India is a land blessed of diversity. Whether it’s the culture, people, fashion, language, religion, food or arts, everything differs from one corner to another. But nothing brings its diverse nature to the forefront, like the festival of Navratri does. Although there are four Navratris, one for every season, in India. It is the autumn one or Sharada Navratri glorifying the Devi that is the most popular. Every region celebrates the nine nights with its own form of Navratri and the Tridevi – Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. While every day is assigned to a goddess, Parvati is always worshipped in her different incarnation as Durga, Sita, Kali, Mahagauri etc.
East – The Land of Durga
The eastern and northeastern states of India celebrate the Goddess Durga, an avatar of Parvati, during this festival. Mahalaya, the first day of the Navratri for the eastern region, is the day Goddess Durga is said to have made her way back to her maternal home. The first five days are dedicated to goddesses like Saraswati and Lakshmi. But the Sashthi, the sixth day, marks the arrival of Durga. While Durga is the primary goddess, Ganesh and Kartikeya are also revered during the last four days. The tenth day, Bijoya Dashomi, marks the end by commemorating Durga’s victory over Mahishasura. It is also the day when Durga, post-visarjan returns to Mount Kailasa to join Lord Shiva.
South – Saraswati’s Abode
Across the southern states of India, the Goddess Saraswati is the main deity worshipped while Durga and Lakshmi are also venerated. Every state has its own way of depicting Saraswati. In the state of Kerala, books are idolised as an ode to the goddess of knowledge. Tools of livelihood and weapons are also worshipped on the ninth day as a way of honouring the goddess. Celebrations also include classical dance performances as a way of offering prayers to Saraswati, who is also the goddess of music and arts.
West – The Home of the Goddesses
Unlike the southern and eastern states, the western states honour a different avatar of the three goddesses every day. Each day is associated with an incarnation of the three goddesses and has a colour assigned to it. A clay pot called ‘ghata’ in Maharashtra and ‘garbo’ in Gujarat is worshipped along with the goddesses. In Gujarat, they celebrate with Garba, a folk dance consisting of dancing in circles with dandiyas. While the tenth day is a celebration of Durga’s victory over evil, in Maharashtra it is also dedicated to Saraswati and Lakshmi. Maharashtrians worship their tools of livelihood (Lakshmi) and books (Saraswati). They also distribute leaves of Apta tree as gold thus praying to Lakshmi.
North – Where Sita Dwells
Navratri in the Northern states of India is synonymous with Ramleela and Dussehra. The nine days of Ramleela follow the story of Ramayana and Sita’s kidnapping. The tenth day is revered as the day when Lord Rama defeated Ravana and avenged Sita, an avatar of Parvati. As a celebration of this victory, an effigy of Ravana, the ten-headed demon-king, is burnt as a symbol of good prevailing over evil. While people worship Sita and Hanuman, and the story revolves around Sita, the festival is dedicated to Rama.