Perhaps one of the few annual occasions to be celebrated across the country, the post-monsoon Navratri marks the beginning of the ‘festive period’ every year.
The eastern parts of the country bring in the festivities with the violent form of Durga decimating the buffalo demon while the West is known for its vibrant garba nights. On the other hand, the North has its Ramleelas and Saraswati is the favourite goddess down South.
But there are some traditions and rituals across the four directions that are not popularly known and embody the spirit of the pre-Dusshera festival (sometimes not).
Impromptu acts in North India
Several Bollywood films have been witness to the practice of staging Ramleela shows for public, where episodes from the story of Rama and Ravana are enacted by artists in rural and urban centers. But what’s lesser known about these acts is that the audience and villagers join in and participate spontaneously. After all, we are a dramatic country.
Sacrificing animals in Eastern India
With the belief that it stimulates her violent vengeance against the buffalo demon, the eastern states (mostly West Bengal and Assam) of India practice animal sacrifice during Navratri. In some Shakta Hindu communities, unlike the banning of meat by right-wing Hindu organisations, the slaying of buffalo demon and victory of Durga is observed with a symbolic sacrifice instead of animal sacrifice, according to theologians.
Selling them in Bihar
The culture in Bihar is much like Bengal and the rest of the east, just a little less sacrificial (for the lack of a better word). Navratri, also the spring edition of it, attracts a large Ramanavami fair which marks the birth of Lord Rama as well as a reverence for his wife Sita, who is said to be born in the region. It results in one of the largest cattle trading fairs and also facilitate exchange of pottery, kitchen and house ware, as well as traditional clothing.
Arsenal worship in Karnataka
No, we’re not referring to Arsene Wenger’s doomed Emirates outfit. Apart from the regal processions and elaborate pujas, Mysore-born tradition states that artillery be worshiped during Navratri in the state. On the ninth day of Dasara, called Mahanavami, the royal sword is worshiped and is taken on a procession of decorated elephants and horses. The Ayudha Puja, dedicated to Saraswati goddess on the ninth day of Dasara, has military personnel upkeep their weapons and families upkeep their tools of livelihood.
Of Navratri dolls and book worship
Other south Indian states indulge in practices of their own like the one with figurines called Gollu dolls in Tamil Nadu. These include gods, goddesses, animals, birds and rural life all in a miniature design. People set up their own creative themes in their homes, called Kolu, friends and families invite each other to visit their homes to view Kolu displays, then exchange gifts and sweets.
And Kerala being the uber cool state that it is has people place books in houses, nursery schools and temple for puja on the eighth day of Navratri. On Vijaya Dashami day, the books are ceremoniously taken out for reading and writing after worshiping Sarasvati, believed to initiate kids into reading.