Update 4th October 2008: Ashtami is on 7th Oct. This is the day of “KANJAK” when 1,or 3,5,7,9 little girls are fed with halwa, puri, kaala channa, potato curry and boondi raita, along with either a chunri or cash. Symbolic of the nine av tars of Mata Durga, we worship the girls by washing their feet, tying a mauli around their wrists and they in turn apply tikka to the head of the family and tie a mauli around his wrist.
Cannot control some morbid thoughts that overtake my senses. Its all very well to worship your own daughters or those of others, even a servants child, on a festival such as this all in the pious (?) hope of winning over Mata Lakshmi and invoking her blessings. But the other 364 days of the year are spent either aborting a female child or burning brides or selling ones daughters into prostitution. What a bunch of criminal hypocrites we Indians can be…!!! Okay.. I am done now with my rant.
Its time again..One of my favourite festivals Navratri or nine(nav) nights (ratri) spent in propitiation, music and dance,commences today. “Mother” as Goddess in the form of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, is worshipped as the primal source of energy. Colour, revelry and festivity take on a tint unparalleled with any other Indian festival .
“Durga Puja’ in Bengal , corresponds with Navratri elsewhere. Ma Durga is worshipped for nine days, and immersed on the tenth, after having, as legend goes, vanquished the demons or ‘rakshasas’. Perhaps this is meant to subtly advise us to conquer the demons of anger, jealousy, pride, greed and seek Mother Durgas help in doing so.
“Garba” or “raas” as dance forms are pre-dominantly Gujarat centric. However, now that Navratri has grown to become one of the most awaited festivals nationally, garba and raas too have joined the ranks of popular dance forms, as Bhangra.
Just how innovative were our ancestors can be gaged when analysing the origins of ‘garba’.
“A “GARBO” is an earthen pot with holes all around and “Light” within which signifies knowledge. The word Garbo seems to have originated from the word “Garbha Deep”, meaning a Light in the inner sanctum of the temple.
In the villages of Gujarat, the Garbo is placed in the center and brightly dressed ladies move around it singing and and playing a dance form called Garba.
The concept of Garbo is related to microcosm (smaller analysis ) and macrocosm ( larger analysis).
Microcosm : An earthen pot with holes, through which a flickering light shines through is similar to the human body (an earthen pot) with inner light of god within.
Macrocosm : The Universe of ours is as an earthen pot and light (Sun, Sakti) energy of the supreme reality shining through.
Moving around a circle in a Garbo, indicate the never-ending cycle of creation, maintenance and destruction phases of supreme reality. So now you know what you’ll depict when dancing the Garba!”
“1st – 3rd day of Navratri
On the first day of the Navaratras, a small bed of mud is prepared in the puja room and barley seeds are sown on it. These initial days are dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy.
4th – 6th day of Navratri
During these days, Lakshmi Maa, the Goddess of peace and prosperity is worshipped.
7th – 8th day of Navratri
These final days belong to Saraswati Maa who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge. This in turn will free us from all earthly bondage. But on the 8th day of this colourful festival, yagna (holy fire) is performed.
The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahanavami. On this day Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. “
Seeds are sown and sprouting is watched. This was intended to be the season of new harvest. If it meant inviting the blessings of the Mother, as the core essence, then to an observer, the festival takes on a special meaning. Coupled with the auspicious planetary configurations, this period is considered particularly blessed for fresh initiatives. Incidentally the holy month of Ramzan for Muslims has begun as well.
Since the farmers were busy in the fields during the day, fun and frolic, dancing and music was scheduled for the night. Today, this has translated into a host of cultural programmes where, special efforts are made the year round by singers, performers to design newer fresher items, enticing the ever growing multitudinous population of youth willing to spend a small fortune on these events, corresponding attire, jewellery et al. In other words, a lucrative business , which has reaped in immense benefits for creative talent. Mother’s blessings?
For those who would rather concentrate on the innate spiritual connotation of the festival, lighting of a ghee lamp, symbolising ‘ effulgence of the light within’ placing it with reverence before an image of ‘Ma’ would suffice. In focussing on the celebrational aspect, obfuscating the intrinsic spirit is more than a risk.. We cannot disagree that If culture and tradition also allude to joyousness and a bonding nationally, then this is a perfect example of such an occasion.
Undoubtedly, need to bring in an oxygenated, re-invigorated zealous attitude is an essential ingredient to a successful life. Navratri therefore could be a time to align with those harmonising and energising forces.
As always, trust our sages to somehow milk every given opportuity to symbolically profess a principle..so much so that it holds within its womb a message for all.. the bhakt, jnani or karma yogi.