As multi-varied as the culture of various Indian states is, the festival is celebrated throughout India, in different ways, with the feeling of devotion knitting the whole nation.
Farmers celebrate this festival as thanksgiving after their bountiful harvest. On the first day of Navratri, food grains are sown in the house on a small bed of mud and watered every day. On the tenth day the shoots are pulled out and given to the devotees as a blessing from the Goddess. This ritual is symbolic of good harvesting.
#Dandiya Raas in Gujrat
One of the best part about the Navratri festival is Dandiya and Garba dances performed on the evenings of Navratri, mainly in Gujarat and Maharashtra. It is performed in the honour of Goddess Durga. Usually in the evening people from all walks of life come together and dance their heart out. Many organizations and groups organize the dandiya events at various destinations in Mumbai and Gujarat. It is also popular throughout India and among Indian communities around the world including UK and USA.
All the nine days are devoted to Amba, Goddess of Shakti (Power) and people fast to please and pay the respect to her. Traditionally, Dandiya Raas is performed after aarti (ritual of worshipping the diety). Both men and women love to be seen dressed in their best traditional attire.
The colourful sticks, used as prop of Dandiya Raas, are usually made of bamboo. The dancers strike the sticks with their partners and dance in circular motion, to the rhythm of the music played in the background.
#Celebrations in West Bengal
In West Bengal, Navratri is a special celebration devoted to Goddess Durga. The inauguration of the Goddess idol starts on Mahashasthi. The Goddess is welcomed with much fanfare amidst the beats of special variety of the drum, known as dhak. The drum-beats are an integral part of the Durga Puja. Unveiling the face of the idol is the main ritual on this day. Kalaparambho, the ritual performed before the commencement of the puja precedes Bodhon, Amontron and Adibas. This is an ancient ritual of worshipping nine types of plants. They are together worshiped as a symbol of the goddess.
Saptami is the first day of Durga puja. Thousands of people flock in the puja pandals of their locality to offer ‘Pushpanjali’ in the mornings.
On eighth day (Mahashtami) , they perform Sandhi Puja, which marks the inter-linking of the Mahashtami and Mahanavami. Special food is offered to the Goddess which includes: khichuri, refined flour puris, mixed vegetable dish, fried eggplant roundels and payesh.
The main Navami puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. The Navami Bhog is offered to the goddess. This is later partaken as prasad by the devotees.
On the tenth day (Dashami), a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. The married women apply sindur to Maa Durga’s pratima (image) and offer ‘Sandesh’ wearing a white sari with red border. The images are carried in processions around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijaya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country.
#Tradition of enacting Ramleela
According to legends, Lord Rama worshiped Godess Durga for nine days and on the tenth day he killed Ravana, which is known as Vijayadashmi or Dussehra. Hence in the North part of India, Ramleela is celebrated during these nine days when the entire epic of Ramayana is enacted by actors and actresses dressed in costumes related to mythology. The celebrations culminate on Vijayadashami (the victorious tenth day). It commemorates the death of evil demon king Ravana at the hands of Lord Rama. On Dussehra their effigies stuffed with fireworks are burnt to the accompaniment of drums being played with gusto.
#Celebrations in South India
Down South, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the devotees of Goddess Durga prepare dolls called bommai kolu and arrange them decoratively over nine or seven steps. Any sort of dolls could be used but wooden dolls (called marbachhi) are considered most auspicious. Married women and young girls are called for ‘haldi kumkum’ on all the nine days. Each day a different sprouted pulse is offered as 'naivedya' to the Goddess and then distributed to the ladies. Each day a different sweet, usually made from some pulse or puffed rice is also offered to the Goddess. On the ninth day or Mahanavami day, books wrapped in silk cloth are kept before the Goddess in the form of Saraswati and worshipped. On Dussehra day the books are removed and the children are made to read or write at least one page as a mark of respect to Goddess Saraswati. The sweet dishes offered to Goddess Saraswati are different variations of milk puddings called payasam.
#Dussehra celebrations in Mysore
The Mysoreans celebrate it as Durga’s triumph over the demon Mahishasura in the incarceration of Chamundeshwari on the Chamundi hills. And since Chamundi is the family deity of the King of Mysore, a regal procession of decorated elephants, courtiers and court symbols weaves its way through the city to the hill and culminates in a pooja being offered at the Chamundeshwari temple atop the hill.
#Dussehra celebrations in Kulu
A small quiet town in Himachal Pradesh called Kulu celebrates Dussehra three days after the rest of the country has finished celebrating the festival. Maharaja Ranjit Singh set the precedent to celebrate the festival with other kings who took three days to reach Kulu after completion of Dussehra celebrations in their respective kingdoms. The practice of celebrating Dussehra three days after the rest of the country was established and has continued ever since.
#The colour culture:
During the Nine-day festival of Navratri there is a custom of wearing different colours of clothes. Generally the nine colors symbolically represent the nine avatars or incarnations or manifestations of Goddess Durga. These are the colors which Maa Durga wears during these Navratri days.
Each of these colours has significance of its own. Traditionally the colors change from year to year. The colour red is of main importance since it represents Goddess Durga herself . Also the colours have a lot of significance due to their attributions to different energy chakras in the yogic form of meditation.