Celebrations and festivals are a few of the things that bind us all with a thread of unity. Though there does exist a cultural and traditional divide between the rituals and festivals of North and South India, Navratris is one festival that is celebrated all over. All across the length and breadth of the country; the flavors are different, methods are varied, rituals are diverse but celebration time it is. Hindus are one of the few that believe in and revere the feminine principle like no other religion. This festival is dedicated to the goddess, the mother, the feminine divine.
Navratis mean different things to different age groups and castes. While in North India the most predominant method is by observing fasts through the seven or eight days with kanjak celebration on ashtami or navami. For Bengalis, the last four days is the biggest festival with them decking up the pandals innovatively with use of a multitude of materials, feasting, indulging in pandal hopping, sindoor khela and dhak competitions. It is a community celebrations for Bengalis with no abstinence on either veg or non-veg food. Infact since I am an army product, at one of the sendoff parties when my mom wasn’t even eating regular veg food, this aunt was drinking alcohol and even enjoying her piece of chicken, she told us they belong to a community in Rajasthan where even the poorest of poor will eat non veg during these days since they worship the Shakti roopa of the Goddess, it sounded so cool at that time. Ah and how can we forget the famous dandiya dance that all the soaps on the TV are celebrating with fervor. By the way the farm house parties even arrange for Dandiya competitions for couples with vrat ka khanaa on the side even in saddi Dilli. Gujaratis and Mumbaikars are big on Dandiya and Garba during the season, film stars and celebrity singers perform at various functions throughout India and even abroad especially in US, Canada and UK.
In South of India people set up idols and dolls in several tiers or padis a customary ritual during navratris it is observed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In the evening when people visit the homes where Golu is sthapit they are sent off with Prasadam. It is kept for 9 days and packed up on the 10th on Vijaydashmi.
Dussara in Mysore is celebrated with a big pomp and show. During the nine days leading up to Dusshera Mysore city is decked up as a bride and various tourists from around the world throng the city to watch the beauty and soak in the revelry. This is one royal experience for sure. Various cultural shows are performed in front of the illuminated Palace. Dasara celebrations commence with a pooja performed to Goddess Chamundeshwari atop the Chamundi Hills with the presence of the Wodeyar royal couple, and state officials. On tenth day of Dasara, a grand Procession (Jamboo Savari) starts from the palace after the royal couple worship the idol. The main attraction of the Dasara procession this year 2013 will be the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari which is carried in a Golden howdah weighing over 750 kgs on top of an elephant. The procession consists of dancers, musical bands belonging to State Police, Folk dancers, decorated elephants, horses and camels. Colorful tableaux created by different State organisations too form an integral part of the procession.
Keralites mark this period with worshipping of the book during the last 3 days. This period is celebrated as Sarasvati poojan period. On Vijaya Dashami day, the books are ceremoniously taken out for reading and writing after worshiping Sarasvati. Vijaya Dashami day is considered auspicious for initiating the children into writing and reading, which is called Vidyarambham. Tens of thousands of children are initiated into the world of letters on this day in Kerala.
This is also a time for shopping and auspicious beginnings, of rokas and weddings, of buying new cars and those sone ke haars. A great time for both publishers and advertisers, a time when corporates do maximum business and a time when consumers reap maximum benefits. No one remains untouched with the fervor and the festivities in the air just like that slight nip of cold. So whatever suits you fasting or feasting, dancing or buying, praying or meditating….just keep the faith, take a deep breath, bless the world and before I forget, raise your arms and scream out loud JAI MATA DI !!
How do you intend to celebrate these nine?