Monday, March 27, 2017

The Nine Nights of Chaitra Navratri

In scriptures are mentioned two parts of Navratri with the first, which takes place in spring, so it is also known as Vasant Navaratri. In some regions the nine days are dedicated to the worship of Lord Rama and then it is customary to attend the reading of the Ramayana and the theater of the epic.

Chaitra Navratri concludes with Ram Navami or Basanti Puja and is observed from the first to the ninth day during shukla paksha (waxing phase of moon) of the month of Chaitra (March-April) according to the traditional lunar calendar. The ninth day is celebrated as Ram Navami also called Ram Navratri.

Popular belief has it that Durga was worshiped in Navratri during the month of Chaitra, which was known as Basanti Puja. But Rama invoked Durga in the month of Ashwin (September-October) to get her blessing in the fight against Ravana. For this the celebrations of Durga Puja and Navratri have been moved from Chaitra to the month of Ashwin.

Today, Ram Navratri is observed mainly in North India and includes various forms of worship of Durga. The main puja in some regions are dedicated to Rama, and his birthday is observed on the ninth day of Chaitra as Ram Navami. His life is told in the Ramayana of Valmiki.

Rama, born as the eldest son of King Dasaratha and Queen Kausalya of Ayodhya was the symbol of perfection, who embodied the archetype of rationality, honesty and right action. He represented the model of the perfect son, devoted brother, the ideal husband and faithful friend.

Ramayana parayanam are the nine days before the event, where the pundits and scholars describe in detail the history of Rama to crowds of devotees. As per the epic, the young Rama marries the beautiful Sita, after managing to bend the bow of Shiva.

Deceived in succession to the throne of the kingdom of Kosala, he retreats into exile for fourteen years in the forest with his brother Lakshmana and his wife Sita. During the exile Sita was abducted by the Asura Ravana and takes her to his garrison in the island of Lanka. With the help of Hanuman, Rama attacks and destroys Ravana and his army, rescuing Sita.

On his return to Ayodhya, he was proclaimed King of the Solar Dynasty.

Rama Navami festival is recognized and celebrated throughout India with pujas, sacred songs and fast. In processions through the streets of cities and towns, parade floats with statues of Sita, Rama, his brother Lakshmana and Hanuman. The temples are lavishly decorated and is read the Ramayana and Bhagavata text that tells his birth and his story.

Dussehra is one of the most deep-rooted festivals in India and is the culmination of the Navaratri festival that falls on the tenth day of this period. In the days prior to Dussehra, the myths of the Ramlila, a short version of the epic Ramayana are represented outdoors in North India. The actors play in traditional costumes the ancient stories of Rama, Sita, Ravana, Hanuman, Lakshman, Sugriva, Meghnath and so on.

The festival celebrates the victory of Rama over the most popular demon in Hindu mythology, Ravana. The colossal effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhakarna made with flammable explosives are erected and the festival ends when those are burnt by the arrow shot by Rama, as it catches fire and burn until reduced to ashes.

In Varanasi, the Dussehra ends with the great Ramlila of Ramnagar. For 31 days they stage the exploits of Rama on stages scattered around the city. The Ramlila is one of the few traditions that has not succumbed to the charm of technology, electric lights, microphones or loudspeakers. It is not a show, but an act of faith and a time of social inclusion where every district participates, forgetting differences of faith.

No wonder then that the same Dussehra reaffirm several victories in different parts of India. Among the most spectacular and curious, are of course in Mysore, Kota, Udaipur and Kullu. In Kota the festival turns into a great fair, where you can find crafts and vivid colors of Rajasthan. Also in Rajasthan, in the princely Udaipur lies the lake where takes place the Ashwa Poojan.

The festival is dedicated to horses because there is no king without a horse and Rajasthan is the land of maharajas. In the chivalric code of this civilization and proud warriors, the animal has always had a prominent place, both as a means of transport and as a symbol of nobility. Coming to Udaipur you can admire splendid examples of Marwari breed horses, capable of walking briskly on any type of stony ground and recover from exhaustion just rolling around in the sand of the desert.

In Kullu, in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, the Dussehra festival climax of the event is the procession on the final day in which all the idols of the gods go out in procession on thrones carried on the shoulders.

Navaratri is the festival of nine days and nights held during Durga Puja, which is celebrated during the new moon in October, in the hindu month of Ashwin and Kartik. The Indians celebrate the event for almost 10 days, during which there are special rituals of fasting.

The nine goddesses of Navratri are collectively called Navdurga and are handed down in the Devi Mahatmya and Durga Saptashati. Their names are Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri.

In Gujarat a special kind of dance is held, called Dandiya or Garba, and is played with two small sticks to the rhythms of mainly devotional music, particularly in the city of Vadodara. It is held in public places and men and women of all ages participate in this dance in traditional costumes. It is a collective dance involving hundreds of women, dancing in concentric circles moving alternately counterclockwise and clockwise, with a steady pace, around the image of a mother goddess.

Women clap their hands and sing, and are dressed in the colorful costumes called chaniya choli, three pieces composed by choli, matched with chaniya, the long tunic, and the veil, the dupatta. The traditional costumes of the dancers is red, pink, yellow, orange, and is adorned with large colored mirrors. Not missing several necklaces, bracelets, earrings and waist straps. Next to like it, typical of Vadodara is also another traditional dance originally reserved for men only, the dandiya raas, during which are used chopsticks, colorful dandiyas.

In many houses in Vadodara women of each family are invited to sit in the house and, symbolically, are worshiped as just like the Devi, complete with offerings of food and new clothes.

In Punjab the durga is worshipped along with fasting and chanting durga bhajans religious songs called jagrata during the navratri.

In Mysore in Karnataka, the festival is also associated with Mahishasura and Durga, as the principal local deity known here by Chamundeswari, whose temple is situated on the Chamundi hills. People make a big procession in honor of the goddess Chamundeshwari on a throne that is transported on elephant back in the city of Mysore during the ten days dedicated to the Dasara Festival, which culminates with the parade as usual on the day of Vijayadashami, during which people celebrate the symbolic victory of good over evil.

Referred to as Naada Habba or the State Festival, the festival of Dasara is transformed here than in other regions due to the mix of religious and secular elements introduced over time and which have earned a final character carnival parade with floats and performances of various matrix folk, but without diluting the popular feel the essence of the religious celebrations.

The tradition of Dasara, was born with the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565 AD) and was later inherited by the local feudal lords, the Wodeyar, who have maintained until nowadays. When, after the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, the capital was dislocated by Srirangapatna in Mysore, Wodeyar introduced the custom of holding a public hearing, a durbar, during the celebrations.

This special durbar, which was addressed, however, exclusively to notable British and European guests of fame, made ​​over time in Mysore Dasara celebrations of the social event of the season. The twenty-six frescoes that adorn the Kalyana Mantapa in the Mysore Palace will show the splendor of the time.

After Indian Independence in 1947, several changes were introduced with the Maharaja seated on a gold howdah, a saddle canopy on an elephant which was the focus of the parade of caparisoned elephants, was replaced with a statue of the goddess Chamundeshwari, carried in procession and durbar has been removed.

It is assumed that this festival originally was a simple act of thanksgiving for the Vedic God Indra, who was held responsible for the much awaited seasonal rains. Later, it acquired more complex connotations, such as the victory of good over evil, symbolized by the killing of the demon king Ravana at the hands of the divine hero Rama.

The most important ones are held in Mysore (Karnataka), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Kullu (Himachal Pradesh). Spectacular Durga Puja is held in Calcutta (Bengal).