During Chaitra / Sharad Navratri in April / October 2018, many Navratri rituals (customs) are followed by devotees based upon local customs in different parts of India. Navratri Rituals includes fasting/vrat, consumption of satvik food, recitation of religious books, planting of barley seeds (khetri beej), akhand jyot (continuous 9 days lighting of fire lamp), worshipping of little girls as Goddess Durga, Durga puja in the east, the Garba dance in the west and so on.
Different Navratri customs / rituals are followed by people all over the country. Some of the main customs or set of practices generally followed during Navratris are as follows :-
- Kanjak – Kanjak is a famous custom in many parts of India. Small girls from neighboring areas are called to temples and/or residence. A small Pooja is performed as they are considered a form of Goddess Durga… Their feet are washed and are served with Poori, Chana, Halwa as prashad and also cash and/or gifts are offered to them along. In 2018, Kanjak would be on 25th March / 18th October 2018 that is Navami, while Ashthmi would be on 25th March / 17th October 2018.
- Khetri Beej – People plant barley seeds in a mud pot on the very first day of Navratri and place it in worship room along with fire lamp which lits continuously (Akhand Jyot) during Navratris. On the tenth day when the seeds grow into small shoots these are pulled out from the pot and given to devotees as blessing. This is considered sacred. People who can’t do it at their home follow the same practice in a nearby temple.
- No Onion/Garlic, Non-Veg Food, etc – During Navratri, people make sure that no onion, garlic or non-veg food is used at their homes. Most of the people observe fasting during all the days of Navratris and consume mostly fruits, milk and other fast items made of sabudana (sago), kuttu ka atta, singhara ka atta, potato, milk products, etc. Fruits and sweets are offered to Goddess during Puja and then distributed among family and friends as prashad.
- Satsangs – Satsang and Bhajan events are organized during Navratri by ladies in the neighbourhood and also in temples. Ladies sing and dance on bhajans. Jagrans are also organised during Navratris.
- Recitation of Durga Stuti/Ramayana – There is a tradition to recite Durga Stuti (during Sharad Navratri) and holy book Ramayana (during Chaitra Navtratri). People start reading Ramayana from the first day of Chaitra Navratri and finish it on the day of Ram Navami, along with bhog and Kanya Pujan.
- Garba Dance: In the western part of India, specially in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, Garba Dance is the major attraction during Navratri. Programs are arranged in local neighborhoods for continuous nine days and people participate in large numbers.
- Melas and Ramayana plays: Fairs / Melas are organised at many places during Sharad Navratris, which has stalls put up for food, games, shopping items and swings for children. Such fair / mela draws huge crowd and visitors do have gala time. Above all, it has holy ‘Ramayana’ depicted on stage as a play by actors for continuous nine days, and it ends on the day of Dussehra by the burning of effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakaran.
- Dussehra: The tenth day (i.e. Dashmi) during Sharad Navratri is celebrated as Dussehra in different parts of India. It marks the victory of good over evil.