As the lunar month of Ashwin approaches, Hindu’s across India devote themselves to the Supreme Being – Goddess Shakti and her nine avatars. Celebrations, ceremonies, feasts and fasts are observed to honour the deity who destroys all evil. This year, the revelry commences on 13th October and after nine nights (Navratri) of merry religious fervour, concludes with the observance of Vijayadashmi. There’s one common purpose for all the gaiety and pomp and though it’s manifested in different ways throughout India, the message stands loud and clear – good always triumphs over evil.
Preeminent tour operators offer tailor-made India Travel Packages for those wanting to observe the diverse festivities in full swing. Here’s a day-by-day guide for zealous travellers wishing to undertake the voyage –
Day 1 – Amritsar
Start your all India Navratri escapade at Amritsar. Having a distinct way of paying obeisance to the beloved goddess, the locals observe seven-day fasts while reading ‘Durga Stuati’ at Mata Longawali Temple. If you encounter men dressed as monkeys – you’re witnessing their own ‘Langoorwala festival’ dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
Day 2 – Delhi
Delhi pays homage to Lord Rama for killing the demon Ravana during Navratri. His temples are highlighted with flowers and lights and religious songs fill the air. A rendition of the ferocious battle of Rama’s triumph over Ravana takes place every evening in the form of Ram Leela (street plays) which are must watch.
Day 3 – Bastar
The tribal’s of Bastar in Chhattisgarh celebrate Navratri for over 75 days! Unlike Delhi, they worship their local goddess, Devi Maoli and her sisters taking her chariot procession till Jagdalpur. The revered deities travel in a two ton chariot in a remarkable spectacle as hundreds of priests supervise the parade enlightened by a thousand lamps.
Day 4 – Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad shines bright during the nine nights and you’ll see everyone dancing the garba around a clay pot (garbha – a symbol of woman’s fertility) filled with water, a betel nut and silver coin. Pick a pair of wooden sticks and enjoy the Dandiya Raas in the place of its origin while women decked in vivacious chaniya choli’s and men adorning the kedia dance alongside.
Day 5 – Mumbai
For an extension of Ahmedabadi flavour head to Mumbai next. Bearing a striking resemblance to the celebrations in Gujarat due to its geographical proximity and abundance of Gujarati population, Mumbai buzzes with activity during Navratri. Hopping from one garba event to another, all night long was invented here.
Day 6 – Varanasi
Next we travel to Varanasi, the religious city which gets transformed into a platform for fun and frolic. Beautiful renditions of the Ram Leela wow devotees who throng here to hear sages recite the Ramcharitramanas. How Varanasi retains its spirituality amidst the youthful customs is worth watching.
Day 7 – Kolkata
Kolkata leaves no stone unturned to worship its favourite Goddess Durga. Synonymous with the city, Durga Puja encompasses a five-day cultural extravaganza of phenomenal proportions. Hop from one bustling pandal to the next, each more beautifully decorated then the previous one and the madness of the festivities will leave you speechless.
Day 8 – Trivandrum
Unlike other cities, Trivandrum only celebrates the last three days of Navratri. On the eighth day, locals worship Goddess Sarasvati, the Goddess of learning and music. Participate in the Sarasvati Pooja to understand the importance of knowledge.
Day 9 – Chennai
Many a heroic tale stands testimony of the powers of Maa Shakti in her various avatars. Chennai specifically worships three forms of the Goddess – Lakshmi, Durga and Sarasvati. Watch women offer prayers for their husband’s longevity and display ‘Golu’s’ – an arrangement created on a makeshift nine-stair staircase adorned by celestial idols.
Day 10 – Mysore
As the nine nights of vivacity end, the 10th day, Dasara is celebrated with great pomp throughout India, but at Mysuru’s (Mysore) version is surreal. A grand procession fills the streets – complete with bejewelled pachyderms, vibrant mahouts, mouth-watering food and introductory cultural performances amidst glittering pathways.
So pack colourful attire, book an India Holiday Package and witness the harmony of deviant customs and cultures intermixed in the country’s communal structure.