Nine Nights of Dancing

By Sneha

Welcome to Hindu celebrations 101. If you didn’t already know, Indians love to party, or should I say celebrate; and even though we have auspicious/religious holidays throughout the year, the months of August to November (roughly) contain a number of holidays. People all over India celebrate in slightly different variations but it always involves a combination of some or all of the following: parties, music, lots of delicious food, large gatherings, festivals, decorations, bright colors, fancy saris and ghagras (skirts), pujas (prayers), and the list goes on. I love this time of year! Fortunately for me and my family, my mom has instilled some old and new traditions to help us celebrate and reflect every year. Hosting parties, pujas, and family dinners to just decorating our house has become something I look forward to every year.

Currently, we are in the middle of Navaratri, literal translation: “nava” meaning nine and “ratri” meaning nights. It’s a celebration of the nine forms of the Indian Goddess Durga over the course of nine nights. It’s celebrated through music, decoration and dance. The purpose is also to celebrate women and their influence on society and our history. It’s absolutely hands down my favorite holiday! Each night begins with lighting handmade diyas around a statute of the Goddess who is dressed in a garland of fresh flowers. Offerings ranging from fruit to nuts to other sweets are placed at her feet for blessings. Then the music and fun begins. The most common dance is garba and dhandiya. Garba is a circle formed by participants who dance in sync with the same movements adjusting to the speed of a live band. This can go on for hours. Dhandiya, which are metal or stick rods, are used. You are to strike your partner’s dhandiya in a rhythmic fashion that follows the speed of the music. Of course over the years many have created their own versions, steps and twists/turns making it exhilarating and so much fun! If you ever get a chance, I highly encourage you all to join or even just watch a night of garba! I promise you will not be disappointed!

garba

This still is from a Bollywood movie, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, which centers on a love story between two Gujaratris who come from rival families (Gujaratris are people from the State of Gujarat; shout out!). The amazing director Sanjay Leela Bhansali masters his portrayal of this particular dance by depicting the true color and energy behind garba.

 

As all Hindu festivities encompass some variation of dance, food, prayer, color and decor; Navaratri encompasses it all. Offerings of delicious food and snacks every night, non-stop dancing, constant upbeat music, vibrant colorful outfits, laughter, socializing, and amazing decoration from lights to colored powder to hand made diyas. Navaratri brings everyone together regardless of gender, economic status and age.

I can’t wait until Sunday; it’s been a long three years since I’ve been and now I just hope I can keep up. It’s definitely a work out as we end up dancing and celebrating into the early hours of the night. Crazy part is I have a hard time finishing an hour of cardio but have no problem dancing for hours with no breaks! Happy Navaratri to everyone!

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