The season of festivities that last nine nights starts on October 15, Sunday this year and culminates on October 24. These nights and ten days are dedicated to the nine forms (avatars) of Goddess Durga and commemorate the victory of good over evil. Though Navratri revolves around a single belief of Goddess Durga killing the demon Mahishasura, it is celebrated differently across the country. Varied approaches are in place in seeking blessing, prayers, celebratory food, fasting and more.
The satvik diet
Fasting is considered an important element of the Navratri preparations and devotees steer clear of non-vegetarian food in many places of India. Many households refrain from consuming onion and garlic and follow a satvik diet. Simple food with very little masala and considerable emphasis is given to the forgotten grains like buckwheat, finger millet and water chestnut flour. Sabudana (tapioca pearls) steal the limelight during the Navratri festivities and is turned into a khichdi, or a fritter (vada). This becomes a delicacy during this time of the year! Potatoes, colocacia, lotus seeds, raw papaya, raw banana and seasonal fruits are made use of in the most beautiful ways.
Meanwhile, Bengalis consider Durga Pooja as the time for eating out. There are hardly any restrictions on what they eat, and community bhogs (meals) form a big part of their celebration. Khichdi, Baigun Bhaja (fried brinjal), tomato-date chutney, Lucchi and more embellish their feast as well.
Sweets as an offering and celebration
Sweets are made as an offering or just as part of the celebration during Navaratri, across India. Halwa made of bottle gourd (lauki), potatoes, semolina, or sweetmeats like Kalakand, Payasam, Laddoos adorn the kitchens of every household. In South Kerala, Goddess Saraswathy is worshipped on the 7th and 8th day and Sundal, an offering made of black chickpea tempered with coconut and mustard seeds is served with tea.
Different avatars of rice
Rice is substituted with different grains in the North, whereas lemon rice, coconut rice, tamarind rice and tomato rice are prepared in the South. Navadhaniyangal (nine grains) gets used in skilful ways during this period.