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Navratri: A festival of dance and worship

Durga – the bewitching, radiant ten-armed goddess, the benevolent mother of beings and is the ravaging destroyer of evil. The one, who with her arrival, heralds peace and happiness into the realm of mortals. Durga who is worshipped as a goddess, revered as a mother and feared as the embodiment of anger. The ten-armed Goddess Durga was created as an amalgam of the powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar to defeat the water-buffalo demon Mahisasur. It is also celebrated in the north as the triumph of good over evil dedicating it to Lord Ram who defeated Ravana and the tenth day of the festival is known as Dussehra. While in the northern part of the country the goddess is worshipped in a more effeminate avatar, in the eastern and the southern parts, she is invoked more as the warrior-goddess – the destroyer of evil. These nine days people immerse themselves in welcoming Durga to the earth, in her nine forms.

During this period people perform the puja during morning and evening, dress colourfully; most women wear Gujrati chaniya choli’s embellished with beautiful mirror work and the men in churidat kurta’s. They meet up in the evening and perform the ‘garba’ and ‘dandiya raas’ and dance to these beats till the wee hours of the morning welcoming her and celebrating her presence on earth. On the ninth day she kills the demon and is therefore ready to depart on the tenth. They thank her, dress her like a bride so that she my join her husband in her heavenly abode and immerse her in the waters for her journey back.

It may augur well for all of us to remember that she does this so that the world may live in peace, harmony prevails and people live together in unison. She epitomises benevolence and kindness in one of her forms “kushmanda” showering blessings to all like mother to her children and eliminates darkness with her smile.

All around us in various grounds and buildings, wherever this event is celebrated I have seen Hindus and Muslims joining in and tourists from all over the world in numerous parts of the country dancing the garba and dandiya raas. There is no way to Peace. It is the only way. All forces of Evil are eventually destroyed like she does. Mother nature embodies love and compassion. Mother earth is ours to keep clean and respected so sing and dance and drink in the revelry of colour and she will give back in return.

Russia and USA who are always trying to show one up-man ship and got together to kill the “Mahisasur” – evil demon ISIS only to bring in peace in Syria so that people can have a normal family, home education, development etc. Unity in diversity are the core values as the President Pranab Mukherjee said and Prime Minister Narendra Modi seconded whether in India or abroad. It is the key to economic progress for societies and the world. Some dorky guy shooting students in colleges in America, someone else being shamefully killed here in the village for a rumour of beef consumption, politicizing it to a larger evil by other parties for the sake of vote banks are not what we want to be, really. So in this auspicious season while Goddess Durga is here and on her heels is Goddess Laxmi who is on her way to earth bring us wealth and prosperity for the festival of lights. Let us all pray for more peace and harmony.

Allka V Aswani

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