Navratri – The Subtle Fight Against the Bad
It is that happy time of the year… music, dance, clothes, jewellery, lights, food, night-outs, gathering, blend them all together and it becomes the festival season for Indians all over the world. Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri, Dussehra, Diwali, Christmas: the fun doesn’t end; from Autumn to Winter.
Festivals, Indian or otherwise, are more or less about good winning over evil or the birth of good. However, Navratri is probably the longest and attracts thousands of people, Indians or others. These nine days celebrate the three main Indian Goddesses: Durga, Laxmi, Saraswati, reflecting three attributes: willpower, power to perform right action, knowledge of right action.
While the entire India celebrates Navratri in various ways, Garbha Deep (called garba and mistaken with Dandiya), Dandiya, Durga Pujo are the most well-known across the world, though garbha has a special fan following. Garbha (womb) Deep (earthen lamp) will have an earthen pot with a small diya inside it, signifying light from a womb and Goddess Jagdamba (avatar of Durga) at the centre while beautifully dressed up people dance around it in circles.
Although it is considered a ritual, there’s a deep significance to dancing in circles with the Goddess in the centre. Both Garbha Deep and Dandiya depict the fight between the Goddess and the demon Mahisasur; the dance steps of both Garbha Deep and Dandiya include some sweeping movements by the women, while men try to obstruct into the women, which symbolises Mahisasur (men) being swept away from the Goddess by her followers (women).
In other words, these dances also are a way to sweep away the negativities (Mahisasur) from our soul (the Goddess) by our swift actions (dancing women).
Now look at it like this. The circular movements in Garbha and Dandiya around the earthen pot symbolise life, especially the foetus in womb, being protected against the evils, wherein the pot is he body and the lamp marks the presence of divinity in everyone. The dancers move, the circles changes, but the Mother Divine remains the same: unmoved, unchanged, invincible.
To keep this divinity evoked within us, come Navratri, the festival of nights, which yet again is symbolic:
Like ratri (night) is the time of giving rest to mind and body, a daily way to rejuvenation, these nine days are for us to consider nights and give rest to mind and body towards rejuvenation. Vrat, people consider abstaining from some meals, basically abstaining from all sensory activities, like eating, smelling, talking, watching, listening, touching, etc, since these are things that take you towards worldly pleasures. However, since these few days are for rejuvenation, withdrawing from these helps in reaching deep within the self – the source of energy, bliss and joy.
And this brings us to realise that probably many of us don’t feel the true essence of Navratri as we generally are consumed by some or the other activity, like cooking, dressing up, catching up with people, or arranging for the jagrans. While we agree we are so accustomed to the loud celebrations now that we probably cannot abstain from it completely; however still, an hour of silence, an hour of meditation, a bit of chanting and a true fasting can gradually lead us to what Navratri actually mean to do!
Doesn’t Dussehra follow Navratri, the final victory?
Like the Bollywood star, Akshay Kumar, recently wrote on his Instagram account, “Navratri is about bowing to the inner goddess and celebrating your limitless strength… life begins at the end of our comfort zone”.
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