The Fast and Feast of Navratri

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Durga Puja and Navratri
Durga Puja bhog. Courtesy Abhinaba Sarkar.

The Navratri fast and feast, though sounds like an oxymoron, are done at exactly the same time, the only difference being that they are both done in two different parts of India!
Let’s talk about the fast first. Celebrated around North India, it is the Hindu festival of Navratri. During these nine holy days, many Hindus fast to show Goddess Durga how grateful they are for all her blessings. During Navratri, we try to eat buckwheat or water chestnut flour for the one meal in the day and refrain from eating food purchased from shops or restaurants; eating non-vegetarian food is also not allowed. As a snack, we eat all sorts of fruits and dairy products! Some also avoid eating processed salt. Typically the fast lasts for nine days due to the nine forms of Goddess Durga, though some only participate on the first and last days.

West Bengal clearly outdoes itself during their feast of Durga Puja. There are many exquisite pandals for the communal congregation, housing the regal goddess. During the five days of Durga Puja many rejoice and invite their family and friends to their homes for some jolly feasting! They prepare traditional food and sweets as Goddess Durga arrives in their hometown. They also offer ‘bhog’ which includes a bit of everything– rice, dal, curries, fish and more for the Goddess to enjoy as people worship and feed her. This goes on till the fifth day when they immerse the idol in holy waters.

What a mix of traditions, all celebrating different versions of the same festival, Navratri! It just goes to show the diversity of every festival and ways of celebrating the same God.

Tarini is a student of Word Munchers, a Kolkata-based creative writing platform.

Image courtesy: Abhinaba Sarkar.

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