Importance and relevance of Navratri: 9 nights of extravagance and dance

Importance and relevance of Navratri: 9 nights of extravagance and dance

Importance and relevance of Navratri: 9 nights of extravagance and dance

Celebrated across the country, Navratri is one of the major festivals of India. A vibrant and devotional festival which is dedicated to the feminine divine power. Even though, India celebrates 4 distinct navratris, distributed amongst the four seasons, the one that falls on Autumn is considered the most auspicious one which is also known as Chaitra Navratri and Hindus all over the country celebrate it unanimously.

9 nights of extravagance and dance

Falling on the 29th of this September, Navratri 2019 starts after the last day of Pitra Paksha. The nine nights of Chaitra Navratri [‘Nav’ meaning nine and ‘ratri’ meaning nights] are celebrated distinctly in different regions of India, with their own mythological tales behind them. But all revolve around one theme – the victory of Good against Evil. Navratri is celebrated by worshipping all the goddesses, the semblance of feminine power.

Navratri 2019

Indians also celebrate the occasion of monsoon harvest in these nine days. They worship the soil which they grow their grains.

We will explore the history of Navratri, reasons for why we celebrate Navratri mythological tales and how they are celebrated all across the country.

The Ramayan: Victory of Lord Ram over Demon Ravana

Considered as one of the most iconic epics ever written, Ramayan is a tale of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of god Vishnu, who is a virtuous, wise and powerful prince of Ayodhya. Right before few days when he was supposed to be bequeathed the throne of Ayodhya, his father, Dasaratha, was forced to send Rama on an exile to the forest for fourteen years due to a vow made to his wife. Accompanying him were his loyal brother, Lakshmana, and his wife, Sita.

Victory of Lord Ram over Demon Ravana

Once on their journey, while Rama and Lakshman were out into the woods hunting for a deer, Sita gets abducted by Ravana, a mythical multi-headed demon-king of Lanka [known now as Sri Lanka]. Ravana was mesmerized by the beauty of Sita and wanted to make her his wife. Ramayan is the story of how Lord Rama defeated Ravana and rescued Sita.  

In order to fight the demon king and his army, Rama and Lakshman formed an alliance with the monkey king Sugriva. Rama and his advisers, alongside the army of monkeys, fought through obstacles and invaded Lanka. Rama and Ravana got into a dreadful fight and in the end Rama killed Ravana by shooting an arrow through his navel which was the source of Ravana’s powers.

Victory of Lord Ram over Demon Ravana

North and North-western Indians celebrate this victory of a Lord against an atrocious demon during these 9 days, as it is believed that their fight took place between these days, and the day after Chaitra Navratri is celebrated as Dussehra, which celebrates the death of Ravana. People enact the entire tale of Ramayan in a traditional play known as ‘Ramlila’ which narrates this story with great extravagance. The play usually goes on upto 10 days, with the last day dedicated to Dussehra, but few groups enact Ramlila with great detail which often lasts for over a month!

The Story of Durga

There is a yet another tale which derives the significance of Chaitra Navratri. And that is the tale of Goddess Durga, a celestial being that embodies the feminine divinity of this universe.

The Story of Durga

The tale of Durga starts with a rakshasa . There once lived a vicious rakshasa named Mahishasur who was half demon and half buffalo. He craved power and desired to not only conquer the world, but also the heaven. But he was a staunch worshipper of Lord Brahma. He austerely prayed to Lord Brahma for a boon. And he did that for thousands of years.

Finally, Lord Brahma was pleased with his dedication and offered asked him what he wanted for a boon. Mahishasur, without any hesitation, asked that, “Oh Lord! Give me a boon that no living man or god can ever kill me”. Lord Brahma was bound with the promise to give him whatever he wants, so he agreed to it.

Durga maa

Mad with power and overconfidence that no one can kill him, he started reigning havoc and destruction until he conquered the world. But he wasn’t satisfied with that. As the gods were powerless against him, they could not guard the heavens and at last surrendered.

The gods took their grievance to the Tridevas; Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The Tridevas thought over it and decided to create a goddess who can kill Mahishasur. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh combined their powers and gave birth to Durga. All the gods blessed Durga with their weapons, like Sudarshan chakra by Vishnu and Vajra from Indra, and she went off to battle the buffalo-headed demon.

Maa Durga

The goddess challenged Mahishasur to a battle. He thought that there is no woman who can defeat him so he accepted the challenge. They battled relentlessly for 10 straight days. And the end of the 10th day, Durga beheaded Mahishasur.  

Eastern and North-eastern Indians celebrate these 10 days of Navratri by worshipping Durga and her various forms as it is believed that the battle between Durga and Mahishasur took place during this period. These 10 days are celebrated by people with extravagance and gusto, alongside their family members and loved ones. They adorn their houses with lights and lamps as an invitation to Durga to grace their houses. Elders give gifts to the young ones and try to spread as much happiness as they can. Bengalis hold these ten days as more sacred than Diwali.

Durga maa Photo

The sixth day marks the commencement of Durgashtmi, also known as Durga Puja, when statues of Durga are welcomed into the houses and worshipped for the next 4 days. On the 10th day of the Navratri, known as Vijayadashmi, one can observe streets filled with people chanting and playing drums to commemorate the victory of Durga. Fleets of people march towards the rivers to immerse the statues into them and bid adieu to the goddess.

How Gujaratis celebrate Navratri and the Significance of Garba

Chaitra Navratri is one of the most important and extravagantly celebrated festivals in Gujarat. People from all around the state are uplifted with a devotional spirit and a trance of dance and music lurks amidst the streets.

Also revolving around the feminine deities, people in Gujarat celebrate Navratri to show their gratitude towards the different forms of Goddess Durga. The nine nights of worship are divided into three sections; the first three days are devoted to Goddess Durga, the slayer of human impurities, the next three days are devoted to Goddess Lakshmi, the embodiment of wealth and spirituality, and the last three days are devoted to Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and art.

How Gujaratis celebrate Navratri

And no story of Navratri is complete without the Garba. Garba, over time and popularity, has become the mascot of Chaitra Navratri where people dance their hearts out in concentric circles, with a statue of Durga in the centre and over irresistible music beats. It is a bizarre occasion where thousands of people are packed in about 20,000 – 40,000 dancers are packed in a ground about an acre big! But even though there are so many people concentrated in one place, people dance with a care of the world for hours and hours.

Gujaratis celebrate Navratri

And playing Garba in concentric circles also has a religious and spiritual connotation to it. The circles in which people move signify the every running circle of life and death. Whereas, the Goddess is stagnant in the centre of the circle, left untouched and unmoved. This signifies that the circle of life will go on and things will perish after a point of time but only the Goddess Durga is constant and will persist for ever.

The other dance form which is performed on these days is Dandya- Raas. It is a form of garba where people dance in pairs or small groups with 2 sticks in their hands.

Garba in Gujarat

In today’s age, for the nine nights of the Navratri, the entire Gujarat turns into a disco party with people dressed in beautiful and colourful clothes and bass heavy music playing on gigantic speakers. And not only in India, this dance form has achieved global recognition and Gujaratis and Indians all over the world celebrate it with the native people of that country. You can see videos on YouTube where people perform flash mobs on garba at Times Square, major stadiums and about every major street.

Even though people celebrate Chaitra Navratri for different reasons, they are all brought together by the ideology of celebrating what is pure, good and righteous. Indians hold these days in high regards and are considered as auspicious days to commence a new venture or buy a new vehicle. Various devotees indulge in fasting and diligent poojas to please the goddesses and wash away their sins.

One can feel a palpable brethren brewing amongst people as they forget their differences and come together for celebration. And that is the beauty of Indian festivals. People can put aside their quarrels and fights and celebrate these festivals to forge new bonds.  

navaratri

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