During Navratri, up and down the country activities take place to honour Durgā Māta, Shakti and Devi. Hundreds dance gracefully around the central picture of Durgā Māta during Garba; crowds gather as the mighty Dūrgā Pujā is performed to the all-powerful Mahishāsura Mardini; families create Golus in their homes in an impressive display of murtis. Whether Garba, Durga Puja or the Golu, one thing was certain – festivities would be bustling with friends, families and community.
This year was different. The Covid-19 pandemic all but stopped conventional Navratri activities where students would gather in their hundreds, maybe thousands. With both government and university policies prohibiting gatherings, our students were faced with the dilemma of how to celebrate Navratri.
Yet, staying true to their characteristic trait of resilience and pragmatism, students on Hindu society committees across the country poured their time, efforts and innovation into facilitating a wholly virtual Navratri celebration over nine nights. They used this time to come together, collaborate and create a host of activities to instil and promote the spirit of Navratri.
Hindu societies’ innovation and creativity was unparalleled; where an obstacle emerged, they saw it as an opportunity to grow their audience and diversify their content, truly thinking outside of the box. Universities from the North Zone reached out to local pandits who delivered illuminating talks on the philosophy behind Navratri. Acknowledging the toll that social-distancing is taking on our well-being, North Zone universities also arranged a mental wellbeing discussion for their members. In Central Zone, Hindu Societies collaborated for a nine-day long extravaganza, with creative activities such as a “Design your own Dandiya” workshop and a “Aarti Design Challenge” sweeping through Instagram. South Zone universities similarly planned a multitude of activities, commencing each event with an aarti meditating upon Durgā Mātā, an exciting Zonal quiz and a unique blood donation drive on campus. In London Zone’s collaborative “Navratri Fully Zoomed In”, universities offered everything from a Bhajan night to kick off the week to talks about the diverse ways in which Navratri is celebrated around the world. The activities did not stop just at Zoom – Instagram and Facebook we’re flooded with colourful, bright and informative posts about the significance of each day and the powerful qualities personified by each Devi. Our Hindu societies and National Committee also took part in a dandiya challenge which you can watch below. Twenty-six events were held across the nine nights with attendance in the hundreds.
Our Hindu Societies have demonstrated that Navratri goes beyond just the gathering of people; the essence of Navratri – celebrating and worshipping Shakti – is universally applicable in any situation. Indeed, we can draw parallels between the current global pandemic and the story of Durgā Mātā and Mahishāsura; in the face of life-altering upheaval, our Hindu societies embodied the strength and courageousness of Durgā Mātā, acting as a beacon for us all.
As the National Hindu Students’ Forum (UK), we have showcased that the timeless values of Navratri – good over evil, inner strength, steadfastness, invoking the inner divine – will never diminish, regardless of the circumstance.
Do you know the true meaning of the word ‘Durgā’? Watch our Sanskrit Word of the Month video with Acharya Vidhyabhaskar ji by visiting our YouTube channel!
PR Team Secretary