It's Navratri time! The celebrations have begun across the country. In Sanskrit, the word Navratri means nine nights. During Navratri, the devotees worship the nine avatars of Goddess Durga and to commemorate the victory over her battle with fierce demons such as Mahishasur, Shubhnishumbh, Madhukaitav and Raktbeej.
The festival is celebrated for nine days with religious fervor in the city - themed Durga pandals are installed at various places; streets are decked up with colorful lights on either side; eateries spring up at every nook and corner selling mouth-watering snacks like sabudana khichdi, pakodas, halwa, kheer, poori, vegetable pulav, poha, and many more, to be washed down with chai from the tea stalls. On the tenth day, effigies of the demon kings Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhakarna are burnt - these rituals are meant to rekindle the battle between India's favourite idol Lord Ram and Ravana, where Lord Ram kills King Ravana; these are also symbolic of the victory of good over evil. The effigies are filled with firecrackers. A child dressed up as Lord Ram shoots his arrows towards the effigies and the crowd chants 'Jai Shree Ram' in unison. The sky looks colourful with firecrackers.
Simultaneously, two identical idols of the Goddess Durga, namely, Sunarhai and Nunhai, are set up in the city. These idols of goddess Durga are made in the 'Bundelkhandi' style. Sunarhai is popularly known as 'Nagar Sethani' (meaning 'wealthy businesswoman of the town') among her devotees. The Sunarhai idol is covered from head to toe with pure gold ornaments, whereas the Nunhai idol is bedecked with silver ornaments. These two idols of Goddess Durga remain the cynosure of her devotees. Every year, on the tenth day, large processions of worshippers, with idols of Goddess Durga head toward the flowing water bodies for the immersion of these idols. The Sunarhai and Nunhai idols lead the procession. People flock along the routes to catch a final glimpse of these revered idols before they are immersed.
Walk along the streets, and you will find hawkers selling toy weapons such as carved wooden swords, gada (mace) and trishul (trident), all metallic and shiny with the layers of silver foil coating them. These toys are a huge attraction among children, and many can be seen pleading with their parents to buy some of them. And it's not just that, being part of the procession is also about munching on tidbits - jostling for space with the toy sellers are the thelas of hawkers selling roasted peanuts, jhalmuri, and popcorn.
The city is flooded with people from all walks of life who come to visit the pandals of Goddess Durga every year. You will find some people walking, some travelling in cars or motorbikes, and stopping at a pandal, bowing to the Goddess with folded hands to seek her blessings. A major attraction is the themes chosen to decorate the pandals in the area around the idol of Goddess Durga. Each theme is unique and innovative, either paying tribute to someone, or depicting a message, which may be pertaining to a current political or social topic, or to a need-of-the-hour awareness theme such as precautions to be taken due to the Covid pandemic.
Navratri celebrations in Jabalpur are a sight to behold; I invite you to visit Jabalpur during the Navratri festival season, it's a time when the city especially comes alive!
Rhythima Agrawal is a graduate from Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru. She is full of ideas and loves experimenting with things.
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