is the longest Hindu festival celebrated all over India for nine consecutive
nights in praise of Lord Rama (Hero of the Epic Ramayana) and Goddess Durga
from September end to early October. Continuous chanting from the great epic
'Ramayana', along with evening performances from the episodes of his life
are held for nine days. On the 10th day falls Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
Navaratri is a combination of many concepts, with the common theme of the
victory of good over evil. One concept is that Vijayadashami or Dusshera is
celebrated on the day Rama kills Ravana in the Rama Ravana war. Another
concept is that, Durga, goddesses of power and vitality who is believed to
have nine forms called Navadurga, takes a new form on each of the nine days
(celebrated as Durga Puja ) with
the arsenal of weapons to ride a lion and fight the demon Mahishasura. The
10th day on which the goddess kills Mahishasura, is celebrated as Dusshera
or Vijayadashami as the victory of good over evil. Lord Rama is said to have
worshipped the goddesses, seeking her blessing in order to overpower the evil
force of Ravana, the abductor of his beloved Sita.
The most joyous celebration of
Navaratri is seen in Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Bengal. In Gujarat,
every night people gather in courtyards to dance the Garba and Dandiya Raas, a
community dance in which men and women dressed in festive clothes dancing in
pairs with Dandiya or painted wooden sticks. Goddess Durga's three 'Sakthipithas'
in Gujarat; Ambaji in Banaskantha, Bahucharaji in Chunaval and
Kalika on Pavagadh hill in Panchmahals are thronged by devotees during Navaratri.
In West Bengal, it is
celebrated as Durga Puja where beautifully decorated images of the goddess are
worshipped in specially erected Puja Pandals.
It has special significance in Mysore, South India. Mysore palace is illuminated for a whole month during
Dusshera and caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through
the gaily decorated streets of the city. Here and in North India, on the 10th day, larger than life effigies of Ravana
(the Asura King), his brothers Meghnada and Kumbhakarna filled with different
fire crackers are set alight to celebrate victory of good over evil.