Navratri

Anu Venkatesh

Over the past two years, many things have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic: traveling, hosting parties, spending time with friends and family, to name a few. To add to the already long list, Navratri, one of the largest and most popular festivals in India, has faced many changes in the way it has been celebrated. 

Navratri, translated to “Nine Nights” in Sanskrit, is a major Hindu festival that is celebrated widely. As the name suggests, Navratri is celebrated for nine nights that normally fall close to the end of September and beginning of October. The holiday is mainly celebrated to honor the three main Hindu goddesses and their importance: Durga, the goddess of bravery, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom. 

Navratri is celebrated in order to honor Durga’s victory over an evil, demonic force. It took her nine nights to defeat him, with her declaring a victory on the tenth day. Navratri is the celebration of these nine nights, celebrating the victory of good over evil. 

Navratri is celebrated in many ways, depending on the region of India. One of the most common ways is to split up the nine days evenly, so three are reserved to honor each goddess: the first three days to celebrate Durga, the second three days to celebrate Lakshmi, and the last three days to celebrate Sarasvati. Typically, a display is set up, called a Golu, with figurines of Hindu gods and goddesses. The display is set up on the first day, and throughout the nine day period, families invite friends and family over to see each other’s displays as a way of gaining good karma and blessings. Some also have parties and celebrations with dancing and food. The tenth day marks the end of the festival, and the display is taken down. On this day, we typically read and write, since it is considered auspicious to start educational or artistic pursuits during this time. 

Personally, Navratri is one of my favorite Indian festivals to celebrate, especially since it is one of the few holidays specifically focused on the goddesses of the religion. Navratri emphasizes the importance and need for the goddesses, highlighting all of their admirable traits. 

Another one of my favorite aspects of Navratri is how community-oriented it is. During the nine day period, we get to see many cousins and family friends that we otherwise would not get the chance to meet during the year. However, for the past two years, because of COVID restrictions, the celebrations have looked very different. We would still set up a Golu and honor the goddesses, but friends and family could not come over and we could not celebrate the way we normally would. 

This year, though, we are finally able to invite friends and family over again and celebrate Navratri with them. People that we have not been able to see for years are finally able to come celebrate this important festival with us.  Not just for my family specifically, but also for everyone in India, Navratri celebrations are back in full swing. This year, people are once again hosting parties with dancing and food, celebrating this important time of year. For example, Swami Satyadevananda told the Times of India, “Definitely we are happy to welcome the thousands of people who were unable to come for the past two years. We have returned to our regular hall this year. Around 5,000 people come each day while 15,000 arrive for [the] rituals.” The traditions and celebrations that come in hand with Navratri are back after the two year break due to COVID-19.

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