For the young and the restless, Navratri is an excuse to dance and make merry. For those a bit more settled, it is an auspicious occasion.
Gujaratis celebrate Navratri by worshipping grain kept in an earthen pot called garbi.
An oil lamp is placed inside the pot and the flame is kept burning non-stop for the nine days of the festival. The pot has holes through which the flame spreads its light.
Chanting and fasting are another tradition.
“Some of us chant one mantra 24,000 times within the nine days of Navratri,” said Usha Atha (52) a housewife.
During this period, the moon is believed to be at its brightest, awakening a person’s spirituality. “This is why aarti and the garba and dandiya dances happen at night, so people can benefit from the moonlight,” added Atha.
“This is also sowing season for farmers, so to pray for the earth’s fertility, we mix grains and soil and worship a plant,” said housewife Usha Gupta (45), a Dadar resident.
For many Maharashtrians, Navratri symbolises sanctity.
Anjali Dharmadhikari (54) describes Navratri in her hometown Kolhapur: “Women play a simplified form of garba outside their homes, holding earthen pots, and some of them go into a trance-like state — they are believed to be possessed by the goddess. People gather around her and ask her questions that they need answers to.”
In South India, devotees worship wooden idols of a man and woman surrounded by dolls signifying gods and goddesses, a display known as Golu.