India is called as the land of festivals. The amalgamation of different cultures, languages and religions ensures that there is a festival being celebrated in some part of India almost every week. One of the most popular festivals which are celebrated all over Gujarat is Navratri. In Gujarat, people eagerly wait for the nine nights (Navratri) when they worship goddess Durga/Amba Mata through the traditional dance of Garba. The festival is celebrated to commemorate Maa Durga’s win over the demon Mahishasura and represents the victory of peace and dharma over ego and evil.
Navratri (the word literally means “nine nights”) is one of the holy festivals of Hinduism. It is a festival of nine nights, during which we worship goddess of Shakti. Navratri festival is observed twice a year, once in the month of Chaitra and then in Aswayuja. It lasts for nine days in honour of the nine manifestations of Durga. During Navratri devotees of Durga observe a fast. Brahmins are fed and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. The nine nights festival of Navratri begins on the first day of Ashwina of the bright fortnight. The festival of nine nights in October, preceding the Dussera is a special feature of Gujarat when people assemble in village squares and temple compounds and sing and dance till the wee hours in the morning. They worship the mother goddess and her numerous manifestations during the festival. The three aspects viz. Durga, Lakshmi or Sarawati of the Divine Mother are worshipped during Devi Navratri puja. She is also known as in her destructive, protective, and knowledge giving roles respectively. The Navratri festival is closely followed by the Sharad Purnima, the full moon night in the Ashwina month; when under the moon light people partake of Prasad rice and milk. Durga/Amba mata or the destructive aspect of the divine mother is worshipped during the first three nights. On the succeeding three nights, her protective aspect of Lakshmi and on the last three nights, her knowledge aspect or Saraswati are worshipped. All over India people are very keen to know the Navratri colours 2018 in order to plan the costumes to wear for the specific day of Navratri. In fact, the offices and local trains also shine in these colours. The colour scheme of all nine days gives a healthy opportunity for the womenfolk celebrating Navratri to dress themselves up in the specified colour of the day of Navratri.
Every state celebrates in its own customs and rituals, Bengali’s celebrate the Durga puja with a lot of passion, and in Maharashta and Gujarat people celebrate with Garba and Dandiya, in Telangana it is celebrated as Batukamma, but what unites all states is the celebration of Nine forms of Goddess. The most characteristic dances of Gujarat during Navratri are the Rasa and Garba dances which are performed at all levels of society by men and women. The leader of the group sings the first line of the song while the rest repeat it in chorus; the beat being produced clapping hands or striking sticks in unison. The origin of the Rasa is traced back to the legends connected with the life of Lord Krishna. The Rasa is performed in Gujarat on Navaratra; and other important festivals associated with harvest and crops.
During Navratri, pot is ceremoniously placed and attractive designs are made on the pot with diya placed inside it. Village girls bearing pots (garbis) on their heads go from door to door and dance around the respective house.
There are variations in the garba of different regions and communities and dancers have involved their own style and steps. The Garba is indeed a ceremony in which everyone can take part irrespective of caste or social position. The dances are accompanied by drums (dholak) and the vocal women. The songs of the Garba are often history and melodious and have been handed down through generations. The origins of the seem to be a tribal dance revolving around a hunt; later, it was transformed into an agricultural ritual dedicated to the goddess Ambika. Today, it is known for the social dance at all levels of society. In essence, it continues to be a fertility dance.
For Amdavadis Navratri and Dussehra is a jigsaw puzzle of people – of every faith and religion, living together to create a unique and colourful variety. Festivals like Navratri in Gujarat symbolise people’s cultural, social and religious aspirations. They help people to live a fuller and better life, remove monotony and provide healthy recreation. They promote unity, fellow-feeling, self-discipline and austerity.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)