Hyderabad: Navaratri, celebrated as Durga Pujo by Bengalis is a festival of food, spirituality and welcoming goddess Durga to the mother's house with her children. Durga Pujo is celebrated from the fifth or the sixth day known as Panchami or Shashti.
While others strictly prohibit consumption of non-vegetarian food, the pandals will have all kinds of stalls, including those serving non-vegetarian food.
Urmi Mazumdar, an English teacher at a private school here, said that the five to six days festival is celebrated on a grand note. Food is partaken only after the morning aarti in temples.
"The sixth day is auspicious as goddess Durga is welcomed home with colours and various food items. The pandals will have idols of the goddess, and her children Lord Ganesh and Karthikeya, goddess Saraswati and Lakshmi," she said.
Other than offering 'bhog' to the goddess, Bengalis have a special form of aarti or worship, the thanksgiving dance called 'Dhunichi Nach'. The dancers hold a dhunuchi containing several kinds of aromatic material, agarbattis, dhoop and lit coconut husk with dhuno sprinkled on it. It is said that before killing Mahishasura, Goddess Durga performed this dance to gain more strength.
Ayushi Mazumdar, who works for an MNC, said that growing up, she has seen mostly men taking part in the dhunuchi naach but now women have started taking part in it.
"The dance was often considered as a masculine form as one had to hold the heavy dhunuchi, but over a period of time women have taken to it with equal gusto. I can tell from experience that the feeling is beyond words. Celebrating the festival and dancing with people you have never met spread positive vibes. It is priceless," she said.
For Roshni S., the festival is all about spirituality. Apart from fasting, she avoids eating non-veg dishes on all the nine days. "The festival ushers in hope, new beginnings and positive vibes," she said.
Ashtami is considered as one of the most auspicious days where devotees bid farewell to the Goddess, who is known to leave to her in-laws place. 'Sindoor Khela' is performed where married women dance and apply 'kumkum' on each other's cheeks. It is believed that the goddess is trying to bless the women by giving them the blessing that their husbands live a long life. The ritual is like a typical 'bidai', she said.
"We shed tears, fix the goddess hair and clothes as she will be returning to her in-laws house. We also pack her food and water for her journey. We give her a curry made of leafy vegetables mixed with warm rice," said Urmi.
Several singing, dancing and cultural competitions are also held at the pandals. Many stalls are also set up for shopping and playing games. The most patronized are food stalls with traditional Bengali food, mostly non vegetarian dishes.
Kolkata Kathi rolls and sweets are most preferred. For bhog, other than fruits and flowers, kheer and khichdi are offered to the goddess....