Navratri: Time for prayer,
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15,
2004 02:46:58 AM ]
PUNE: MAHARASHTRA, BHAART (INDIA):
Navratri, or the festival of nine nights, may be synonymous with dandiya raas
or garba dancers in colourful traditional finery, but at its core is a mix of
mythology and rituals, observed in households and temples.
Unlike the Ganesh festival, Mahashivratri or Krishna Janmashtami, which are
dedicated to a particular deity, Navratri is dedicated to all goddesses.
Naturally, the celebrations take different forms in different parts of the
country and among different sub-communities.
One legend goes that the festival celebrates the destruction of Mahishasura, the
demon king who wreaked havoc on Earth. The deities came together and from their
collective strength was born Adi Shakti,who destroyed the demon after a nine-day
battle. Mahakali, the goddess of strength, Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge
and Mahalaxmi, the goddess of wealth, are believed to be reincarnations of the
same Adi Shakti.
"Navratri is in rememberance of those nine days. It is also a symbolic reminder
to every individual to fight the demons of greed and lust within," explains
Ramchandra Dekhane, who has a Ph.D in Indian folk traditions. But the origins of
the festival are mythological.
Dekhane, however, has a completely different and interesting theory about the
festival. It falls between two farming seasons. The Navratri rituals, at least
in the farming Deccan plateau of Maharashtra, includes ghatasthapana — the
installation of an earthen urn in a tray of fertile soil. The urn represents the
deity and is offered a garland of flowers everyday. Seeds of different crops are
laid in nine lines in the tray and a castor oil lamp kept burning for nine days.
The tradition is passed down in families that have a presiding deity. There are
also philosophic interpretations. The nine nights of Navratri represent the nine
disciplines of devotions. Besides the home rituals, there is a mandatory visit
to the family deities' temple. The Tambdi Jogeshwari, Chatushrungi, Bhavani Mata
Mandir and several others are overflowing with the faithful, especially women,
since the wee hours of the day. Many of them observe fasts.
The festival is also an occasion for special folk songs dances, such as the
it's Navratra for Delhiites
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2004 01:44:53 AM ]
NEW DELHI, BHAART, (INDIA):
Fasting, feasting and fun. It's not just the pious amongst us who have been
eagerly awaiting the Navaratra. The nine-day period is as much about offering
prayers to the deities as about the dandiya nights, as much about fasting as
about wolfing down those pakoras and as much about going to the Ramlila as about
listening to Bengali pop.
Starting today, many of Delhi's Bacchanalian and otherwise carnivorous creatures
will start fasting, abstaining from meat, grain and alcohol. Bars will wear a
deserted look, restaurants will go all out to promote special Navaratra thalis
and showrooms will be festooned, trying to get customers to shop-till-they-drop
after the inauspicious shradh period.
Hectic activity is already underway at Chittaranjan Park. Like everything else
around them, the Pujas have hardly been left untouched by commercialisation. So
just as the idols are being given finishing touches and the pandals are being
readied, so are the sponsorship deals for stalls pedalling everything from pizza
to motorbikes being inked out.
Elsewhere, even as people start fasting, most of them just end up eating much
more than they would otherwise. "We kick off our day with fried potatoes, then
have a lot of fruit during the day and finish off with loads of pakoras made of
singhare ka atta at night. It's a nine-day long party," says Sanjay Malhotra.
And the entertainment options during the Navaratras are aplenty. While south
Delhiites may frown upon Ramlilas as the choice of the hoi polloi, that
certainly does not stop hordes from flocking to them. "Dandiya nights have more
of a western flavour to them, but they seem to be catching on among the city's
swish set," says Rina Sachdeva.
Once the festivities kick off, there is no end to them. After Dussehra, it will
soon be time for Diwali and a whole lot of card parties. And then the New Year.
So go ahead, have fun!
Bengali flavour in Dasara
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2004 01:07:24 AM ]
BANGALORE, KARNATAK, BHAART:
Bangalore is bustling with the Bhadralok; the populace of one-and-a-half-lakh
Sens, Mukherjees, Chatterjees who’ve settled down in the city’s culture-scape
are revving it up for Durga Pooja, the tenth day of Dasara.
The event has reached such proportions that Assaye Road in Ulsoor has massive
traffic jams on the fest. Says S. Ghosh, a resident of Bangalore for the past 24
years: "It’s not an exaggeration to say that the average Bengali saves
considerably for Durga pooja, the high point of Dasara." His flawless Kannada
could give any Kannadiga a linguistic complex!
In fact, the Bengali Association, an interactive network for Bengalis, was
started as early as 1950 for the purpose of celebrating Durga puja with aplomb.
In South Bangalore, around 2,500 residents of J P Nagar, Jayanagar, Koramangala
and H S R Layout relish free meals, courtesy the South Bangalore Association,
that is followed by a Bengali dessert.
This is one occassion where the Bengali dons her kantha work and the babu gets
out the silk kurta. A fusion of contemporary styles and the traditional Bengal
cotton is what young Bengalis drape for a chic look, informs MCA student Avanti
Her father, Shubendhu Sen, a member of the Association explains: "For us, Durga
is the most important in the pantheon of Gods and Godesses. This year, we are
mobilising the best talents in music, dance for bringing the people together.
After nine days of pooja, the idol is immersed in water on the tenth day."
And what about the concept of the making of the Godesses’ idol, as expounded in
the movie ‘Devdas’? "That was a stricture in families of yore, I really don’t
know if it is strictly followed now. We buy the idols from the local artisan" he
The grandliloquent fest these days is a perfect combination of nuances as
practised in Kolkota "as far as possible" and attunement to the requirement of
A Bengali play, cottons from the bylanes of Kolkota, kantha work, an elaborate
pooja are just few attractions of the celebrations this year. Time for drowning
deep in that luscious rossogulla-sandesh-misti dahi-badushahi, then.
Navratri mandals take cover
as the show begins
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13,
2004 05:43:59 PM ]
Call it a safety net, but Navratri mandals this year are taking no chances
with either the unseen hand of calamity or the notorious fickleness of
celebrities. As the season of 'raas' and revelry sets in, the mandals have got
their opulent sets insured from possible mishaps and star tantrums.
"Our star attraction remains dandiya queen Falguni Pathak, and we have over
15,000 visitors coming everyday only to gyrate to her tunes," says Devendra
Joshi of Sankalp.
"With crowds like that, it's only wise to seek insurance cover in case she is
unable to make it." Sankalp is one of the city's biggest Navratri organisers,
celebrating its 10th year of existence.
Over the years, Navratri celebrations have grown in size, with the sets getting
more mammoth and the awards - luxury cars and overseas holidays - more
The participants have also kept step, with expensive and elaborate costumes and
dance trainers hired to help them win the booty. Not surprisingly, the dandiya
organisers want to play it safe.
"We haven't really had any untoward incidents so far but it's always better to
insure your venue," says Rajubhai Shah of the Juhu Jagruti mandal. The mandal
has taken a policy with Oriental Insurance running into several lakh rupees.
"The crowd here basically consists of families, some of whom drive down all the
way from Borivli with their tiny tots in tow," says Shah. "The policy will act
as a cushion in case there's a fire, theft or damage to the property."
Joshi notes that the strict loudspeaker deadlines were a dampener in the past,
but over the years crowds have got used to them. "Dandiya has now become an
entertainment zone with families waiting to have dinner and drinks after the
event," he says.
"We have corporate giants like Cafe Coffee Day and New Yorkers setting up stalls
in our pandal, and we would definitely want to take every precaution in the book
to ensure the safety of our visitors who hang around till the wee hours of the
Sankalp has taken out a policy of Rs 80 lakh with New India Assurance to ensure
its pandal, which happens to be an open-air set resembling a huge spaceship. The
cover against non-performance of a celebrity here runs up to Rs 15 lakh.
In some cases, the insurance cover also aims at roping in a larger audience. The
Jain Jagruti mandal at Ghatkopar and the Neptune Group at Mulund are hoping to
pull in elderly citizens and even rookies by advertising their policy.
For revellers though, the festival only ushers in nine nights of uninterrupted
fun. Walkeshwar resident Khyati Doshi and her sister Smruti are just happy to
don backless cholis and splurge on chunky jewellery. Whether their ornaments are
insured is for their parents to worry.