The Festival with Nine Flamboyant Colours

Have you ever been looked at by someone, hysterically, for making a blunder or got punched in the face or stomped on your foot by someone adjacent to you while playing garba during Navratri? I will not be surprised if your answer is yes. I can say from my personal encounter, to participate and “survive” in the circle of garba that you have to master this lively and colourful folk dance else you will be pushed out of this vibrant circle in no time.

Navratri is a joyous Hindu festival that spans nine nights to worship Goddess Durga. The etymology, “nava” means nine and “ratri” means night. It is celebrated differently among various Indian cultures. For many, it is a time of religious reflection and fasting; for others, it is a celebration of Indian food, and various Indian folk dances like garba and dandiya, especially in the state of Gujarat. The festival of Navratri comes with a promise of nine days filled with fun, frolic, dance and festivities all around. It is one of the most vivacious festivals celebrated in the country.

Navratri is celebrated on a large scale in Gujarat. It has gained momentum in Mumbai and is celebrated on a grand scale as well. Performed during this nine day festival is the folk dance Garba originated in Gujarat. Garba is performed in a circle as a symbol of the Hindu view of time. Modern Garba is also heavily influenced by Dandiya Raas. The merger of these two dances has formed the high-energy dance that is seen today.

In Mumbai, it is celebrated with great pomp and fervour. For many enthusiasts it is a festival pre-planned months before it commences. The fervour of this nine day festival excites people as it means dressing up in colourful costumes and dancing the garba with friends. But did you know the significance of following this nine day sport nine different colours each day? Here’s the answer. Each day is dedicated to the nine forms of Goddess Durga. She would represent different qualities and is dressed in a particular colour each day.

The zeal and excitement for this festival is evident amongst people way before the festival begins. Bright lights, drapes of varied hues, the soft sounds of folk music in the background are a common occurrence in Mumbai during this festival, a plausible scenario during the time of festivals. But as it goes from dawn to dusk, Mumbai too, takes on a new facade – one that quickly moves from sly deception to outward extravagance – leaving you in a tizzy. What begins as a faint sound of a group of anklets lurking in the background at the beginning of the night turns into blaring vibrations of folk music perfectly mixed with the tunes of today.

While all of India celebrates Navratri with much enthusiasm, nothing beats the fervour of Gujarat during the nine-day festival. Night after night, people from this state gather around in different cities to celebrate the feminine divinity referred to as ‘Shakti.’ Along they bring a palette of unimaginable colours and a heart so full of festive excitement, it can bring anything to life. The festival truly erupts in vibrant colours, music and dance, bringing the celebrations to life.

Navratri is synonymous with Durga Puja observed and celebrated in eastern and north-eastern parts of the country wherein Goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon “Mahisasur” to help restore Dharma. It is the most important festival to Bengali Hindus and a major social and public event. Public stages called “pandals” are set up and enormous statues of Goddess Durga are brought to worship, perform rituals and decorated beautifully with host of lights and design. Dance and cultural performance are an essential part of the festival. The streets of Kolkata are flourished with the delicacies of the state.

The tenth day of Navratri is celebrated as Vijaydashmi (also called Dussehra) to commemorate the victory of Lord Ram over Ravan. The etymology is a composite of two words, “vijay” and “dahsmi” which means victory and tenth respectively, connoting the festival on the tenth day celebrating the victory of good over evil.