Navratri, meaning 'nine nights', is an ancient and
colourful festival. It honours the one Divine Shakhi or Force which
supports the entire universe, and is personified as the Mother Goddess.
She protects her worshippers, destroys evil and grants boons to her
children. The Mother Goddess has seven well - known forms, depending upon
the special powers she mainfests. Throughout Gujarat, Navratri is
celebrated with joy and religious fevour.
This festival is essentially religious in nature. It is
celebrated with true devotion in the various temples dedicated to the
Mother, or Mataji, as she is familiarly called. In some homes, images of
the Mother are worshipped in accordance with accepted practice. This is
also true of temples which usually have a constant stream of visitors from
mornings to night. Another interesting feature of Navaratri is the garba a
circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a garbo
, filled with water. A betel nut and a silver coin are placed within the
pot, called a kumbh , on top of which a coconut has also been placed. As
the dancers whirl around the pot, a singer and a drummer provide the
musical accompaniment. The participants clap in a steady rhythm. Nowadays,
loudspeakers are used to enhance the sound which growsto a crescendo. The
dance usually starts slowly. It gets faster and faster as the music too
gets more rapid. Until the dance abruptly comes to a halt. There is a
pause for a while and the dance commences once again, the singer leading
with a new song.
|Another dance which is also a feature of Navaratri is the
dandia-ras or 'stick' dance, in which men and women join the dance circle,
holding small polished sticks or dandias. As they whirl to the
intoxicating rhythm of the dance, men and women strike the dandias
together, adding to the joyous atmosphere. So popular are the garba and
the dandia-ras theat competitions are held to assess the quality of the
dancing. Prizes are given to those judged to be the best. The costumes
worn for the dances are traditional and alive with colour. The dances
usually commence late in the night and continus until early morning,
testifying to their great popuarity.