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Diverse communities rever the Devi in myriad ways

Saturday, October 01, 2011

In Maharashtra, girls are encouraged to have a blast; in Gujarat, the devout dance in reverence while in Tamil Nadu, they display dolls

India is, indeed, a land of diversities! Dussehra, for one, is celebrated by different communities in tailor-made ways too…and known by different names too! Whether the festival is called Durga Puja, Navratri Puja, Kullu Dussehra, Mysore Dussehra, Bommai Kolu, Ayudha Puja, Vidyaramba, Saraswati Puja or Simollanghan, it’s celebration time for Hindus all across the country!

Here’s a quick dekko on how the festive occasion is celebrated by denizens from the different states.

The most important ritual associated with Dussehra is offering a flower garland – on each of the nine days of Navratri - to the idol or image of goddess Durga. Finally, at the end of nine days, the garlands are removed together.

That apart, Dussehra is a favourite among young girls who have not attained puberty: Besides being offered the goodies of their choice, on this occasion, the girls are encouraged to play games, dance, sing…basically have a blast! In most Maharashtrian households, a rangoli depicting an elephant’s form is a common sight.

West Bengal
Here, for Bengalis, Durga Puja means five days of festivity! Though it is celebrated throughout the state, the grandeur is the greatest in Kolkatta. Images of Durga are worshipped in individual houses and at pandals, erected specially for the Puja.
The beautiful idol of Durga is welcomed as if she’s a daughter who has come to visit her parents’ home. And, after the ceremony, the artefacts are immersed in the river amidst the procession including devotees, drummers and conch blowers.
Beautifully-decorated pandals are set up all across the state displaying scenes from mythology. A Bengali housing society is usually gripped with cultural fever…what with every nook and corner hosting contests of song and dance providing loads of entertainment in all localities!
For Punjabis, Navratri is almost synonymous with fasting. While most Punjabis observe a fast and have only fruits till the eighth day or Ashtami, others only have milk for seven days and then, break the fast on Ashtami.

And then, there’re some who have a complete meal, but just once a day.

Incidentally, even those who don’t fast, stop eating non-vegetarian food and specific food items like onion and garlic during this period. On Ashtami, there’s a popular custom of feeding nine young girls, called Kanjaks, believed to be symbolic of the nine forms of goddess Durga.  The fast is broken only after this. Another common feature is the Jagrans - devotional songs are sung all night in praise of the goddess.

The tenth day is the day of celebrations. Everyone sports new clothes, as it’s believed that on wearing new clothes on this auspicious day, one’ll get 10 sets of new clothes in return! And then, it is also the day to worship one’s tools of work - pens, pencils, books and any instrument that’s one’s means of earning a living.

For the Gujaratis, Navratri is the occasion to dance all night adorned in their best finery! Dressed in their traditional outfits – men in kediyu and women in chaniya-cholis or gaghra with colourful dupattas – Gujaratis perform their favourite dandiya raas and garba late throughout the nights of these nine days. The folk-dance epitomises happiness and clapping during garba is the form of expressing gratitude to goddess Durga, for having saved the entire world from the atrocities of the demon Mahisasur.

During these nine days, in most households and temples, the images of Amba mataji are worshiped throughout the day.

Tamil Nadu
Navratri Bommai Kollu commences on Amavasya in the month of Bhadrapada, the last day of Pitripaksha.Incidentally, in Tamil, Bommai means dolls and Kollu means displaying. So, during this festival a variety of dolls - all Gods and Goddesses from popular epics and Puranas - are displayed artistically and arranged beautifully by married girls. On the ninth day falls the Saraswati Puja when books, musical instruments etc., are decorated with flowers and worshipped.  Vijay Dasami, the tenth day is when any venture is begun afresh.


Considering Kerala is the state with the highest literacy rate in the country, it’s hardly surprising that here Durga Puja is synonymous with formal education for children of three to five years.

During this period, the children are taken to the temple, where the head priest tells them to stick out their tongues, on which he writes Shri, using a gold ring.

After that, the parents hold the finger of their child and help him/her write Harishri Ganapati Namaye on a plate full of rice from home. This is believed to be the start of the child’s education. During Ashtami, the day of Ayudya Puja, all the tools at home are worshiped. And, it’s considered inauspicious to use any of the tools on this day. The next day, that is Navami, is the day of goddess Saraswati, when all books at home are worshipped.

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