“Supreme devotion is seeing, loving, serving and worshiping everything as the Universal Mother.”
Bharat is a unique nation where diversity flourish. Every monument has a story to tell. It’s one of the greatest nations to Her inhabitants. The food, language, clothing and culture is diverse. Hence, the way festivals are celebrated differs state-wise. The message is the same but it’s expressed in varied ways.
The nine nights, Navaratri, is one of the most loved festivals in India. Nav means nine and raatri means night. Devi is worshipped for 9 nights and 10 days in various forms. It represents the nine aspects of the Divine Feminine which are worshiped and reminisced to awaken the true wisdom within us. Each state has their own traditions to cultivate the worship. It culminates in the 10th day of commemoration of victory of good over evil, and on a personal level, self overcoming its limitations.
In the Northern portion of India, it is believed that demon Ravana was killed by Lord Rama. Ramleelas are organized displaying the glories of Shri Ram. The victory of good over evil is celebrated on the 10th day as Dushera.
People observe fast, offer fire rituals, meditate, observe silence, sing bhajans and perform dance. A vessel covered with soil after performing puja to the Mother Earth is placed at the altar. Jowar seeds are planted in the vessel. On the 10th day, the seeds can be seen as sprouted. The water is then flowed into a sacred river. The ninth day of the festival or Maha Navami is considered auspicious.
In Western portion of India especially in Gujarat state, garba dance is performed. Garba is a beautiful form of art where women dance in circles holding plates filled with lamps. Garbha means womb and the lamp depicts life inside the womb. It represents the presence of a child in the womb of a mother. Dandiya dance is also performed where both men and women play with wooden sticks. The sticks have tiny bells that make sound when hit together. The dance has a rhythm to it. It starts at a lower speed and then increases momentum.
In the Eastern portion of India, the last five days are of significance. Devi Durga idols riding on a lion and holding various weapons are installed. Lion represents dharma and ichha shakti (divine will) whereas the weapons represent the ways to remove negativities of our minds. On the eighth day, it is believed that Durga Devi had killed demon Mahishasur. After glorifying the victory, on the 11th day, the Devi idols are immersed into a sacred water.
In the Southern portion of India, small idols or dolls of deities are kept for worship at homes and neighbours are invited to see them. The dolls are known as Bommai habba, Bommai kolu, Bomma gullu or Bommala koluvu. The Court of Toys honors the Hindu Goddess Shakti in all her various manifestations, marking the victory of Devi over demon Mahishasura. Usually, the dolls are passed on to generation after generation representing the ancestors. The mother-in-law gives the dolls to the daughter-in-law after marriage to symbolise the passing of the tradition and family values. The number of wooden steps or planks often varies in odd numbers from one to nine, symbolizing nine divine days of Navaratri. Dolls of 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu, demigods, sages, plants, animals are also placed. It represents that people from different strata come together to celebrate the Navaratri festival.
In Karnataka state, Dushera is celebrated with much enthusiasm. Old folk tales called yaksha gaan are sung, roleplays are performed. The victory of good over evil is celebrated. On the ninth day, Saraswati puja is performed where devotees worship their books, weapons, tools and equipment, machinery, automobiles and musical instruments.
The nine nights worship:
Day 1: Devi Shailaputri – Daughter of Mountain
Maa Shailaputri, the daughter of the Mountain King Himavat is the first Navadurga venerated on the 1st day of Navratri and is a reincarnation of Goddess Sati.
Day 2: Devi Brahmacharini – Mother of devotion and penance
Maa Brahmacharini, the second aspect of the Navadurga forms of Mahadevi, wears white clothes with a Japa mala and Kamandalu in her hands and is in a meditative form.
Day 3: Chandraghanta – Destroyer of demons
Maa Chandraghanta means “one who has a half-moon shaped like a bell on her forehead”. By her grace, all the distresses, sufferings, and ghostly hurdles are eradicated.
Day 4: Kushmanda – Goddess of The Cosmic Egg
Maa Kushmanda is believed to improve health and bestow wealth and strength. Goddess Kushmanda has eight hands and is the Creator of the Universe.
Day 5: Skandamātā – Goddess of motherhood and children
Maa Skandamātā is four-armed, three-eyed, and rides on a lion. Her name comes from the war god Kartikeya also known as Skanda, and she is his Mātā, meaning mother. She carries little Kartikeya on her lap.
Day 6: Katyayani – Goddess of Power
Maa Katyayani is seen as the slayer of the tyrannical demon Mahishasura. In Yoga and Tantra, she is ascribed to the sixth Ajna Chakra or the third eye chakra.
Day 7: Kalaratri – Goddess of Auspiciousness and Courage
Maa Kalaratri is considered the fiercest form of the Mother Goddess, her appearance itself invoking fear. It is believed that she makes her devotees fearless.
Day 8: Mahagauri – Goddess of Beauty and Women
Maa Mahagauri has the power to fulfill all the desires of her devotees. She rides a white bull, usually shown wearing white clothes.
Day 9: Siddhidhatri – Goddess of Supernatural Powers
Maa Siddhidhatri is seated on a lotus and is four-armed. She holds a lotus, mace, Chakra and shankha. Siddhidhatri removes ignorance and provides the knowledge.
The 10th day is Vijayadashami
Vijayadashami is the 10th day of Navaratri when victory of good over evil, dharma over adharma, and self over its limitations is celebrated. It is also known as Dushera.