Meaning of Navratri
Navratri is a Hindu festival of worship and dance. The word Navratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit; Nava meaning Nine and Ratri meaning nights.
Why we celebrate Navratri
It symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Navratri takes place at the beginning of October around harvest time and, as the name implies, this festival is celebrated for nine days and symbolizes the battle between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, ending on Vijaya Dashami or Dashara.
Navratri is also known as Durga Puja. During this period Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as three different forms of Shakti, or cosmic energy.
There are 9 forms/ avatars of Goddess Durga or shakti, also called navdurga, worshipped on each day of the navratri’s, being Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri.
Navratri is also known as celebration of victory of Ram over Ravan. It is believed that lord Ram prayed to the 9 forms of durga before killing Ravan on the 10th day known as Vijaya Dashami or Dashara, which is also celebrated each year.
Why we perform Garba
According to Hinduism, performing ‘Garba’ means singing devotional hymns praising the Goddess with rhythmic clapping, trying to awake mata Durga rani from her meditation, and also trying to awake the energy within yourself.
While Garba signifies the birth of life (the pot with the holes and the candle inside it, represents the baby in the womb of the mother), Dandiya ( represents the swords) signifies the destruction of evil. Both go hand in hand and the Navratri Puja is considered incomplete without one of the two.
While Garba is played in the beginning and before the aarti, Dandiya comes after the aarti as part of enjoyment and the end. The steps to garba are soothing and so are the songs while the Dandiya songs have a lot more beats and energy. Both are odes to Ma Durga, one in her tender, gentle loving form as the mother of the universe and the other as a fierce warrior, the destructor of all evil.
For these reasons garba / dandia takes place only in the October Navratri and not in the March/April Navratri which are mainly to celebrate the birth of lord Ram ji.
Mrs Indu Seth
President (HRS) 19 October 2020