Navratri 2021 is just days away, and India is gearing up to celebrate the 9-day festival that honors the Mother Goddess. Each festival has its own rituals and customs, and these may vary from region to region, as well. We may even find some odd and quirky customs among them. Let us look at some weird Navratri customs that most people are not familiar with.
Rajasthan’s Animal Sacrifice
It may be difficult to grasp, but animal sacrifice during Navratri is not an uncommon practice. In the state of Rajasthan, Rajputs often sacrifice a goat or buffalo to their family Goddess during the Navratri festival. In West Bengal and Assam, too, people sacrifice goats, chickens, and buffalos at Hindu temples.
The Worship of Weapons
Astra or Ayudha Pooja is an important ritual during Navratri, It means ‘worship of weapons’. This ritual is followed mostly in South India, and it occurs on the 9th day of Navratri. While soldiers worship their weapons, artisans and other workers worship their tools. Initially, this Pooja involved only the worship of weapons used in war, but today, people worship even things like the plow and typewriter. People also worship the things they use as part of their work. Books, pens, stethoscopes, and vehicles, too, are worshipped as the Pooja honors one’s work or profession. It acknowledges the fact that we need divine grace to do our work well.
The Sowing of Barley
Barley represents prosperity, growth, and abundance. So it is hardly surprising that it features in the Navratri festival, too. Sowing barley during this festival is believed to be a good omen. Also, people believe that the length and quality of the barley shoots decide the wealth and prosperity of the family during the coming year.
The 9-Day Color Code
During Navratri, each of the nine days is associated with a particular color. Hence, devotees coordinate their festival attire with the color theme for each day. Below is the color code guide for Navratri 2021:
Day 1: Red
Day 2: Royal Blue
Day 3: Yellow
Day 4: Green
Day 5: Grey
Day 6: Orange
Day 7: White
Day 8: Pink
Day 9: Sky Blue
Navratri Golu in South India
Navratri Golu or Golu Pandigai (Doll Festival) is an interesting feature of Navratri celebrations in Tamilnadu and Telugu-speaking regions. People call it Bommai Golu (in Tamil) and Bommala Koluvu in Telugu. It is a display of dolls and recalls Hinamatsuri, Japan’s doll festival. In Tamilnadu, parents gift their newly-married daughter Marapacchi Bommai or wooden figurines of a couple (man and woman) on her wedding day to celebrate the tradition of Golu at her husband’s place. The dolls symbolize fertility and prosperity. Other dolls that are displayed include those of gods and goddesses, saints, mythological characters, human beings, animals, etc. The dolls are displayed on wooden steps or steel stands. After the Golu arrangement is ready, the women of the house invite friends, neighbors, and relatives to view the Golu and seek divine blessings. The reason for keeping the Golu is to invite the gods into our homes.
Navratri in other parts of India
During Navratri, devotees worship nine forms of the Mother Goddess, and each avatar represents a different aspect of her power and personality. Different parts of India celebrate the festival in their own ways. In the North, people observe vrat/fast on all nine days. In Gujarat and many other parts of western India, people perform dances like the Garba and Dandiya Raas. In West Bengal, the festival is termed Durga Pooja and Golu Pandigai in South India.
Myth behind Navratri
The myth behind Navratri talks about the epic battle between Goddess Durga and the demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura was a demon who had been granted immortality by Lord Brahma. Only a woman could kill him. Emboldened by the boon, he attacked all the three worlds – Earth, Heaven, and Hell. The Gods could only watch helplessly as the demon unleashed terror and mayhem on everyone.
Finally, the divine trinity comprising Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva came together to create Goddess Durga by combining their powers. Durga battled him for 15 days, but the demon kept changing his form to confuse the Goddess. Finally, he turned into a buffalo, and Goddess Durga slew him with her trident. Mahishasura was killed on the day of Mahalaya. On each Navratri day, a different form of the Goddess is worshipped. The nine forms are Goddess Shailputri (Day 1), Goddess Brahmacharini (Day 2), Goddess Chandraghanta (Day 3), Goddess Kushmanda (Day 4), Goddess Skandamata (Day 5), Goddess Katyayani (Day 6), Goddess Kaalratri (Day 7), Goddess Mahagauri (Day 8) and Goddess Siddhidatri (Day 9).
Navratri 2021 dates are October 7 – October 15.