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What to do on Navratri?

How to celebrate Navratri? Or What to do on Navratri? These questions have no straightforward answer. Simply because Navratri is observed differently by Hindus in various parts of India and around the world. The myth for celebrating this unique Hindu festival remains the same but the way it is observed is different.

Rituals during this period are primarily dedicated to Mother Goddess - Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The most important is the Navratri Fasting. The festivities take place largely on the 10th day that is the Vijayadashami day which is also celebrated as Dussehra. In Bengal, the festivities take place for four days.

Starting from South, Navratri in Kerala is largely dedicated to Goddess Saraswati and people observe the Navratri fast. Classical musical concerts are organized by various temples, associations and organizations. The most famous being the Navratri concert in Trivandrum. The highlight of Navratri in Kerala is the Ayudha Puja and Vidyarambham ritual – introducing children into the world of alphabets and knowledge.

In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Navratri is dedicated to three goddesses – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Apart from the Navratri fasting ritual and nine-days of puja, the most important ritual here is the Bommai Golu – creating the royal court of Goddess Durga with dolls.

In Karnataka, the 10th day is celebrated as Dussehra and the most famous celebration is the one held at Mysore. It is noted for the colorful procession lead by the caparisoned elephants. The Bommai Kolu is very famous here too.

In Andhra Pradesh, there is the Navratri Brahmotsavams at the Tirupati Tirumala Temple. The Golu display here is also very famous.

In West Bengal, Orissa, Tripura and Assam it is the time of the Durga Puja.

In Gujarat, it is time for the Navratri Garba Dance or Dandiya Raas. Here too there are special prayers to Mother Goddess but the Dandiya Raas finds inspiration in Lord Krishna.

In North India, it is the Dussehra or the famous Ramlila. It is held on the Vijayadashami day. Effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkaran are burned on the day. There are also colorful processions dominated by scenes from the Ramayana.

In Punjab, Navratri is a period of fasting.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits offer special prayers during the Navratri at the temple of goddess Kheer Bhawani. On the Vijayadashami day, the victory of Lord Ram over Ravana is celebrated.