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Navratri PHOTOS: Smashing fun at Garba

Last updated on: October 9, 2010 19:03 IST

Smashing fun at Garba

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Navratri, which began on October 8, heralds the season of festivities in India.

Navratri (literally meaning nine nights) may see Gujarat erupt in a riot of colour. But the festival is no less important in other parts of India.

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Image: A young woman takes part in Garbha celebrations in Mumbai
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Smashing fun at Garba

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Navratri symbolises nine avatars of the deity, which killed nine evil forces.

In Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated for four consecutive days -- Mahasaptami, Mahashtami, Mahanavami and Vijaya Dashami, which marks the idol's immersion.

The last day of the Bengali festival is Dusshera in other parts of India. Of course, the end of Navratri sets off a number of other festivals, starting with Diwali.



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Smashing fun at Garba

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According to Hindu scriptures, the demon Mahishasur, after he was bestowed immortality by Lord Indra, ran amok on Earth and in heaven.

One school of thought has it that Lord Brahma bestowed on him the boon of immortality while another states it was Lord Shiva.



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Smashing fun at Garba

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Tormented by Mahishasur and other asuras, the Gods invoked Durga and sought her help to put a stop to their suffering.

Astride her lion and armed with her weapons, the 'shul' (pike), 'chakra' (wheel), 'parshu' (axe) and 'talvar' (sword), she fought the demons for nine days and nine nights, finally defeating them.



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The first three nights celebrate Kumari, Parvati and Kali. Lakshmi, in her avatars as the goddess of peace, plenty and bliss, is worshipped during the next three days.

The nine nights of Navratri are spent offering puja to three main goddesses -- Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati.



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The first three nights are dedicated to Parvati, goddess of action and energy.

She is worshipped in many avatars -- Kumari, Parvati and Kali. They represent the three stages of womanhood -- the virgin young girl, wife/mother and the mature woman.



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Lakshmi is worshipped for the next three days in her various facets as the goddess of wealth, peace, bounty and bliss. Another name for Goddess Lakshmi is Lalita Panchami.

Saraswati, goddess of learning, is worshipped on the last three days of Navratri.



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Smashing fun at Garba

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The nine nights of Navratri are replete with rituals, colour, mirth, dance and music.

A colourful clay pot with a 'diya' (light) ceremoniously placed near the idol of the Goddess is a common sight in many Indian households.



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Smashing fun at Garba

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In South India, many households put on a display of Kolu -- a colourful assortment of toys and dolls on tiers or steps erected for the purpose.

It is also the custom for womenfolk to visit each other's homes in the evenings.





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Smashing fun at Garba

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In Gujarat and other parts of western India, the evenings are decked up for the dance ritual called 'garba' or 'dandya raas'.

Women sporting colourful embroidered ghagra-cholis, bandhani dupattas and dazzling jewelry perform the traditional garba dance in graceful circles around the 'ghata'.



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Smashing fun at Garba

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Towards the end of the garba, they usually perform a special 'aarti' to invoke Goddess Durga's blessings. After this, men and women come together for Dandiya Raas, the traditional dance with sticks as props.

In Mumbai, the city of glitz and glamour, Navrati is celebrated with great pomp and splendour. And Dandiya Raas has come a long way.

Celebrities, mostly film stars, are a must at Dandiya functions to draw crowds. Entry fees for such events are usually hefty. In some cases, the dances are even telecast on local cable television.





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Orchestras are booked months ahead and disco and/or film music replaces devotional songs. For the young and restless, this is a good time to let their hair down and dance the night away.

The tenth day is Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera. It ushers in a new beginning -- where good has once again triumphed over evil.



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