In India, everything is larger than life.
During the “bright” half of the Hindu month of Ashvin, when the moon is full and the stars are in alignment, we celebrate “Navratri” – a nine-night festival, when you don your best togs, let your hair down, and live it up like there’s no tomorrow.
What are the celebrations all about? A celebration of every woman’s inner “Devi” or Goddess.
Who is Durga?
During the nine nights of Navratri, we worship the nine different manifestations of Durga – in all her glory. Durga is the warrior-goddess. She has multiple arms with weapons and skulls in her hands and rides astride a tiger.
Celebrate Your Inner Goddess:
Kohl lined, fiery eyes, an enigmatic smile on her lips, many arms multi-tasking as all us women do, dressed to the nines in vivid colours such as red and gold, Durga embraces the strength, spirit, and sensuality of a woman in its entirety. She is the feisty fighter in every woman!
That’s why on the nine nights of Navratri, girls turn out in their absolute best to party until the wee hours of the morning. It’s a high energy dance-a-thon that leaves you breathless, complete with music to rock your socks off to. Today some of the biggest celebrations take place in far flung parts of the globe from Southern California to Texas, Toronto to London, New York and Sydney…
Garbha - The Circle of Life:
“Garbha” literally means womb. A beautiful folk dance, Garbha is performed around a lit oil lamp, called a “deep”, which signifies the energy, fertility and joy that emerges from within the depths of a woman. The dance honours Durga, and is always performed by women in a circle, which represents the cycle of life in nature. Durga embodies the only constant in an ever-changing universe. Women, in particular, take the opportunity to look and be their best. High spirits, laughter and dance fill the night and it’s a celebration of the inner beauty and radiant exuberance within every woman.
In true Gujarati tradition, the most flamboyant tie-dye, embroidery, and mirror work is on display, and let’s not forget the gorgeous chunky jewellery which has a distinct tribal flare. Vivid dupattas (stoles), ghagras (long skirts) and cholis (daring tops) make it an absolute catwalk.
As a complement to the womanly Garbha, the men join the melee with the Dandiya Raas – an energetic dance which involves “dandiya” i.e. two decorative bamboo sticks that one twirls and beats in time to the music. Dandiya originated in the west of India as a sword dance, where men showed off their skill as swordsmen.
For Indians everywhere, but for Gujaratis in particular, the Garbha and Dandiya hold a strong connection to home. They celebrate the willful joy of the Indian spirit, that remains untrammeled no matter what happens. For the South Asian diaspora abroad, the Garbha and Dandiya are much more than just a Gujarati tradition. It is a window to the coming together of different people, religions, and ethnicities that trace a connection back to the Indian Subcontinent.
For a young girl growing up away from her roots in India, Navratri is a wonderful time to reconnect with her cultural origins. It’s a time when she can embrace the outer façade of being Indian with clothes, jewelry, beauty rituals as well as the inner beauty of what it means to be a woman in the context of her Indian ethnicity – embracing the ancient traditions of sisterhood, female power, wisdom and above all, Shakti – the divine feminine essence in each of us.
If you're looking to learn about Diwali and how to celebrate the festival of lights with your family, particularly your kids, check out Alix's post on The Five Days of Diwali and How to Celebrate Them.