Hindu religion observes Navratri for nine days and pays respect to different forms of Durga on each day. The festival has a deep spiritual significance and most devotees fast throughout these nine days. Mumbai is all geared up for Navratri, the festival that brings prayers, fun, purity, and pun too. The nine sacred days mark the most auspicious days of the lunar calendar according to the Hinduism. Celebrated with fervour and festivity all over India, and every Hindu community over the world, these nine days are dedicated solely to Maa Durga (Goddess Durga) and her nine avatars. The prominent story associated with Navratri is the battle that took place between Goddess Durga and the demon Mahishasura, who represents egotism. All the nine days of the festival are dedicated to each distinct avatar of the Goddess; and each of these days has a significant colour attached to it, which devotees are expected to wear while taking part in the festivities.
One of the fiercest demons Mahishasura undertook severe penance to obtain a boon that he cannot be killed by a male; underestimating the power of the female form at his own cost, he started creating havoc everywhere. To stop him, Shakti took a very beautiful form of Durga and told him that she would marry him if he defeats her in a battle. It is believed that they battled for nine days and on the 10th day, Durga killed Mahishasura. Therefore, the 10th day is called Vijaya Dashami, the day of the victory. One of the most famous idols that you see in the temples depicts this scene where Mahishasura, in the form of a half bull, is being slain by Mother Durga.
Another tale is that Lord Rama fasted and prayed for nine days to seek Goddess’ blessings to kill Ravana. He kills him on the 10th day and this day is called Dussehra, the day when the 10-headed Ravana was killed. During the period of nine days of Navratri, nine forms of Durga, called nav-Durga are worshipped. Shailaputri is the primal energy of the trident Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and was born as a daughter (Putri) to Himalayas (Shaila – mountains). Brahmacharini is the form that represents penance and austerity leading to blissfulness and Moksha (salvation). Chandraghanta is represented as 10-armed mother riding a Lion; she adores a bell-shaped (ghanta) moon (Chandra) and is the slayer of all the evil forces. Kushmanda (the literal meaning of the name is “little warmth cosmic egg”) is believed to be the creator of the universe. Skandamata is the mother of Skanda or Karthikeya, the chief warrior of the Gods. Katyayani is the daughter of sage Katyayan; she is a fierce form of Durga. Kaalratri is the death of Kaal (time); she showcases the other side of life — death. She is the most terrible and ruthless form of Durga. Maha Gauri represents calmness and grants wisdom to her devotees. Siddhidatri is the fulfiller of all the wishes and giver of a boon.
The festival of Dussehra is celebrated to worship Goddess Durga. She is believed to be the supreme Goddess. The key objective is, however, to celebrate the victory of good over the evil. Goddess Durga will bestow wealth, auspiciousness, knowledge, prosperity, success, and other powerful powers to cross every hurdle of life. Unfortunately, in the modern era, it comes along with a sweet invention of backless cholis, late-night merriment, drugs, alcohol, and a strong undercurrent of sexual intimacy. It is in the air of the smoky yet starlit city sky; it is in the music and the attires; it is in the sensuous dance, as the Raas — a form of Garba performed only by the unity of yin yangs. From teenage girls who bank on Navratri for escapades with boyfriends to some young girls who make a quick buck out of the mood to the middle-aged married women willing to pay a bomb for teenage escorts — the forbidden fruit is omnipresent and basks in the glory of the nine festive nights of Navratri. On the other hand, those strugglers in film and modelling industry get lured in the flesh trade; they become contractual partners for outsiders who land up in the glossy city to spend their celebration nights. While none of these is new, this year, the hints have gotten stronger and more visible. One instance that seems for the first time this year is many middle-aged women getting young men to escort them for the night. While this happens around the year under the veil of secrecy, this clan gets the gusto to wear their ‘able-bodied’ acquisitions on their sleeve and flaunt them. These models are paid Rs 500 to Rs 50,000 depending on their looks, fame, and performance. This unabashed fun is not limited to the elderly. For the young ones, Garba provides a good excuse to sneak out and have fun. These days, it has become more of a commercial event; one needs to buy entry tickets now while earlier Garba dancing was not so much of a commercial razzle-dazzle. Back then, it was organised on a small scale in the residential areas and families used to have their own time with a group of community and locality folks. But, now Garba dancing has hit the big time. The shows are given crowd-pulling titles like Navrangi Navratri, Raas Garba Ramzat, Radiamdi Raat Ni Rang Tali, etc. Putting everything together can often cost the organiser about a lakh of rupees. It is not just the name and all the hoopla that pull in the crowds. All attention is on making money while the music lasts. During the nine days of Garba dancing held in connection with Navratri, resourceful organisers can rake in a profit of up to Rs 4 lakh on an investment of Rs 1 lakh. Apart from the entry tickets, advertisement spaces are also sold. With competition hitting up, music has acquired a new importance in the Garba shows. Earlier, only instruments like the Ramdhol and Tabla were used to back up the singer. Now, the Roto Drums, Rhythm Box, and the Timpani are an essential part of every band. Moreover, singers are increasingly setting traditional Garbas to Hindi film tunes much to the disgust of the purists. The so-called professionals have dealt a body blow to the traditional Garba. Undoubtedly, the religious significance of the Navratri and the Garba as a dance form is getting diluted due to the increasing commercialisation. The occasion has now become more of a nine-day freak-out excuse for youngsters. The young turn out in exotic outfits not just for worshipping mother Goddess Amba, but to revel. For most of them, who do not have the opportunity or social sanction to spend a night out dancing, these jamborees provide the perfect outlet. We are going far away from our roots and manipulating our culture to every extent.
Hope one day we make efforts to retain the sacredness of Navratri and be blessed.
Happy Navratri to you dear readers!
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