Navaratri 2023: The Festivities, Food, and Fervour
The fragrance of the burning incense sticks wafting through the air, vermillion red coloured finery-clad statues of the goddess Shakti seated on beautifully decorated pedestals, sonorous chanting Devi Mantras, the sweet aroma of Neivedya, and Prashad sweets prepared with pure ghee, are the sights, sounds, and smells one can't miss during the Navaratri season.
Navaratri is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil; tales of how goddess Durga defeats the demon Mahishasura are narrated in discourses and chanted as mantras and enacted as dance dramas much to our entertainment and delight. The spirit of the Divine Feminine reigns supreme in Navaratri.
Fervent Prayers and Customs
Before the onset of this festival, spring cleaning is done and homes are spruced up with bright-coloured upholstery and a lot of fresh flowers. The kalasha sthapan is the first ritual: coconut and mango or betel leaves are arranged in a brass or silver pot with water and placed on a platter or banana leaf with rice spread out on it. This kalasha is the centre of attention and worship during the entire nine days of Navaratri. The custom of lighting Akhand Diya - the lamp that remains lit day and night is also prevalent in North India. Each day celebrates a unique Devi her respective power and a particular colour. Women align their saree colour with the colour of the day and use flowers of the same colour for puja. Books and tools of one's trade are kept in the puja with reverence and Kanya puja is done on the ninth day (Navami).
A Gastronomical 9 Days
What is a festival without a lip-smacking array of goodies, to delight the palate and the gustatory spirit? The protein-rich Chundals, crispy Vadais, and melt in the mouth Payasams of Tamilnadu, luscious and creamy Mishti Doi, Rasagullas, Rasmalais, and Sandesh of West Bengal, velvety Shrikands, the grainy Kalakands, the fluffy Barfis, and the feathery Basundis of Gujarat - all these are just a small sample of the sweet line-up Bhoj offered to Durga Mata. And once offered to the divine, food becomes Prashad to feed our bodies, enrich our minds, and elevate our spirits.
Although Navaratri is celebrated throughout India with a seamless festive spirit, each state offers its own nuance and uniqueness to the festivities. Garba and Dandiya Ras are special in Gujarat and the Marwar region of Rajasthan, characterised by swaying movements and scintillating music. These dance forms take centre stage during Navaratri celebrations and mesmerise the crowds. Durga Puja is the most important celebration of the year in West Bengal and the city of Kolkata literally turns into a magnificent walkway museum of picturesque pandals, housing splendid statues of Durga Mata; as a cornucopia of lights and sounds, the city provides a pleasant and panoramic visual to the roving eye. Durga Shaptashati chanting in praise of the benevolent goddess brims the atmosphere with peace and serenity.
The state of Tamilnadu has its own speciality of Bommai Kolu during Navaratri. It’s an arrangement of colourful clay and terracotta dolls on wooden or steel steps decorated with streamers and festoons, lamps, flowers and kolams. A surge of creativity catapults women to the status of fine artists vying for the best Kolu title.
Nine Days (read: Yards) of Sarees
Women parading around in ravishing silk sarees for the Kolu Darshan is quite a sight during this time. Needless to say, gorgeous Kanchipurams, dreamy Tussars, gossamer-like soft silks, and trendy Pochempallis pop out of the wardrobes to become objects of admiration and envy too. Rasvriti is a great place to grab one yourself this Navaratri, come check out the collection now!