Navratri - Eat, Pray, Garba!

The month of October in North America is such a beautiful one as the season changes to autumn.  Nature reveals her beautiful colours, which makes for epic photos of colourful trees and falling leaves, the feel of crisp cool air, and the warm flavours of hot chocolate and smores at the smokey fireside.

This time of the year also brings with it many celebrations in the Hindu calendar.

One such festival which will occur this fall between October 17th and 25th 2020, is the celebration of Navratri.  In a nutshell, Navratri ( Nav – Nine, Ratri – Nights ) is a 9 night celebration of prayer to the Hindu goddess Mother Durga or Durga Ma as she is more affectionately known.

So how does one celebrate Navratri?

Each night Goddess Durga is worshipped in a different form representing different aspects of her divine power, where the offerings of delicious foods, jewelry, clothes, mantras, prayers, songs, dance and beautiful waving lights, are all symbolically offered in the hopes that with sincere devotion, this universal mother will be pleased with the worship and bless onto all the devotees, the energy of wisdom, good health, protection, and prosperity.

With India having such a huge place, each state may have a slightly different way of celebrating festivals.

These three things, however, are the basis of this and all other observances when it comes to the majority of celebrations.

Celebrations start off with a puja, then food, and then songs accompanied by dance and pomp!

Puja’s are lead by a priest at the home or temple, where the priest will guide the devotees through a serious of steps for worship.   This usually involves the chanting of mantras, the symbolic offering of food, clothing, and gifts, and the final adornment of beautiful colours of cloth and jewelry are placed on the diety, with the feeling that she is actually a present living being worshipped.

Depending on the region, most foods involve a main rice dish served with dhal, lentils, beans, potatoes, paneer, gourds, okras, and a whole lot more, all sautéed in fragrant spices and flavours that will wake up your taste buds.  To cool it down, most desserts after meal involve treats made with yogurt, or Indian sweets made with a variety of grains and milk solids mixed with jiggery, and fragrant spices.  If you have ever been to an Indian celebration, you are sure to leave very well fed as tradition dictates, everyone must eat.  A super savoury meal, followed by a sweet treat, and finished off with hot cup of chai, is sure to make one’s sense of well being, a very happy one.

Song and dance are an integral part of the celebrations and one of the most colourful traditions of this comes from the Gujrat region.  There is tradition of Garba celebration during the festival of Navratri in which folk songs are sung and a dandiya ( stick ) dance is performed around a lit oil filled lamp, or even a young woman, dressed as the deity of Durga Ma, sometimes also known as Shakti, or Amba.

The lamp and this young woman, represents the beautiful creative energy of the process that takes part in the womb of a mother during conception and months to follow.  The dance represents the ever so active world around.  Putting the two together, creates the representation that nothing on the outside can influence the pure divine and cosmic energy within creation.

If you ever have an opportunity to attend one of these celebrations, it will certainly leave you with the impression of how putting prayer, food, song, and dance together, can lift your energy to a place of vibrant bliss.  It serves as a reminder of the untapped energy that we store within us, and if we ever choose to nourish our divine spirit in the same way, makes you question what type of sacred power we hold within us.