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Chaitti Himachal Pradesh

The new year begins in the month of Chaitra, according to the Vikrami calendar. All over India, this is considered an auspicious time, to begin new trade, and to celebrate the successes of the year past. Every region has its own way of celebrating. In Himachal Pradesh, the month of Chaitra sees a lot of celebration. People pray to the Puranic gods and goddesses. Or they perform worship for their local deities. This is a time when Navratras, honoring goddess Durga, are celebrated.

The Chaitti festival is celebrated in the month of Chaitra. Members of the Dom community visit door to door. They intonate the names of the month, in a ritual song known as Dhoru. People consider is a good sign to hear them sing the Dhoru.

Chaitra month sees many different festivals in the Himachal Pradesh, and one of them is popular all over the country. The first is Navratri. Navratri is celebrated all across the country. Himachal Pradesh, home to many devotees of Shiva and Parvati, enthusiastically participates in the Navratri celebrations. For Chaitti, one of the major customs is associated with crops. Barely seeds and coconut are buried into the eastern corner of a house. These objects symbolize the goddess Durga Bhagwati. The nine days coinciding with Navratri sees the appearance of shoots of barley. During these nine days, ritual worship is done to please the goddess. The shoots are distributed among people after nine days. Elsewhere, people read the Durga Path, special prayers prescribed in scriptures.

Durga is believed to protect people from ill health and sorrow. Navratri is a time when devotees throng temples dedicated to the Goddess.

Another custom associated with Chaitti is the Ralli pooja. It is mainly performed by young, unmarried women. They pray to the goddess to give them a husband as good as Shiva, the goddess's consort. The girls create small statuettes of Shiva and Parvati. They offer prayers to them throughout the Chaitra period. They gather at a nearby pond to bathe and fill metal pots with water. The water is used for bathing the god and goddess. After a month of prayers, a wedding between the deities is solemnized. After that, on the day of Baisakhi, the statue of Ralli is carried in a procession to a river. This symbolizes the wedding procession of the goddess. Ralli is immersed in the waters, a symbol that she is leaving for her marital home. After that, people are offered a ceremonial feast, as it happens during weddings.

Navratri Fairs During Chaitra

To celebrate Navratri, fairs are organized around all major temples, particularly those associated with the goddess Durga. The major temples where fairs are organized are Kangra, Jwalamukhi, Chamunda Nandikeswar, and Nainadevi. The fairs last nine days. There is a great trade of woolen clothing, handcrafted products, and bamboo items. Devotees visit temples and pray to the goddess. They offer gifts to the deity. This is considered an auspicious time for sacred thread ceremony, first shaving of the child's head, and other rituals connected with children.

During these fairs, wrestling matches are organized. Shops sell everything from glass bangles and ornaments for women to household goods. There are performances by magicians and Ferris wheel rides for people of all ages.

Naina Devi Fair

The celebrations at the Naina Devi Temple deserve special mention. Naina Devi is considered one of the 50 Shakti Peeths. It is believed that Sati's eyes fell here when Shiva was carrying the dead Sati around in his grief. Thus the name Naina (eyes) Devi. During the Navratras, women gather here to commemorate Sati's sacrifice.

The Dangi dance is a famous feature of the fair at the Naina Devi temple. Another feature is the folk songs sung by women in honor of Sati. While the songs are solemn, they also bring to mind an act of valor, for which Sati has been honored since time immemorial.

Chaitti festival is intrinsically connected to the new year, the time of harvest, and celebrations of a successful harvest. It is also associated with the Goddess Durga, and the nine nights (Navratras) dedicated to her worship. This is a time for joy, worship, and ritual prayers. For women, it is an occasion to bedeck themselves in finery and visit fairs, pray to the goddess, and wish for prosperity and goodwill in the years to come.

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