Culture

Nine nights of Navratri

Navratri is the nine-night Hindu celebration of the Goddess Maa Durga and her nine forms.

The festival, which began last Friday and runs until this Sunday, celebrates Maa Durga’s battle with the demon Mahishasura, who symbolises the trope of ego.

The 2016 Australian census reports 2.1 per cent of the population is Hindu and for every Australian- born Hindu, even more are migrants:

Traditional Guajarati dancers at pre-COVID-19 Navratri celebration. Photo: Neelam Dajee

Perth Navratri organiser Ketan Masani says the event is fundamental to keeping Hindu culture alive.

“We’ve grown up with Navratri and its one of our main festivals,” he says.

“Now we’re putting our efforts towards giving knowledge about our culture to the next generation.

“Navratri is the best way to meet our community’s people to get help and knowledge.” Mr Masani says.

He says there is a huge difference due to the pandemic, as for the past 7 years they have invited international artists, but this year’s restrictions gave local artists more opportunities.

Mr Masani says migrating to Australia made him feel lonely, so finding the Gujarati Samaj – the local association representing Gujarati people – made him really excited.

Lord Krishna at the Bala Murugan Temple. Photo: Neelam Dajee

Gujarati Samaj WA president Amit Mehta says although there were COVID related restrictions the positive energy at the event reminded him of being back home in India.

Maa Durga adorned with lamps. Photo: Neelam Dajee

He says GSW has hosted Navratri celebrations for about 24 years.

“When we organise any event like this, it looks like we are back [in India]. All the flavours of home are here,” Mr Mehta says.

During the celebrations, crowds gather to dance in a ring formation around the central Maa Durga deity.

This traditional folk dance is called ‘Garba’ and it is followed by a prayer ceremony and offerings of food dedicated to the goddess Maa Durga.

He says ‘Garba’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Garbhadeep’, which means ‘lamp inside pot’, where the pot symbolises the mother and the lamp is the life in the womb.

Mr Mehta says the devotees who circle the lamp and the deity symbolise humanity [coming] together.

Maa Durga surrounded by devotees. Credit: Neelam Dajee

“Due to COVID I had to make rules with four different government agencies, the COVID hotline, Department of Communities, Department of Health and the local city council,” he says.

“Our hall has a 648 square meter capacity so we invited only 324 people, we have to remind the audience every now and then of all the posters, the hand sanitiser and the two square meter distance.

“All the volunteers had training, we had a food stall so they had to have special training from [the] Australian Hotel Association,” Mr Mehta says.

He says there are no physical tickets, and everything was done online so contact information could be recorded.

Senior citizens prayer ceremony 2020. Photo: provided (left). Celebrations in 2019. Photo: Neelam Dajee (right).

In addition to regular celebrations, this year GSW hosted a separate event for senior citizens to keep them safer and allow them to dance to slower music.

“This year we did seniors Garba because [they] can’t come at night, so we called the same band and the same people and did it in the afternoon time, and it was a huge success,” Mr Mehta says.

Categories: Culture, General, Religion

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