Maha-Navratri is here, and India is getting ready to celebrate this 9-day festival dedicated to the Mother Goddess. Different customs prevail in different parts of India, some of them extremely quirky too. Here are some of the strangest Navratri customs that you might not have heard of.
Animal Sacrifice in Rajasthan
Animal sacrifice during Navratri is more common than you’d imagine! The Rajputs of Rajasthan offer a sacrifice of a buffalo or goat to their family Goddess during Navratri. Even the Hindu temples in West Bengal and Assam have been known to witness the sacrifice of goats, chickens and buffalos.
Astra Puja, in simple terms, means worship of weapons. Also known as Ayudha Puja, it is a custom followed mostly in the South Indian states of India on the 9th day of Navratri. Weapons are worshipped by soldiers, while artisans worship their tools. Though this puja initially involved worshipping weapons of warfare, today even tools like the typewriter and plough are revered. The puja is dedicated to one’s profession, and acknowledges that a divine force is helping with the daily work.
Sowing of Barley
Barley is the symbol of prosperity, abundance and growth. Not surprisingly, it makes an important appearance in the festival of Navratra too! Barley sown during this festival is considered to be a good omen, and it is believed that the quality and length of the shoots will determine how much wealth and prosperity the family will earn during the coming year.
The 9-Day Colour Code
Each day of the 9-day festival is dedicated to a particular colour, and people carefully coordinate their festival wardrobe with the colour theme. Here is a guide to the colour code that is followed during the festival of Navratri:
Day 1: Red
Day 2: Blue
Day 3: Yellow
Day 4: Green
Day 5: Grey
Day 6: Orange
Day 7: White
Day 8: Pink
Day 9: Sky Blue
Doll-Worship (Kolu) in South India
Navratri is celebrated as Kolu in the southern states—a figurine and doll-display celebration where dolls are worshipped. Kolu is usually accompanied by a cultural show that depicts stories from the Ramayan. Kolu is not confined to India alone—many Asian countries, especially Sri Lanka and Japan, celebrate this festival too.
DID YOU KNOW?
- 9 forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) are worshipped during Maha Navratri, with each avatar signifying a different aspect of the Mother’s power and personality.
- 5 different types of Navratri are celebrated throughout the year, with the Maha Navratri over September-October being the biggest celebration of this festival.
- Each part of India celebrates this 9-day festival in its own unique way. In North India, fasting is observed on all 9 days, while in Gujarat and other parts of western India dances like the Garba & Dandiya Raas stand out in the celebrations. West Bengal celebrates it in the form of Durga Puja while Kolu is celebrated in South India.
India is a fascinating land of traditions and customs, and in a land as vast as ours, it should come as no surprise that each region has a distinct style of celebrating a festival. The celebrations during Navratri may differ across regions, but that by no means signifies a lack of zeal and enthusiasm.