LAHORE - The fifth day of the Hindu festival Navratri (nine nights) continued in low profile celebrations on Friday. Due to the small number of Hindus in Lahore, the festival was not held on a large scale basis, especially because most of it was held within homes. The festival signifies the special worship for the Hindu Mother Goddess, who in Hindu mythology is meant to have descended earth in nine forms and sub-forms.
During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of the Shakti or Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or Dussehra. In the year about five Navratris are held, each at the onset of a different season. The Navratri held in the perioid of September to October is known as the ‘Sharad Navratri’. This is the most important of the Navratris and may also be simply referred to as the Mah Navratri (the Great Navratri) and is celebrated in the month of Ashvina. The word Sharad refers to its celebration during Sharad (beginning of winter, September to October).
The Sharad Navratri commences on the first and ends on the tenth day of the bright half of the lunar month Aswayuja/Ashvina. Each year Navratri falls on different dates. In 2011, it began on September 28 and is expected to end on October 5 with Dussehra celebrated on October 6. Festivities and celebrations: Navratri begins on the first day (Pratipad) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. According to the customs of the Hindu communities in each area of the sub continent, the festival may be celebrated in different ways.
For Pakistani Hindus who were rooted in North India, all Navratris are celebrated with much fervor by fasting on all nine days and worshipping the Mother Goddess in her different forms. The Dussehra festivity is particularly famous as well but it is now extinct in Lahore. “Today in Punjab, this festival is celebrated in more fervor in Sialkot, and Rawalpindi while in Sindh, since there is a particularly large number of Hindus there, the festival is celebrated in great spledour,” says Amarnath Randawa, who is the Hindi Sudhar Sabha or president of the Hindu Council in Pakistan.
“We commemorate these nine days by keeping ‘brath’ (fasting) and worshipping each of the nine forms of the mother goddess,” he says. “Every evening, there is a mass pooja. We select nine little girls, who have not reached puberty yet, to denote the innocence, naivette and the female form of our Mother Goddess and we feed them food, and sweets and wash their feet. Sometimes people even give them money in cash as gifts. On the last evening, we have a langar and we celebrate vocally by singing and dancing,” he says.
The celebration of these girls is known as ‘Kanya Poojan’. Garba is the dance performed after the Durga Pooja on the last night with groups and live orchestra or devotional songs. There is also Dandia which is a huge favourite among the Hindu community even at times of Holi and Deepawali. Officially speaking, the last four days of Sharad Navratri take on a particularly dramatic form. These are celebrated as Durga Pooja, meant to be the biggest festival of the year. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up in temples and other places.
These idols are then worshipped for five days and immersed in a river on the fifth day. In Pakistan, since the Ganges does not flow, the Indus River or a creek in Karachi’s sea is used for this purpose. The idols are dressed and adorned with flowers, sandalwood paste, turmeric and kumkum. Devotees come during Navratri to receive the special ‘darshan’ (sight) and what mostly a devotee awaits is the Kaul Prasad, which is as something given from the gods and goddess itself.
The Deities are emblazoned with flowers and devotees or priests continue to worship the deity without even changing the flowers on them. At the end of the festive night the flowers are distributed as Prasad for the devotees.