Festival of Sharad Navratri spreading over 9 nights and 10 days commenced on Saturday October 17 amid restrictions imposed by the government due to coronavirus pandemic. It is one of the most revered festivals of the Hindu faith and celebrated during the autumn season. The rituals began with the worship of Shailputri, one of the nine forms of goddess Durga, and will end on October 26 with the immersion of the idol of Devi Durga. Navratri begins on the first day of Ashwin lunar month with ghatasthapana called Kalash which is immersed in a water body on the tenth day along with the Durga idols. Navratri is the worship of Goddess Durga or Shakti representing the energy of the universe in her nine different forms. On the seventh day (Saptami), the Kalaratri form of Durga is worshipped. On the eighth day (Ashtami), Maha Gauri is worshipped. In West Bengal, where life comes to a standstill during Durga Puja, celebrations will commence from October 22. In 2020, Mahalaya, which is the beginning of the Devi Paksha and end of the Pitru Paksha, took place on September 17. Traditionally, Durga Puja begins six days after Mahalaya but this year it is different due to mala maas – lunar month having two moons. Durga Puja committees in Bengal have also decided to control visitors’ flow by ensuring social distancing and asking the people to bring their own flowers for the ‘pushpanjali’ ritual. No devotee will be allowed to enter the pandal without a face cover. community puja pandals are being sanitized for the Durga Puja festival. Shailputri puja will be followed by Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Sidhidatri. Each of them represents an avatar of supreme goddesses Durga having their own powers and persona. Interestingly, the same festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country. In West Bengal, the celebrations start on the sixth day, as part of the Durga Puja festivities. In Karnataka, the ninth day of Navratri is observed as Ayudha Puja. During the fest humans pray to rid themselves of ‘kama‘ or lust, ‘krodh‘ or anger, ‘lobh‘ or greed, ‘moh‘ or attachment, ‘ahankar‘ or ego, ‘darr‘ or fear, ‘irsha‘ or jealousy, ‘jadta‘ or inertia, ‘nafrat‘ or hatred, and ‘paschataap‘ or guilt.
Durga Puja and Sharad Navratri coincide and are celebrated not just in the country but abroad by Indian diaspora as well. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee clicked while painting an eye of an idol of Goddess Durga during her visit to the Durga Puja pandal at the Kolkata’s Chetla Agrani Club. Durga Puja organisers have almost finished setting up open-air pandals and decided to implement COVID-19 safety protocols as announced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.