Fast to Feast: Different cultures different ways yet the same fervor and frolic celebrating Dussehra
The enthusiasm and avidity of the nation during nine days of Navratri that commences on the eve of Dussehra remains unmatched every year. Fasting, puja to dancing ways of celebration may vary but the reason remains the same victory of good over evil. The invincible Maa Durga or Shakti avatar, a symbol of both creation and destruction slew Mahishasura- a tyrant who had immense pride of his power and misused it in all possible evil ways. The victory that marks the power of feminism, the goddess who portrays “freedom from fear’ and the mythological tale that instills a courage to walk the path of righteousness no matter how alluring evil might seem contributes in the celebration of this festival.
Here’s a look at the vivid ways this is celebrated across India:
North and Central India – Ramlila
The North celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana with a traditional nine-day drama of Ramayana, which is one of the two most epic poems of Hindu mythology denoting the triumph of good over evil. Gigantic effigies of Ravana and his two brothers Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana are burnt along with fire-crackers to add more joyful spirits to the celebration.
Also, here the onset of Navratri is marked with Ghatsthapana wherein grains of barley or Khetri is planted in an earthen pot with clean mud. This pot is considered as Goddess Durga and worshipped for next nine days with various fasting rituals. It is believed that the longer the barley shoots and greener it is the more blessings is bestowed by the goddess. The Navadurga (Nine incarnations of Maa Durga) – Skandmata, Kusumanda, Shailaputri, Kaalratri, Brahmacharini, Maha Gauri, Katyayani, Chandraghanta, and Siddhidatri is worshipped and respective rituals are performed.
East India – Durga Puja
The most important festival of East India is Durga Puja which marks the annual visit of Goddess Durga with her children to her maternal home. Beautifully decorated idols of Maa Durga and her family are placed and worshipped over a period of five days in massive theme-based pandals with elaborate artistic displays among prayers, ceremonial activities, and a gala feast.
The beautiful sound of the conch shell, aarti with traditional dhak and dhunuchi nach are few distinctive customs of Bengali Durga Puja that commences on the tenth day known as Vijayadashami, when grand processions of the idols are carried out before being immersed in water bodies. The celebration looks no less than any carnival with pandals evolving new innovative themes each year and a galore of sweets and extravagant Bengali cuisines to enjoy. Before the immersion, yet another interesting ritual is vermillion smearing or Sindhoor Khela as called in Bengali wherein married women apply vermillion on Maa Durga’s feet and then on each other wishing a long happy married life.
West India – Garba and Dandiya Raas
The most frolic form of Navratri is Garba dance that originated from the region of Gujarat but has found its popularity across the country and the world. Men and women dress in vibrant colored traditional attires to attend large-scale gatherings to perform the ritual Garba and Dandiya Rass. While Garba is a form performed in large cycles with rhythmic feet movement and claps to dhol, Dandiya is performed with sticks. Dandiya Rass is basically believed to be a dramatic representation of the fight b/w Goddess Shakti and Mahishasura with the dandiya denoting the swords.
The Garba Deep, a decorative earthen pot with holes on its wall, holds significant importance in the entire Navratri culture of Gujarat. This lamp is illuminated on the first day and worshipped for the entire festival with special care taken for not letting the lit die down. The circular dance is also performed placing the Garba in the middle signifying the circle of life with everything else evolving while Goddess Durga at the center remains unchangeable and invincible.
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South India – Golu
An annual function with regal grandeur is celebrated in the city of Mysore. The Royal Palace along with the entire city is decorated with lights and massive celebrations carried out through the nine days of Navratri. On the tenth day of Dasara as called here, the Vijayadashami marks regal processions of elephants amongst dance groups performing folklore, music bands, and torchlight parade amidst the presence of royal identities and armed forces.
While in Tamil Nadu, Golu festival is celebrated wherein culture and heritage are portrayed by setting various dolls over an odd number of steps. The worship is divided into 3 parts with the first 3 days being dedicated to Goddess Durga symbolizing cleansing of evil spirits, next 3 days to Goddess Laxmi welcoming success and wealth for family and the last 3 days to Goddess Saraswati to acknowledge the power of wisdom observing respective puja and aarti.
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Celebrations may vary but all get together each year marking the union of souls and thoughts over the fact that darkness will always be survived with goodness and greatness.
Hope everyone’s having a great Navratri one or the other way and rejoicing this wonderful spirit.