It’s that time of year again. The days are getting cold and dark, the nights even darker. You’re in a perpetual state of icy-cold hands and a runny nose until at least mid-March. “What better way to warm yourself up than a nice cup of masala chai?” you tell yourself, contentedly sipping away. Although I won’t argue that a hot cup of chai works wonders, there is something much more stimulating during the autumnal months. I am, of course, talking about the beautifully vibrant festival of Navratri.
For many years, I had no idea why we celebrated this incredible festival. I would always think to myself: “Why on earth would people fast and dance around in circles for nine days? What is the point? Who is it for?” And then I would think: “Nine days of no school? I’m in!” and question no more. Each year these thoughts would resurface in my head, until finally I decided to pluck up the courage to ask my mother. “Google it,” she replied. And so… I did.
“So what is the true meaning of Navratri?” I hear you ask. “Isn’t it just about the Gujurati dance…what’s it called…Garba?” Well no, it isn’t. Navratri is an ancient Hindu festival that is celebrated internationally, and although Raas Garba is a part of it, there is much more to this nine-night festival than meets the eye. Although there are two occurrences of Navratri in the year, the most celebrated is held during the autumn months. Its origin comes from a tale of triumph of good over evil. It is borne from the story of the Goddess Durga, who fought the demon Mahishasura for nine nights in nine different, powerful forms. On the tenth day she defeated the evil demon. However, Navratri is also a time for one to appreciate the Divine in Her form as the Mother.
This year, NHSF (UK) students from London Zone will be coming together on the 2nd November in Byron Hall, Harrow Leisure Centre for a night of fun, food, and dance – but above all, to partake in one of the most amazingly cultural nights of the year. This year the committee behind this event decided to rebrand it as London Zone Navratri. This slight change encompasses not just the Gujurati culture that celebrates Navratri through the traditional dance of Garba, but also all other Indian cultures that celebrate the festival differently. Glimmers of diverse celebration will be found through the decor, aarti thali competitions, an array of different Murti’s, and much more.
However, tickets are selling out fast, so remember to grab yours before they all disappear! Contact your London Zone Navratri Chapter representative/Chapter committee for more details, and don’t forget to bring your best Garba moves! Be prepared for an incredible cultural journey of one of the world’s most celebrated festivals.
– Author: Umi Raichura
NHSF (UK) Roehampton President