Hyderabad: For the Gujarati community, Navaratri is one of the most important and celebrated festivals. The festival of nine nights celebrated in the glory of the Goddess ‘Ambe Maa’ (Durga), also known as Shakti, is a time of celebration throughout the country. Gujaratis celebrate it the most intensely.
Gujaratis show their eternal reverence to Ambe Maa through dance and devotion. Every night of the festival, the traditional Ras-Garba is performed with hand-held wooden sticks to the playful and vibrant rhythms of dhol and dandiya. For Gujaratis, the ‘garba’ and ‘dandiya’ are not just any form of dance; it is a form of worshipping ‘Ambe Maa’.
Most Gujarati households sing special worship songs every night. Every day, at least five to nine 'garba' songs must be sung, followed by two 10-minute special aartis. Gujaratis believe the Goddess enjoys playing 'garba' and 'dandiya,' and that by singing these songs and playing darba and dandiya, they invite the Goddess to join in the festivities.
The festivities also involve daily poojas and fasting for nine days, either spartan eating once a day or consuming only fruits, water, and milk. "We don't even eat or cook anything with onion or garlic. We perform pooja every day and prepare a 'maha prasad' for all nine days, which we distribute to our near and dear ones," said Manisha Dave, a homemaker.
There are a few families who perform poojas by placing an earthen pot called 'garbo' in their homes before the pooja begins for the nine days. The earthen pot is colourful and beautifully decorated. 'garbo' has several holes in it and few people believe that the earthen pot signifies the womb. A small lamp is lit inside the 'garbo,' symbolising a baby in the womb, and Goddess Ambe Maa protects all of her children. It also represents life; how a person is born and grows as an individual, according to Bina Mehta, a businesswoman.
The eighth day, 'Asthami,' has special significance because most families fast all day and break it at night after grand poojas are performed at each community hall known as 'Havan.' According to Madhuri S., Havan is significant because it is believed that ‘Ambe Maa’ accepted all of her devotees' worship on that day. "During Ashtami, special Gujarati cuisines such as potato curry, kachori, khandavi, samosa, undhyu, chapati, rice, kheer, and sweets are prepared. We are a family of 15, but no matter how busy everyone is, we always make time to break the fast together," she explained.
On the ninth day, a small tradition known as 'feeding the Goinis' is observed, in which nine young girls who have not yet begun menstruating are invited for lunch and given gifts such as nail polish, head bands, bindis, bangles, and other items. Easha Hindocha, a fashion blogger, has been doing this for over ten years and always prepares a special lunch for the 'Goinis' on Navami. Each day represents a different manifestation of the Goddess. Thus, on the ninth day, nine girls are chosen to represent the avatar of 'Nav Durga.'
The 'garbo' is placed right in the middle of the ground in many community halls where the 'Navarati Utsav' is held, and people dance around it. As a result, menstruating girls are not allowed to participate in the ‘utsav’ for the first three days because it is against the culture. However, because there are so many organisers and the ‘utsav’ is held in so many different locations throughout the city, there is no 'garbo' on the ground and everyone participates in the ‘utsav’. Most Gujarati women host at least one day of ‘utsav’ at their homes and celebrate the festival with family and friends....