The festival that every Gujju awaits the whole year is here. Yes, this year we cannot go to the Grounds and Clubs to play Garba tirelessly into late nights but we can still enjoy other significant aspects of the festival like the Vrat, Puja, Decor,Fashion and Music! Read on about what I love about each of these!
Why we started celebrating Navratri?
Most of us have heard the story of battle between Maa Durga and Demon Mahisasur to be associated with Navratri. The battle between Lord Sri Ram and Raavan also took place during these days and Dusherra is the day of Celebration of Victory of Good over Evil.
But importance of Navratri is not limited to that. There are greater symbolizations associated with it. It is a Celebration of the Feminine.
I learned recently that Navratri is puja of Devi who is Trigunatmika- master of the 3 Gunas- Tamas, Rajas and Satva.
These 3 gunas are associated with Life at various levels- according to the dominating factor, our Attitude, our Intellect, our Food, all can be Sattvik, Rajsik or Tamasik.
Origin of life from Dust of Earth or the 9 months of Intrauterine life can be associated with Tamas. What we do throughout our life is Rajas. This cycle of Life and death, life and death can go on but what can break this cycle is Sattva.
Durga- Goodness of Tamas is hence worshiped during the first 3 days, then the next three days Goddess of Rajas- Lakshmi is worshipped and later the Goddess of Sattva- Saraswati is Worshipped.
And this is just one legend. The beauty is, Each region has it’s own tradition of Celebrating Navratri. For example in Gujarat the 9 days are dedicated to 9 different Avatars of Maa Amba while in Bengal and North East, its Durga Puja.
Navratri and Food:
Out of 4 Navratri- Ashadh, Chaitra, Magh and Sharad. But the one celebrated in Autumn I.e Sharad Navratri holds the most importance.
All 4 Navratris come at the time of Season Change. A change in season brings with it a Change in Crops and habits. Autumn is the time of the year when Yams and Tubers grow. So during Navratri Upvas, dishes made of Suran, Sweet Potato, Potato, Rajgira, Kuttu, Moraiyo etc. are eaten. All these roots and tubers contain vitamins and nutrients that are essential to keep us healthy. Season change is also the time when we are most susceptible to falling sick. But as per our traditional food wisdom, these seasonal food items are to be eaten now to protect ourselves from feeling under the weather. So, whether you stay hungry or not, do make sure you eat your tubers during Navratri. Do not forget to eat fruits like Sitafal, bananas and Singoda (water chestnut). Rotis that are not made of Anaaj (grains) but from Rajgeera, Buckwheat (kuttu), and flour of Water chestnut are eaten. We can also start by incorporating Grains other than just wheat to our roti.
Vrat World needs:
Our Prime minister observes a fast during the whole Navratri no matter in which part of the World he is! A lot of devotees perform this Vrat. Some eat nothing at all, some eat Farali foods, some give up on particular types of food like meat, while some consume only Liquids! But the motivation behind such fasts is not just devotional, several people who are Not Hindus, also perform this fast!
According to Ayurveda, Agni is our body’s power of Digestion and by fasting we give it a rest. The idea behind this is that when our body is empty, it helps our mind stay empty hence removing distractions and helps us focus on our Goals. So what we can do this Navratri is Set Goals for ourselves, make habits in the direction of the person we want to be. Then try to stick to that for atleast these 9 days, if it turns into a habit by then- Great! But if it doesn’t, we will keep trying! (Atleast we know what we want.)
Aur Vrat karna hi hai to stay away from something you like most- like stay away from your Social Media, respect others, stay away from Bitching! Make your Mind Strong.
Cleanliness During Navratri:
Several families establish a Garbo or idols of Mataji and worship her for 9 days. But inviting Godess to an unclean house is considered offensive to her Divinity. So we clean our houses and decorate them. Normally in Gujarat you can see all the streets lit up colorfully. Bengolis decorate Pandals artistically for Durga Puja. On the day of Dussehra Marigold torans are a must.
So, Clean rooms, clean Utensils and ultimately Clean minds are a must for any Puja. This was our Grandma’s way of explaining us the importance of Sanitation.
Navratri and Fashion:
This is the only time of the year when we wear our Traditional clothes! Dresses like Kediyu and Chaniya Choli get worn only in Navratri. We get to wear heavily embroidered artistic clothes in this festival. There are so many styles of Embroideries- Bandhej, Rabari, Suf, Ahir, Paako, Ari, mirror work and several prints like Patoda,Bandhni and many that we city kids don’t know even the names of! Navratri gives us a chance to embrace all of this Heritage of our state. If you see at the best trends of recent years, be it Bohemian outfits or the Silver Jewellery craze, it is what we have been wearing in Navratri for years. Thanks to these trends, these traditional clothes are entering our Daily wears. And even in 2020 when you can’t go out to play Garba, who stops you from getting ready? You can enjoy atleast that aspect of the Festival!
Music of Navratri:
Is there any other type of music even nearly as energetic as the music of Garba?! The drums and beats of Garba are such that your hands and legs automatically want to sway with it. While dhol is the most important instrument for Garba, if you have observed a live Garba band, you see that even the smallest instrument like a Ghungroo or bell adds to the beauty of the song immensely. Now if you have never done this, then put on your earphones, play energetic Garba music on your phone, close your eyes, listen carefully and try to identify different instruments that you hear. Allow yourself to sing along loudly as if no one is around and enjoy! This is nothing away from Meditation! You will focus, feel refreshed and Happy!
Garba and Literature:
The finest levels of poetry can be found in our Garba songs. The level of devotion we see in the songs with Bhakti Ras is Unimaginable! And here is a paragraph from a Garba song explained beautifully:
I think when we are on the ground, playing garba, we are too engaged in what the next step of the Dodhiyu, how you think you look, what others are doing, who is watching, who is eating, who fell etc. that we fail to admire the lyrics of these meaningful songs!
And ever wondered about the Vocabulary these songs introduce us to?! Songs played in Navratri come from various Dialects of all the corners of Gujarat. Like in Surat I have never used words like સહિયર, કેરા, એંધાણ, and many more in day to day communication but I know them only because of Garba. We can say that Garba and Folk songs keep our Language alive! Can you recall other such words? Tell me in the Comments. And this year revisit the songs of Garba and try to understand its meaning!
The Dance of Garba:
How can a blog about Navratri be complete without talking about the dance! One truely experience what it is like to be Lost in dance while playing Garba especially at the highest speed when it is the most energetic.
2 years ago when I started staying in a hostel and celebrated Navratri with people from all different parts of Gujarat, I was astonished by how many different Forms of Garba exist!! There is Raas, ek taali, be Taali, teen taali, Dodhiyu, Dakla, Hinch, Gauff, Popatiyu, Timli garba and I don’t know how many more! Plus there are ever increasing innovations in the Steps of playing each of these! Which is your favorite style? We all definitely miss playing Garba this year but whenever this Pandemic ends, I know it for sure that every Gujarati is going to celebrate that victory with Garba! For now lets hope that day arrives the soonest! Till then, Take Care!
Do share the article with people you think may like it😊
If you liked this one, you might also like my similar article about Diwali: