Memos from Asia

Indian Festival Navratri to be Affected by the Pandemic

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Colorful dandiya sticks. Dandiya is a traditional dance form of Gujrat (India). It’s used to celebrate the 9 nights of Navratri in India

Navratri is an Indian festival that takes place in the latter part of the year, usually in September or October. There are festivals celebrated at the same time around the country in different ways and thus with different names. This year due to the CoViD-19 pandemic, the celebrations are expected to get hugely affected.

Different celebrations everywhere

The end of the year in India is a festive season, and Navratri is big because it lasts nine days. Navratri celebrates the goddess Durga who defeated Mahishasur, the buffalo demon, over nine days of the war, according to Indian scriptures. At the same time, in the eastern and northeastern states of India Durga Puja is celebrated, which means worship of the goddess Durga. In northern states, Ram Lila takes place at the same time to celebrate the victory of Lord Ram over the evil king Ravan of Lanka (modern-day Sri Lanka). This is why the period has importance around the country.

Navratri, the Gujarati way

Navratri literally means Nine Nights, and in Gujarat, the nights are celebrated by performing the traditional dance Garba, dandiya (dancing with little sticks), and raas, a dance form believed to have been started by Lord Krushna. All these are usually performed by multiple people in circles together.

A lamp is placed inside a little clay pot with holes in the middle of a circle as a symbol of the goddess Durga which is called garbo. This traditional way still dominates in the form of Sheri Garba (literally street Garba), where loudspeakers play songs, and people of the street form a small circle dancing to the tunes. The traditional clothes are worn by people while doing the Garba. The market is large for the special attires during this season. Women usually wear chaniya choli, and men wear kurtas.

The Gujarati Garba has become tremendously popular not only in India but also in parts of the world where Gujaratis reside in good numbers. In cities and towns, there are organized Garba nights at big grounds that attract large crowds and employ thousands around the country. In other countries, halls are turned into Garba grounds for people to enjoy the mesmeric dance in circles.

Navratri is also a way of getting closer to the goddess for religious Hindus. The traditional Garba songs are all about the praise and worship of Hindu goddesses. Even though modern Garba are becoming less religious, some classics have carved their places and streets usually play more traditional ones in Gujarat.

Navratri is a festival of meeting your neighbor and friends as well. Everyone in the neighborhood gathers where the Garba are organized and meet each other. During the breaks between dance sessions, people enjoy snacks together and catch their breath.

Enter the pandemic

This year, this favorite festival of many Indians might not be allowed with large crowds, and if the pandemic worsens, not at all. Currently, India is recording the highest number of daily positive cases and the death toll is climbing rapidly. (NDTV)

The authorities in different states are monitoring the situation and might take the final decision at the last moments.

While the cancellation of Navratri celebrations might be sad news for everyone, Gujaratis are known to be a lot more attached to the festival and the social dance celebrations original to Gujarat. Many from the Garba organizing industries like organizers, singers, musicians, and workers have asked the Gujarat state government to allow the celebrations.

The government hasn’t yet cleared the way for the festivities but hasn’t denied permission either. The situation right now stands in the gray. The Deputy Chief Minister recently said the rules will be announced for Navratri and possible reliefs will be provided. (VTV Gujarati)

The Ahmedabad Medical Association (AMA) in the state’s largest city has asked for the celebrations to be canceled entirely, citing the worsening situation in the state. (Times of India)

Navratri is a festival awaited by millions but maybe it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep the celebrations low-key amid the pandemic even if some citizens have to miss out on their favorite part of the year.

Which Asian festival do you want to know about next? Let us know in the comments.

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