It is the season of fun and festivities, not to forget sweets, gifts, and feasts. Navratri, the Hindu festival that spans nine nights, is arriving soon with Dussehra and Diwali in tow. The festive season is officially here!
While adults are busy charting out plans to celebrate each festival with pujas (the act of worship) and paying reverence to different Gods and Goddesses, kids are excited about the fun parts of the festivals such as gorging on sweet treats and wearing new clothes.
What’s the story behind Navratri?
Navratri is a time when Hindus celebrate the goddess Durga for killing the demon, Mahishasura.
A more powerful God, Lord Brahma, had blessed Mahishasura with the gift of immortality because of his dedication to him, which meant he could never die.
However, this gift did come with one condition – the only person who would be able to defeat Mahishasura would be a woman.
Mahishasura didn’t think any women would be strong enough to kill him and was happy with the deal.
Over the years, Mahishasura and his men became a powerful force attacking people on Earth and no gods were able to defeat him.
Finally Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva – the three most powerful Hindu gods – decided to come together and create the goddess Durga, a powerful woman whose job would be to destroy Mahishasura.
The gods equipped the new goddess Durga with lots of weapons before she went into battle with Mahishasura.
Durga fought the demon for 10 days, and it proved quite difficult as he kept changing his form to confuse the goddess. However, when he finally turned into a buffalo, Durga was able to defeat him.
During Navratri some families choose to fast, only having milk, water, fruit and nuts during the day, followed by a full meal after sunset. Some people only have water and a simple meal at night.
The celebrations also involve lots of dancing!
There are two main types of dances to celebrate Navratri. The first is Garba, a traditional dance where you clap your hands whilst going around in a circle. The music is exciting and it gets louder and louder with lots of drumming.
Navratri: The festival of 9 days
The second half of the year is choc-a-bloc with festivals where one festival ends only to be followed by another one. Prominent among the festivals is Navratri which is celebrated by Hindus for a period of nine days.
Navratri is celebrated with much gusto by different states in their own ‘unique’ ways. For instance, the western part of the country celebrates Navratri with dandiya or Garba while in the southern region, Navratri is celebrated with Golu or Bommai Kolu, which involves the festive display of dolls. North India observes Navratri by fasting for nine days while in West Bengal, Navratri is associated with pandals (marquees) and humongous, expertly crafted idols of Goddess Durga.
Note: Garba is a form of dance where women dance in circles around a pot that contains a lamp. It comes from the word ‘Garbha’ which means womb. The lamp is used to represent life within the womb.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people of the country on Navratri, along with several Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Jagat Prakash Nadda. He posted his greeting on Twitter, hoping that Navratri brings good health and prosperity in people’s lives.
15 Best Places in Gujarat during Navratri
2. United Way of Baroda
3. The University of Baroda
4. Shishu Sanskrutik Garba
6. Bhadra Fort
7. Rajpath Club
10. Gandhinagar Cultural Forum Ground
12. Race Course
15. Ena Navratri Mahotsav
Begin your journey at the cultural capital of Gujarat – Vadodara. The United Way of Garba, one of the most-well known Ras Garba events in the country, takes place here and witnesses as many as 30,000 people (at least) every night for nine nights. From good food to dance competitions, the event is a one-stop destination for dance, dine and everything fine.
Ahmedabad is another destination that attracts a huge crowd during Navratris alongside a number of famous singers and popular faces from films and television, who dance to the tunes of folk music perfectly synced with modern-day tunes. An atmosphere of merriment quickly takes over the city during this time, especially at the Pols area.
Gujarat’s best-kept secret (for visitors to the state), Somnath’s Navratri event – the Navratri Mahotsav at Somnath Mahadev Temple in Somnath is a delightful sight and should be a part of your itinerary. As long queues finish up after prayers, the place takes a 360-degree turn with bright lights, stalls serving authentic Gujarati food, and people swaying to the music.
Other popular destinations that should be a part of your sojourn are Rajkot and Surat.
A must-try is the food available at these festivals. Delectable Gujarati dishes like dhokla, khandvi, gathiya, among others.