While I was in Mumbai, it was the festival of Navratri. Navratri is a festival of worship, dance and music celebrated over a period of nine nights. Nav = nine and Ratri = nights.
It is celebrated for the worship of the Goddess Durga. Goddess Durga is believed to exist in many forms. The name “Durga” means “inaccessible”, and she is the personification of the active side of the divine “shakti” energy of Lord Shiva. In fact, she represents the furious powers of all the male gods, and is the ferocious protector of the righteous, and destroyer of the evil. Durga is usually portrayed as riding a lion, and carrying weapons in her many arms.
Most neighborhoods had a pandal, or a temporary temple set up so that the neighbors could conduct puja to Durga in their neighborhood. Some of them were elaborate and some of them were simple. Often the neighborhoods would erect signs at the entrances to their neiborhoods and sometimes with Christmas lights (or Hindu equivalent). So think Christmas in that it is very festive.
As I understanding it, local neighborhood associations or the people on a street would contribute to the development of the
pandal. Often they were small pandals in which I guess you did your own puja. Others were elaborate and had a temple priest conducting services. The most elaborate one that I saw was at the North Bombay -- Santa Cruz Durga Pandal. It was amazing.
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