Here are the breathtaking Autumn Festivals around India

Durga Puja is celebrated throughout the country, with passion, devotion, and a variety of rituals. Goddess Durga is the epitome of Strength or Shakti, and depicts the victory of good over evil. Durga Puja is most grandly celebrated by the Bengalis, but, other states of the country have incorporated the celebration in the month of Ashwin, i.e September/October month of the English Calendar. Lets have a look at the various Autumn Festivals around India:

Ramlila in Northern States

Pic courtesy: Pete Birkinshaw (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In some of the northern states of India, the festival is synonymous with Ramlila and Dussehra, that celebrates the battle and victory of Rama over the demon king Ravana. Celebrations include stage decorations, recital of the legend, enacting of the story, and chanting of the scriptures of Hinduism. The nine days are also a major crop season cultural event, such as competitive design and staging of pandals, a family visit to these pandals and the public celebration of classical and folk dances of Hindu culture
In 2008, UNESCO declared Ramlila as one of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. Ramlila is a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Rama, according to the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana or secondary literature based on it such as the Ramcharitmanas.
Delhi, the Capital of India, is a melting pot of different cultures. The Durga Puja Celebrations in the city are a reflection of that. There are 1200 places in Delhi where Ramlila is held over a period of 10 days. Ramlila is based on the Ramayana, and artists depict the story of Ramayana. But, Ramlila is also notable in historically important Hindu cities of  AyodhyaVaranasiVrindavanAlmoraSatna and Madhubani – cities in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
On the 10th day, Dussehra, a huge replica of the Ravana is made, and filled with crackers. The crackers are lit, and the Ravana bursts and is burned down, while the crowd spectates and cheers. Dussehra marks the end of Durga Puja celebration in these States.

Navratri in Punjab

In Punjab, the autumn festivities are marked by Navaratri or “Nine Nights” is celebrated. Theoretically, there are four seasonal Navratri. However, in practice, it is the post-monsoon autumn festival called Sharad Navratri that is the most observed in the honor of the divine feminine Devi.
People either fast completely, drinking only milk, or eating vegetarian food, for the first seven days. They break the fast on the eighth day , i.e, Durga Ashtami, after Aarti, and Anjali. Goddess Durga is worshipped in this region. Overnight sessions of Bhajans and aarti are conducted, termed jagraans. On the Ashtami, Kumari Puja is performed. A kumari, a girl between the age 2-10, is worshiped, and women often ask for the blessings of the kumari. They are also given kanjaks, gifts of homemade food, to pay homage to their Goddess form.
Pandals are put up across the state, alongside fairs and markets, with various rides, keep the people entertained. Durga Puja in Punjab come with its own taste and rituals, and is surely enjoyable for the people of the state.

Garva in Gujarat’s Navratri

Pic courtesy: Brian Glanz via Flickr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Durga puja in Gujarat is celebrated with the commencement of Navaratri. Goddess Amba is worshiped here. The idol of Goddess Amba has eight hands, unlike the ten hands of Goddess Durga. And Her vahan is a tiger. The main attraction of Navaratri in Gujarat is Dandia or Garva. With sticks and flowing colourful dresses, people dance in open fields to express their joy in the occasion. Dhols can be heard near Garva fields, which lift the spirits of residents. Pandals don’t have as much grandeur as those in Bengal, but they reflect the rich folk art of the region. Earthen diyas light up the premises of the pandals and the temples. Fairs attract children.
People in Gujarat often fast before aarti during Navaratri. Bhajans and aarti are conducted every night. On Vijaydashami, special feast is prepared, and with harmony and peace the celebration of Durga Puja in Gujarat comes to an end.

Ayudh Puja in the Southern States

In the Southern Indian states, this is the time of the Ayudh Puja. In simple terms, it means “Worship of Implements”. It is celebrated in Karnataka (in erstwhile Mysore State) as “Ayudha Puje” (Kannadaಆಯುಧ ಪೂಜೆ),in Andhra Pradeshas Aayudha Pooja (Teluguఆయుధ పూజ), in Kerala as Ayudha Puja (Malayalamആയുധ പൂജ), “Astra Puja” or “Ayudha Puja” in Orissa, and in Tamil Nadu as Ayudha Pujai (Tamilஆயுத பூஜை).

Pic courtesy: Vinoth Chandar via Flickr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

In Karnataka, the erstwhile Mysore state of the Maharajas of Mysore, the ancient Dasara festival started as a family tradition within the precincts of the palace. The royal family perform the Ayudh Pooja as a part of the Dasara, inside the palace grounds. In Kerala, the festival is called Ayudha Puja or Saraswati Puja as part of the ten-day puja ceremonies. In Tamil NaduGolu is the festival celebrated during the Navaratri period. On this occasion dolls, predominantly that of the Gods and Goddesses from Hindu Tradition are artistically arranged on a seven stepped wooden platform. Traditionally, ‘marapachi’ wooden dolls representing Perumal and Thayaar are also displayed together at a dominant location on the top step of the platform erected specially for the occasion.

 

Kalaash Puja in Jharkhand

Traditionally in  Jharkhand, Navaratri is observed in the occasion of Durga Puja. People usually fast for nine days and live on fruits. Every evening Haavan or aarti is conducted. On the first day there is kalaash Puja, where the kalaash with weed or grasses is established in the pandal. The purohit chants Durga Sabsati- the Sanskrit slokes. The ninth day witnesses kumari puja. On Dashami there is Maaha Havaan. Everyone is invited for the feast which again consists of delicious Indian cuisines. There are garva nights, fairs and markets. On the eighth day jagraata is conducted. Jharkhand holds theme pujas, and the pandals are nicely decorated, big in size, and filled with lights.

After Vijayadashami, the grass from the established kalaash is taken by students for their books. In this way people of Jharkhand celebrate Durga puja.

North East region

Assam: Introduced by Pratap Singh. Most predominant in the Basak Valley region. Theme puja is common. continues for five days, Goddess Durga is worshiped. People fast before giving Anjali and aarti.

Tripura:  Mostly celebrated in Agartala. Several clubs and organisations consisting of the bengali community organised the puja. The most famous puja of Tripura is 500 years old, hosted by the erstwhile royal family, and sponsored by  the government. The key difference of this puja is the sacrificing of animals and non vegetarian prasads.

Meghalaya:   Bengali community living in Shillong started the tradition. Local skilled artisans make idols of Goddess Durga. After Vijayadashami the idol is immersed in the Umutru River.

Sharodotsab of West Bengal

Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the Bengalis. Throughout the year they wait for the auspicious month of Ashwin, when fields are covered with Kash flowers, and the sky is crystal blue. 

For Bengalis Durga Puja is a grand affair. It starts with the onset of Mahalaya, where Birendra Krishna Bhadra recites and various singers sing the Agomoni song, depicting the entire episode of birth of Goddess Durga and the defeat of Mahishasura in the hands of Goddess Durga. People often go to riversides to pay tribute to their ancestors, a ritual known as tarpan. Eyes are drawn for the idols all around Bengal. 

The main Puja starts on saptami, with the bathing of Kalabou, the wife of Lord Ganesha. Aarti, anjali goes on at a stipulated duration of time in the day. Ashtami gathers a lot of importance as the main Anjali and aarti are conducted on this day. People fast till the time of the anjali, and wear their best clothes on this day.

Navami witnesses maha yogya or havaan, and feast with all the people of a locality invited. 

Roads are lit up, buildings are adorned with lights, banners, hoardings cover the cities and the towns. The sound of dhaaks during the puja creates a sense of brotherhood. Pandal hopping throughout the night is very common. The entire city wears a garland of lights, pomp and grandeur.

On Bijoya Dashami, married women play with sindoor or vermilion to wish each other the happiness of a safe family. The idols are taken to nearby water bodies, such as ponds, lakes and sometimes rivers for the immersion. A procession comes into full swing, with people dancing and lighting crackers. Everyone has one wish in their heart and that is to witness the Durga Puja again the following year, in a safe and sound manner.

So these are the few ways in which different cultures and traditions celebrate Durga Puja. The Puja brings peace and happiness, the time when everyone unites forgetting all differences. 

About Manaswita Saha

Manaswita is an engineering student, and loves to travel. She is an avid reader and has flair for writing. She is the youngest and spunkiest Blank Slater yet!

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Manaswita Saha

Manaswita is an engineering student, and loves to travel. She is an avid reader and has flair for writing. She is the youngest and spunkiest Blank Slater yet!

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