Navratri 2008 – Hindu Celebration

In the Hindu religion there are many holidays. As we approach the end of 2008, we are in the midst of the Hindu New Year, Dushera, Navratri (9 nights and 10 days of celebration), and Diwali (Festival of Lights).

The underlying theme of these Hindu celebrations is the victory of the forces of Good over Evil. It is considered an auspicious day to begin new ventures in life. So if you are starting new ventures this is a good time to start the business. I do also hope that this is also the beginning of a turnaround in our economoy. Yet I digress.

The festival is celebrated for nine nights once every year during the beginning of October, although as the dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar, the festival may be held for a day more or a day less. To really get a flavor of the celebration you have to see this video on You Tube

Back to the overview.
Last night I went with my teenage daughter to a Navratri celebration at a highschool in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I went as my role as chaperone and a “watcher” of the festivities. Yet, let me tell you watching this celebration was an amazing experience. What I saw was a rainbow of celebrating and coming together of the Hindu community. By the time I left in the early morning hours, I was absolutely excited that I had made this annual journey to the Navratri celebration.

The Gymnasium that the festivities were held in was huge so the couple of thousand of people that turned up were very comfortable in both the bleachers and on the floor. As I sat in the bleachers and observed what I saw was not just the Indian community celebrating but I saw many non-indians participating in the festivities (both adults and children).

One thing you must understand that Navratri in the United states for Hindu’s has gotten to be huge. Many cities have multiple venues that celebrate Navratri. Typically, the celebrations occur over the weekends. So in the case of my state (New Jersey), the celebration I went to was just one of many Navratri celebrations that take place at the same time.

Navratri has also become a large fundraiser as well as money maker for the many organizations that sponser these events. Typically the admission for these events is anwhere from $5 – $20. In NJ the major event is organized in Somerset New jersey at Exposition Hall.

To describe the celebration from my perspective (a Navratri Child of the 70’s from NY), the maturity and celebration today is absolutely amazing. I don’t consider myself to be a devout Hindu, but the celebration I witnessed yesterday, made me appreciate my culture and heritage.

Today’s kids really enjoy the Navratri celebrations. It allows them to become one with their heritage, even if many of them have never been to India, or seen the massive celebrations that occur for this celebration there. The kids are dressed in a rainbow of dresses that truly epitomize the hindu tradition. Their knowledge of the dance steps (and let me tell you they are pretty complex for both the Garba and dandia Raas.

The live music that blares from the speakers, is something that can make the deaf man hear. Huge speakers at the center of the gynasium, pump the music into the rafters. So you can forget about putting on your Ipod to listen to anything else besides the live music.

Navratri Celebrations start at 9:00 (this is a generous start time) and go till about 3:00 AM. If you survive till 3:00 AM, there is no need to work out for the next 3 weeks.

Let me end this review by saying that as I left the Gym last night with my daughter. I was proud on how far Navratri celebrations have come in the past 30 years (since I migrated to this great country). I also felt proud of my culture and heritage. Now if only I could learn how do the Raas .Yes! That’s my goal for next year.