Navratri, literally translates to “nine nights” and is, as the name implies, a celebration that lasts nine nights: nine for each of the nine forms of Durga, the Indian goddess of strength and the feminine creative force of the universe. While there are other Navratri traditions throughout the year, the one that falls in September/October is the most important one, otherwise known as Maha Navratri (Great Navratri) or Sharad Navaratri (a month in the Indian Lunar Calendar), and it marks the advent of winter. The festival celebrates the transition of the seasons, believed to be extremely important hallmarks of solar (and thus climatic) influence on nature.
In Gujarat, traditionally, Navratri is celebrated by dancing Garba and Dandiya (both forms of traditional Indian folk dance) in order to create a semblance of the energy of Shakti (a form of Durga, the name meaning strength) and to express the joy that comes with the changing of seasons and the celebration of devotion and love for the Goddess.
This year, we as students of a UWC, held a “Dandiya Party”, mostly to have fun, but also as a forum for cultural exchange and to do something new. The night left many people with a deeper understanding of the energy and gaiety they’d been observing in the surrounding villages and Pune for the nine days of Navratri, along with a new experience. We hope, as a student body, that initiatives like these will translate into a desire to learn more about what drives different communities and, consequently, a better appreciation of how we and our community can be open to new cultures, traditions and perspectives.
Idols of Goddess Durga, decorated for a puja during Navratri.
The nine forms of Goddess Durga
A Garba dance in Gujarat
A Dandiya dance