Thursday, 2 October 2014

Navratri: Some Facts That You and Your Kids Might Like to Know.

Nava meaning nine, and ratri meaning night. Navratri in Sanskrit means nine nights. Shakti or feminine power is celebrated or worshiped during the sacred time of Navratri. Forms of shakti worshiped during Navratri are: 1. Durga, 2. Bhadrakali, 3. Amba, 4. Annapoorna, 5. Sarvamangala, 6. Bhairavi, 7. Chandika, 8. Lalita, 9. Bhavani.


In Chamunda Tantra we find these 10 forms of Shakti, called the "Dasa Mahavidya".
"Kali Tara Mahavidya Shorashi Bhuveneshwari
Bhairavi Chinnamasta cha Vidya Dhumavati tatha
Vagala Sidhdhavidya cha Matangi Kamalatmika
Ete Dus Mahavidya Sidhdhavidya Prakirtita".

These 10 "Mahavidya" are; Kali, Tara, Mahavidya, Shorashi, Bhuveneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Vagala, Matangi and Kamala.

The "Brihat Dharma Purana" describes how these 10 forms of Durga Shakti have appeared. Sati, wife of Lord Shiva, wanted to go to her father's house, because her father, Daksha, was organizing a huge "yagya" (fire sacrifice). However, Daksha had not invited Lord Shiva to go and attend, so Shiva advised Sati not to go there. This angered Sati so much that fire emitted from her third eye, and she changed into Kali, a dark skinned Devi. Later, as the times passerby various other forms of Maa Kali took form.



The Navratri before Dusshera  being celebrated is known as Sharad Navratri, also known as Maha Navratri (The Great Navratri). Other months of Navratri celebrations include;
  1. Vasanta Navaratri: Vasanta Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Chaitra (March–April) and is observed during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) of Chaitra. The beginning of this Navratri also marks the start of the new year as per the Hindu mythological lunar calendar (Vikrami Samvat).
  2. Ashad Navratri  : Gupta Navaratri, also referred as Ashadha or Gayatri or Shakambhari Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Ashadha (June–July). Gupta Navaratri is observed during the Ashadha Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon).this is mostly observed by shaktas only.
  3. Sharad or Maha Navaratri: This is the most important of the Navaratris. It is simply called Maha Navaratri (the Great Navratri) and is celebrated in the 'pratipada' (first day) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. Also known as Sharad Navaratri, as it is celebrated during Sharad (beginning of winter, September–October).
  4. Paush Navaratri: Paush Navaratri is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Tarashi (December–January). Paush Navaratri is observed during the Paush Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon).
  5. Magha Navaratri: Magha Navaratri, also referred as Gupta Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Magha (January–February). Magha Navaratri is observed during the Magha Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon).

Thus Navratri is celebrated 5 times a year, and it is always celebrated 9 days at a time.
The festival of Navratri celebrates the welcoming of Spring and Autumn. The end of Navratri, or the tenth day, marks Dusshera to celebrate as the day Lord Ram's victory over  the demon King Ravan in Lanka. During the Dusshera celebration on the 10th day effigies of  “Ravan” are set on fire, representing the conquering of good over evil.
Diwali is celebrated 20 days after, on the day Lord Rama returns to Ayodhya as the king along with Sita, Lakshman as well as Hanuman. Diwali (Deepawali) is known as the "Festival of lights", signified through diyas, which are lit to guide Lord Rama’s back to his kingdom, after  14 years of exile.
Celebrations in Gujrat are especially known for their extravagant garba celebrations every night during the nine days of Navratri. In older times the dance was performed with a clay lantern at the center representing the Devi. Dancing around this lantern symbolises that each human has this form of energy within him or her. Being performed in a circle, it may also represent the cyclical belief of time.
In West Bengal, India, an elaborate Durga Puja (the biggest festival in Bengal) is performed with statues of Durga slaying the demon buffalo Mahishasura in temples and communities. They are worshiped for five days, and on the fifth day, the idols are immersed into the river.
In Tamil Nadu women belonging to the Iyer community invite married women to their homes in the evenings and gift them with accessories like bangles, earrings and other items that are symbolic of their marital status. These are suggestive of prayers for their husbands and their long lives. A coconut, beetle leaves and beetle nuts, and money are also given as gifts to these women. A special recipe called ‘Sundal’ made of lentil seeds and pulses is made on each day and served to the guests. Some also display a `Golu` at their homes. `Golu` is an arrangement made on a make-shift staircase with nine stairs. Each stair symbolizes each day of Navratri. Decorative items, idols of Gods and Goddesses are placed on the stairs. In most cases, the dolls that are used for the ‘Golu’ are handed over from generation to generation.

In Andhra Pradesh `Batukamma Panduga` is celebrated during Navratri especially in the Telangana region. `Batukamma Panduga` means `Come Alive Mother Goddess`. Batuku in Telugu means life and Amma,which means mother. These nine days are dedicated to Shakti and are celebrated in a very unique way. Women prepare `Batukamma` which is actually a beautiful flower stack, arranged with seasonal flowers, in seven layers. It is made to look like a pot made of flowers. So, this festival is devoted to celebrating universal motherhood. Women wear silk sarees and gold ornaments and make the most of these nine days to dig a hole in their husband’s pockets!After preparing their respective Batukamma’s, women gather in the evening for the ritual. They place them in the centre and dance around them by singing folk songs dedicated to Goddess Shakti. Then they march towards a lake or any other water body and set afloat their Batukammas.

In Kerala, the festival is celebrated only for the last three days of Navratri. Ashtami, Navami and Vijaya Dashmi are of utmost importance as these 3 days are the most auspicious time. During the puja books, musical instruments (if any) are placed in front of Goddess Saraswati’s idol on the day of Ashtami for granting them wisdom and knowledge. On the tenth day, the books are taken out for reading.

In Karnataka, celebration of Navratri dates back to the times of Raja Wodeyar since 1610 AD. People spend these 9 nights in the the same way as were by the great Vijayanagara dynasty. It’s called `Naada Habba’ in the state. However, the basic reason for the celebrations remains the same - victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasur, known to be a resident of Mysore. The celebrations include procession of elephants on the streets along with community fairs and exhibitions of handicrafts and artefacts.

In Maharashtra, The Navratri celebrations in Maharashtra, bear resemblance to Gujarat owing to its geographical proximity to the state. Each and every locality has its own garba and dandiya nights celebrations and the whole family drenches itself in the festive spirit. Women put haldi and kumkum on the foreheads of the married women as a gesture of `Saumangalyam`. Navratri is also an auspicious time to initiate new beginnings, buying a new home or a car. Women invite their friends to their homes and gift them with a coconut, beetle leaves and beetle nuts.

In beautiful hill state of Himachal Pradesh Navratri is celebrated as community festivals where people meet up with their relatives to collectively pay their respect to the "Almighty". It is the most important festival of Himachal. The 10th day of this grand festive season is called "Kullu Dusshera". Songs and dance are common ways to express devotion and exhibitions of various items are set-up. On Dusshera or Dashami, the deities from the temples of the village are taken out in processions with much fanfare and musical dances.

In most of the northern states that include Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, Punjabis celebrate Navratri by paying obeisance to Goddess Shakti. Most of the people in Punjab go on a fast for the first 7 days. They also organize a jagraata (keeping awake whole night by singing devotional songs dedicated to the Goddess). On the 8th day or Ashtami, the fast is broken by organizing a bhandara (community feast that includes puris and halawa chana). Nine young girls (Kanya) are worshiped as a mark of respect to Devi (Goddess) representing 9 forms of Goddess Durga. These young girls are offered good food and are gifted with a red chunri.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

I wish, If Mighty Ma Ganga Was Just The Sabarmati River Front.

An estimated daily more than 4 billion litres of human sewage is discharged into the Ma Ganga Ganges. More than 300 million litres daily in the city Varanasi alone. The existing treatment plants have capacity to treat only 1.1 billion litres per day, leaving a huge deficit. Excessive pollution, put the Ganges in the most polluted rivers in the world. Coliform bacteria levels in the Ganges have also been tested to be at 5,500, a level too high to be safe for agricultural use let alone drinking and bathing. The leather industry in Kanpur with more than 400 tanneries uses chemicals such as toxic chromium compounds. Chromium levels now stands at more than 70 times the recommended maximum level. Same is the case with other heavy metals more importantly lead.


Several projects and plans have been in place with many thousands of crores already spent in the last 30 years. Phase I of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was initiated in 1985, completed in 2000. The second phase is still on. Other projects amounting to Rs 2589 crore have been sanctioned under the NGRBA programme. This includes a pollution abatement project at Varanasi worth Rs 496.90 crores. WHO has initiated a 10-year project starting mid-2011 with an plan outlay of more than 9000 crores.

One cannot rejuvenate rivers without handling core issues starting from its source– in this case, the Himalayas.
All I understand with all this monies spent and actions and plans laid with ever increasing pollution in Ganga in Varanasi and elsewhere that what is additionally required is willingness to changes our ways, implementation of action plans with honesty and intelligent city management system in place.

At the end, I appreciate and wish good luck to the new prime minister of India, who has repeated his vow in his thanks giving (Ganga Aarti) in Varanasi yesterday to clean Ma Ganga. However, I just wish if Ganga was just a kilometre stretch of Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad, which might look inviting to tourists, but in reality the river is dead both upstream and downstream.