked. Though there are 5 types of Navratri, the one right before Dussehra is considered the most important one. From a religious point of view, Navratri or Navadurga Parva happens to be the most auspicious and unique period of devotional meditation and worship of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) of the Divine conceptualized as the Mother Durga, whose worship dates back to prehistoric times before the dawn of the Vedic age. Each of the nine days is dedicated to different forms of this religious deity.
These nine nights and ten days are celebrated with worship, food and garba!
Navratri is filled with ritualistic chanting, prayers, fasting and celebration. In some places in India, festivities include traditional dance and music, and by some customs last late into the evening, and sometimes entire nights. Farmers sow their seeds and thank Durga for her blessings, asking for a healthy crop as women plant nine different types of grain in small containers and offer the saplings to the goddess. The time of Navratri is also meant for introspection and purification.
The largest and most elaborate celebrations happen in Bengal! Its all about the Bengali jewellery at this time.
Here, Bengalis worship massive idols of Durga. This annual visit of Goddess Durga is the largest celebration in West Bengal. It is celebrated with gaiety and devotion through public ceremonies of “Sarbojanin Puja” or community worship. Women often go shopping extensively for new clothes, as the time is considered ideal for getting rid of the bad and old and bringing in the new. And they mark this tradition by buying bengali jewelry, new clothes etc.
Did you know?
Durga pujo – as it is called here – mood starts off with the Mahishasuramardin – a two-hour radio program that has been popular with the community since the 1950s. While earlier it used to be conducted live, later a recorded version began to be broadcast. Bengalis traditionally wake up at 4 in the morning on Mahalaya day to listen to the enchanting voice of the late Birendra Krishna Bhadra and the late Pankaj Kumar Mullick on All India Radio as they recite hymns to begin this auspicious beginning of the festival.
Over the years, both the icons and the pandals have gotten more and more elaborate, and each year fierce competitions are held among neighborhoods for the best pandals and puja themes (past themes have run the gamut from the ancient Egyptians to Harry Potter). Today, the larger community pujas in Kolkata even have corporate sponsorship, adding a commercial aspect to this highly spiritual celebration. One must visit Kolkata during this period to experience the expansively beautiful art and culture of the Bengali community.
There is loads of information on each day of celebration and importance of each night during Navratri available. At least now we have know the basics of this celebration and we know why we fast and dance away the nights.
For more information, you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Facebook page and Instagram page. We also keep bengali jewellery, FYI!
Happy Durgo Pujo to all!