Durga Puja is celebrated with great gaiety and colour in the eastern states of West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam and Tripura. In Bengal and these eastern states it is the biggest festival. Nine days of frenzied festivity ends on Dashami with the immersion of the Mother Goddess in a river or sea.
Durga Puja in Kolkata is well known for beautifully decorated ‘pandals’. The building of these pandals would normally begin about a month before Navaratri. They are well decorated with flowers and lights and become the hub of all puja activity, a perfect setting for youngsters to hang out late into the night and enjoy themselves. Each day at the pandal is like a fashion parade with all the beautiful ladies decked up in their finery and the males too adorning new clothes often turning to ethnic wear with their designer kurta sets. This is where they participate in the puja activities.
Another feature of the celebration here is the sound of the ‘Dhaak’, the drum heralding the arrival of the Goddess. Nowadays the drums are colourfully decorated and Dhaaki competitions are common keeping alive this wonderful art. The drummers attract a lot of attention with their soulful beat and rhythmic dancing. To them Ma Durga is ever present to dispel evil and bless all with happiness.
In Gujarat and Rajasthan too dancing and feasting forms an important part of celebrating Navaratri. People observe fast either fully or partially –by not taking grains or by taking only liquids as per one’s choice. Here the traditional dances are an important feature with everybody joining in.
‘Garba’ is a folk dance where people from different backgrounds join and dance in concentric circles. They dance and clap dressed in their traditional costumes, gaghra-choli and kediyu-dhoti and are a veritable delight to watch.
The ‘Dandiya dance’ deploys sticks and has coordinated movements with the striking of sticks between the dancers and playful teasing between the genders. This dancing is nowadays so popular that all youngsters join in and keep on dancing well into the night. Traditional folk songs have been replaced by popular film songs to the taste of the younger generation.
The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Parvati, the second three to Goddess Lakshmi and the final three days to Goddess Saraswati. The tenth day Dusssehra is also celebrated as Ayudha Puja where all weapons, tools and instruments are placed for worship at the feet of Goddess Saraswati. This is a notable pan- Hindu tradition, the adoration of Saraswati, the Goddess of all learning- Letters, Skills, Music and Art.
P.S. The Final part on Navaratri follows tomorrow
Read more on :Navaratri I.