While traditions vary across India, the festival of Navaratri honours the Goddess in her different forms, mainly as Saraswati, Goddess of learning and culture, Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Durga, Goddess of strength, courage and encompassing the ferocity of a mother in protecting her young.
The word navaratri literally means nine nights, and the festival of Navaratri lasts nine days and nine nights. It occurs during the first nine days of the bright half of the month of Aashwayyuja in the Indian calendar. In our western calendar it is a "moveable feast" like Easter is, because the western calendar is not linked to the phases of the moon.
West Bengal celebrates Navaratri as Durga Puja. Kolkata (Calcutta) probably derived its name form Kali, another name of Durga. The last three nights and days are given over to magnificent welcomings of Maa Durga to her earthly home. Huge displays of earthen sculptures of Durga with her sons Ganesha and Kartika, and Saraswati and Lakshmi are erected as the focus of large communal prayer meetings followed by mass feedings and cultural celebrations. On the tenth day they are taken in a procession to a nearby river where they are ceremoniously immersed.
|Dancing Dandiya in tradiational dress|
In Mysore in the southern state of Karnataka, the biggest day is Dusshera, the tenth day after Navaratri, when the city turns on a parade to celebrate Chamundi, a form of Durga, and her victory over the demon. Chamundi is the family deity of the Maharaja of Mysore and the parade features the palace elephants decked out in all their glory,hoses and courtiers, who wend their way throughout he city and all the way to Chamundi Hill which overlooks the city.
|A typical golu display|