Dancing the “Nine” Away

Indian Festival Navrati Brings Color and Movement

We are at the time of year during which Gujaratis (an ethnic Gujarati-speaking group originally hailing from Gujarat, western India), start to dance the night away…for nine nights in a row.  This takes place during the Navrati festivities.  Celebrators wear stunningly striking native outfits and are natural dancers who really make the whole thing look incredibly easy.  Muhammad Ali Jinnah – a famous 20th century lawyer who founded Pakistan – was one of the most famous of the group in his time.

It seems like the entire city – at least from a visual standpoint – is participating in the event.  However, it is a bit hard to separate the Navrati facts from the myths.  The main facts are that it is about Hindus celebrating their Shakti (empowerment) worship through movement and festivities.  Taking a look at the actual word Navrati, the literal meaning in Sanskirt is nine nights since nava means nine and ratri translates as nights.  Throughout the festival, there are nine different types of empowerment and Goddess (the translation of Devi) which are celebrated.  Following this there is a tenth day, known as Dussehra or Vijayadashami.  Shakti is the Hindu mother goddess.  It is one of the most widely celebrated holidays among Hindus.

Feasting or Fasting?

Interestingly the customs of the festival differ quite significantly from community to community.  In some, there are huge festivities, whereas in others, the nine days are a time of restriction, with those observing the holiday, fasting.   

At the end of the festivities, a Kanya Puja is performed.  This is when nine youthful girls (one to represent each of the nine Goddess Durga forms) are worshipped, getting their feet cleansed as an honor and respect for the Goddess, followed by new clothes being given as gifts from the worshippers.

Of course, these are tales of how the original festivities transpired.  These days, it has been heavily commercialized and things are a bit different.  Still, tantamount on everyone’s mind involved in the celebrations is the holiness of the Goddess Durga and devotional songs are sung with traditional festivities held.