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Garba, dandiya, diyas and laughter -- Navratri in Gujarat is a ticket to unadulterated joy and happiness. Navratri, or nine nights, is one of India's most important celebrations and the fervor with which it is observed in Gujarat is unrivalled
Navratri brings the people of Gujarat together in many ways. Millions of uniquely dressed devotees gather to pay tribute to Mata Ambe, a manifestation of Goddess Adhya Shakti, and participate in the twirling and swirling dance moves of the famed Ras Garba.
Every evening, aarti is performed in front of the goddess using a traditional clay pot called garbi and diyas. People dance to music after the puja. Ras Garba, which is occasionally followed by dandiya, is the dance form performed during Navratri. Arhythmic and graceful dance performed in a circular pattern with highly coordinated gestures, Ras Garba moves are accompanied by both live acoustic arrangements and amplified music systems. Every street, also known as gully nukkad, and society has a stage. Throughout the night, a variety of cultural programs are held. Navratri as a festival has a rich history and several mythical stories are associated with it.
Legend has it that there was a demon Mahishasur, who was given a boon by Agni that no man or weapon bearing a masculine name would be able to destroy him. Thus strengthened, he went about terrorizing mortal and immortal beings alike. So, to slay him, the Gods sought the help from Shiva who advised them to invoke Goddess Shakti. With their prayers, Goddess Shakti, also known as Adhya Shakti, was created. She fought with Mahishasur, or Rakshasa as we call him here, and on the tenth day beheaded him. It is believed that before dying Mahishasur sought forgiveness from the Goddess. The tenth day is called Vijayadashami, signifying the victory of good over evil.
Vijayadashami is also considered an auspicious day to buy new vehicles. Because it is the final day of the Navaratri celebrations, people unwind following frantic participation in the festivities. They generally gorge themselves on traditional delicacies such as jalebi and fafda.
Like lakhs of Gujaratis, I look forward to the festival every year. From childhood to being a mother of two, I have witnessed Navratri celebrations change. As a child, I spent hours creating an idol called Malla Mata on a mound of sand . We used to decorate it with small household items, flowers and a tiny waterfall that would descend from the mound. All the neighborhood children came together to build Malla Mata and it left us with a sense of accomplishment. We performed an aarti before Malla Mata every night before commencing garba and the prashad was the most exciting part of the entire ritual.
As a teenager, I had different dresses, also called chaniya choli , for all the nine nights of Ras Garba, and oxidized or silver traditional jewellery to complement those. We used to do garba all night and often found myself coming home in the early mornings. Today, some of these aspects are still there such as aarti before garba and the piousness of the celebrations as communities come together. What was celebrated in small societies before is now also celebrated commercially through huge private events. What brings me immense joy is that I can still witness the same spark and excitement among the youth and the new generation regarding the festival.
Festivals are a great opportunity to reconnect with our culture and traditions. Today, in our society, parents are taking Navratri celebrations as an opportunity to involve their children in the festivities. I have seen children practicing garba a month prior to the festival. This helps them disconnect from technology and screens. They also learn various skills and life values.
At a time when we have all gone through a global crisis, such festivals rejuvenate us and bring us closer together as a community.
- Asha Vaghasia is Founder and Parenting Coach at We Positive Parenting.