Unique rituals during Navratri

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Navratri is perhaps one of the few festivals that boast of pan-Indian presence. While some parts bring in the festivities with worshipping the fierce form of Durga, some show their enthusiasm with vibrant folk dances, and some with opulent stage dramas. Different states in the country have their different ways of observing these auspicious days, but did you know many of them have very unique ways and rituals?

Sindur Khela, West Bengal

Literally meaning ‘vermillion game’, the exact day and origin of the tradition is unknown, many believing it to be as old as around 400 years. After nine days of festivities, on Vijayadashmi, married women queue up to bid farewell to the Goddess. They first wipe the idol’s face with betel leaves so that she doesn’t depart from her home with tearful eyes and then put sindur on her shakha and pola (bangles worn by married Bengali women), forehead and feet. After this they smear sindur on each other’s forehead and distribute sweets. Sindur Khela is also said to symbolise the power of women as protector of the family.

Vijayadashmi, Himachal Pradesh

Being home to a number of sacred Devi temples, it attracts a huge number of devotees coming here for pilgrimage during Navratri. However, unlike the rest of the country, the celebrations don’t end with Dussehra here. They begin all over again. To the beats of local drums and trumpets, hundreds of local deities accompany Lord Raghunath in a chariot procession to Dhalpur Maidan of Kullu. Festivities continue for the next seven days and end at the banks of river Beas with symbolic burning of the Lanka made of grass and wood.

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Kolu/Golu, Tamil Nadu and Kerala

 

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Navratri is celebrated here by seeking the blessings of Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, worshipped for three days each. The decoration of kolu or golu is an important part of the celebrations. A makeshift staircase, generally of nine stairs, is adorned with beautiful dolls, idols of gods and goddesses, animals, birds and life miniatures. At Mutharamman Temple in Tamil Nadu’s Kulasekharapattinam, it becomes a live kolu, as people replace the dolls. The devotees turn up dressed as various gods, goddesses, demons and more to signify that almighty can come in any form to shower blessings. In Kerala, the last three days are considered auspicious for learning and are most loved by the children. As the books are placed in front of Saraswati’s idol on ashtami (the eighth day of Navratri), it is not till dashami (Dussehra or Vijayadashmi), that the books are again available for studying.

Saumangalyam and Ghatasthapana, Maharashtra

Navratri in Maharashtra is considered harbinger of good luck and new beginnings. The ritual of Ghatasthapana (mounting of jar) signifies the same. On the first day, a pot of water is placed inside a jar full of mud in which grains are sown. This is worshipped daily and on the ninth day the ghat is dissolved after taking out the grain sprouts. Also, some households follow the Kerala style by worshipping Goddess Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati on different days. They even have their own version of sindur khela – Saumangalyam, where sindur is replaced with turmeric and kumkum. This way they wish each other good luck for a happy married life.

Nadahabba, Karnataka

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Meaning the state festival, the highlight is undoubtedly the famous Mysore Dasara which regales many with the opulent procession of Goddess Chamundeshwari. The day earlier – mahanavmi, is equally important, when the Ayudha Puja or Astra Puja (worship of weapons) is performed. The royal sword is worshipped and taken out on a procession of decorated elephants and horses. While soldiers worship their weapons, artisans worship their tools.

Bathukamma, Telangana & Andhra

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Starting on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya, this floral festival is a riot of colours. On the first day, women adorn themselves with traditional fineries and make flower stacks resembling a temple gopuram. They worship Lord Ganesha and dance around the bathukammas. After performing daily puja throughout the festival, the last day is a treat for the eyes when women carry the flower arrangements to a water body and set the bathukammas afloat. Seven-day long celebrations follow, marking the end of monsoon and start of autumn.

Devi Poojan, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh

In many households, the last day of Navratri – navami is an extensive practice. It starts with drawing Kaila Devi on a wall or paper with geru (ochre), and rice and turmeric paste. A heated cow dung cake is placed alongside a bed of grains and once it catches fire it is worshipped as the representative force of the goddess. Apart from offerings like clarified butter, camphor and more, every member of the family takes turn in worshipping the holy flame and offering kheer, kadhi, sweet and savoury fritters from the nine stacks of two pooris each around it. Kids of the family and neighbourhood are invited to feast and given gifts.