Festivals of India Series – Navratri and Dussehra
Navratri, like most other Hindu festivals is a celebration of the triumph of Good over evil, the overpowering of untruth by Truth. Navratri literally means Nine Nights and these nine nights are dedicated to different manifestations of the Divine Mother , Goddess Durga. After the nine nights, the tenth day is celebrated as Dussehra or Vijayadashmi; “the day of victory”.
India being a country of kaleidoscopic colors and vibrant diversity, the festival is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country.
In Gujarat, Western India, the festival assumes a grace and grandeur of its own as for nine nights the state is enveloped in a halo of devotion, song and dance. Every other square in the cities, towns and villages of the state turn into a centre of worship and dance as boys and girls, men and women, young and old gyrate to the beats of drums in rhythmic unison in circles. The dance forms of Garba and Dandiya are performed with the image of the Goddess in the centre after due worship with lamps and prayers.
In the eastern part of the country festivities assume a different form in the form of Durga Puja with tastefully decorated pavilions with images of the Goddess Durga. A host of cultural programmes of music and dance are organized and there is a lot of food on demand showcasing the best of Bengali cuisine. In short it is carnival time!
The festivities assume a royal splendour in Mysore situated in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The city is a riot of color and luminescence for a period of 10 days during October. The rituals and festivals are a legacy of the royal dynasty which ruled the state of Mysore, they were started in the year, 1610 by the king, ‘Raja Wodeyar”.
The highlight of the festivities is the procession of Caparisoned elephants with the idol of the Godess Chamundeshwari placed on a Golden Howdah carried by the lead elephant. Colorful tableaux, folk dancers and music bands add color and rhythm to the procession.
The beautiful Mysore Palace is brightly illuminated during the period of the festivities and shines like a bright jewel in the night.
Dussehra is a festival that is celebrated as the triumph of Good over Evil, according to Hindu Mythology, Rama, the King of Ayodhya defeated and killed the ten headed demon Ravan after a fierce battle on this day. To commemorate this event, the scene is reenacted in thousands of places across Delhi and Northern parts of India and effigies of the demon king burnt to the accompaniment of fireworks.
Indeed October and November are the months when one can witness the colors and culture of India’s diversity and heritage as it erupts in pomp and gaiety.