The coming of September in India means so much more than just the end of the monsoons. September brings with it a string of festivals that continue all the way to New Year’s Eve. Navratri is one of the largest festivals that take place across the country with the festivities lasting 9 whole days worshipping the Goddess Durga in 9 different avatars. Naturally, some states in the country celebrate the festival with more fervour than others.
States across India’s northern belt, in particular, go all out to celebrate Navratri and Dussehra. Pandals are set up in every city where devotees rush to offer their praises to Maa Shakti (a form of Goddess Durga). There are also a significant number of people who rush to Shakti Peethas across the country to celebrate the festival. Here are 10 of the best cities to celebrate Navratri during these 9 days.
Kolkata is one of THE best cities to experience Navratri. The Durga Puja festivities begin on the 6th day of Navratri and goes up all the way to the tenth day of Dussehra. Pandals are set up across the country where devotees of the Goddess Durga come in great crowds to worship her.
You can also catch some of Kolkata’s best street food close to these pandals. Temples like the Dakshineshwar Temple are decorated on a grand scale during the festival. On the final day, the idols are immersed in water bodies across the city.
No list of the best cities to celebrate Navratri in is complete without the inclusion of Ahmedabad. Though the entire state of Gujarat celebrates the festival with great enthusiasm, celebrations in the city of Ahmedabad take it one step further.
Devotees of Shakti Maa fast from sunrise to sunset during these 9 days. The fast is broken after sunset and the nights are danced away at Garba events all around the city. Make sure to bring your best dancing outfits to the city at this time if you’re going to dance away the night.
Kullu in Himachal Pradesh is known as a peaceful idyllic city throughout the year. During Navratri, however, this scenic town city awakens to massive celebrations, making it one of the best places to celebrate Navratri. The celebrations of Kullu Dussehra take place mainly in Dhalpur Maidan in the valley.
The 7-day gala celebrates the victory of Ram over Ravana while keeping the Raghunathji Temple as the epicentre of the entire event. Locals from all around Kullu bring along over 200 deities to the spot, including the idol of the Goddess Hadimba from Manali. At the end of the week-long event, a large bonfire is burnt on the banks of the River Beas to signify the burning of the city of Lanka.
Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh celebrates the festival of Vijayadashami with as much pomp as any city in the North. The Kanaka Vijaya Temple plays host to this grand event. The main deity in the temple is dressed as 10 different avatars during the 10 days of the festival.
Hundreds of devotees come here to offer silk garments to the Goddess and take a dip in the holy Krishna River. The Mangalagiri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is another popular spot to visit in the city.
5. New Delhi
Dussehra celebrations in New Delhi come only second to Kolkata. Massive, elaborate pandals are set up all around the city, where devotees and come and worship the Goddess. Every temple dedicated to Lord Ram is decorated with flowers and lit up. The Ramayana is recited in public and religious music is played in every neighbourhood.
Every evening the Ramlila performances are put up in the city enacting scenes from the popular Ramayana. These shows are often followed by a cultural show and procession. The festival concludes with the burning of the sculptures of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhakarna, followed by spectacular fireworks.
One of the best cities to celebrate Navratri in Karnataka is the city of Mysore. The festival is called Dasara or Nabahabba and is a ten-day extravaganza that gets the whole city involved, including the royal Wodeyar family. The Mysore Palace is lit up daily during these 10 days and cultural and religious programmes are held, putting up dance, singing, and theatrical performances.
The city also hosts a Dasara Exhibition opposite the Palace grounds. On the final day of the celebration, a splendid procession called the Jumboo Savari is held on the streets. The idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari is carried around in a golden mantapa on the back of an elephant.
Though Mumbai’s biggest festival is Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri is also celebrated in a grand way. The city hosts numerous Dandiya and Garba dances where people of all castes and creeds come together to celebrate. One of the newest trends to hit the city is silent Garba where people can party with earphones on without breaking the 10pm restrictions. On the final day, sculptures of Ravana are burnt on the streets to symbolise the defeat of evil.
Guwahati in Assam is home to the Kamakhya Temple, one of the oldest Shakti Peethas. Navratri celebrations here are the largest in the Seven Sister states. This beautiful structure houses individual temples, each dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas— the avatars of the Goddess Parvati.
During its five-day festival, the temple is lit up and decorated with flowers and lamps. A series of pujas are conducted here during the festivities, along with Garba dances and cultural programmes.
The City of Lakes, Udaipur celebrate Navratri to suit their royal city. The streets of the city are all decorated with lights and flowers, while pandals are put up in every neighbourhood. The city dances away the night during those 9 days with Garba or Dandiya. Thousands of devotees visit temples including Karni Mata, Kalka Mata, Ambamata and Bedla Mata in the city.
The city of Bhubaneshwar in Orissa has recently started celebrating Navratri with as much pomp as the cities in the North. In the last few years, the Dandiya tradition has gripped the city. Youngsters rush to grounds around the city to dance the nine nights of Navratri away. Pandals are also put up in every neighbourhood to celebrate the festival.
Here’s our list of the best cities to celebrate Navratri. Think we’ve forgotten someplace, do let us know in the comments and have a very happy Dussehra!