Navratri celebrates sacred feminine energy, shakti, over nine divine nights. As it was baby’s first Navratri, I wanted to make it special. On the first night, hundreds of idols of Goddess Durga are welcomed into pandals across the city. A pandal is a … Continue reading
I was feeling pretty down during Dussehra, I cannot tell you why because I don’t know myself. The following day, I was feeling a little better but annoyed I had missed the Dussehra celebrations. Dussehra marks the end of Navratri, the Goddess Durga idols are immersed in the lakes and huge models of the demon Ravana are burnt. No use in being annoyed at one’s self for feeling depressed, it’s natural I guess. We cannot be happy 100% of the time, right?
The day after Dussehra, we went out to eat and got stuck in traffic. The traffic was at a standstill because the Goddess Durga from the polystyrene temple (the same one I previously wrote about), was being taken to the lake to be immersed. My husband told me that some of the idols are immersed the following day, to avoid crowds (plus many of the Buddhist pilgrims, who are also celebrating during that day, use the lake for bathing).
Hooray, thank you for waiting for us Goddess Durga. There was a parade, drums, a brass band, dancing, women carrying weird chandeliers on their heads. We had arrived just on time and our car had got stuck in the crowd at the perfect place to see the parade! The atmosphere was electric, so many people wanting to catch a glimpse of the Goddess before she left us.
How amazing to be in the perfect place at the perfect time! The parade helped lift my spirits! The grand polystyrene temple has now been dismantled, everyone is getting ready for Diwali, the festival of lights!
Oh, and I have some news… I am going to England for Christmas!!
For weeks, workers in Abhyankar Nagar have been busy creating a huge temple made of bamboo, fabric and polystyrene! Now Navratri is in full swing, it’s so hard to believe that this structure, called a pandal, isn’t made of bricks, plaster and paint!! Just amazing! People come from all over Nagpur to take the darshan (seeing the divine image of God) of the gorgeous Goddess Durga idol within. The streets around the pandal are beautifully lit, it’s like Christmas over there!
Inside this huge pandal, which was inspired by the Jain temples in Jaisalmer, there are grand chandeliers, imported from Kolkata, and gorgeous rangoli (colourful designs made with power and/or flowers). The rangoli designs are refreshed daily, they are masterpieces, it would have been nice to visit everyday if it wasn’t for the crowds! The white decorations all over the temple are carved out of polystyrene, that stuff which is used in packaging and easily breaks into little balls (I remember getting in trouble once when I was really small for breaking up the polystyrene because I wanted to make it look as if it were snowing!).
Beyond the crowds of people, the Goddess Durga idol stands! If you look at her face, sometimes she looks angry and sometimes she looks loving. That is the nature of Goddess Durga herself, a mother and a warrior. Absolutely stunning! I hope you enjoyed taking this trip to see Goddess Durga during Navratri with me! I still cannot get over the fact that this temple is made of bamboo sticks, fabric and polystyrene.
Yesterday we popped to the supermarket to buy some paneer (I made paneer tikka last night!). During Navratri, we have visited some of the hundreds of pandals in Nagpur. A pandal is a tent type structure, built with bamboo and fabric, which holds an idol inside. I guess you could call them temporary temples where Lord Ganesh is worshipped during Ganesh Chaturthi, and Goddess Durga is worshipped during Navratri.
Last night we came across a Bengali celebration called ‘Durga Puja’. I have heard so much about Durga Puja, I really needed to see this! Durga Puja is celebrated during the last four days of Navratri, this festival is all about good triumphing over evil! Last night, Durga puja began!
During Durga Puja, Mother Durga is a worshipped in her opulent, ten armed, warrior form! The Bengali way of making idols is beyond breathtaking and, unlike the Marathi style, she is accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesh and Kartikeya (the second son of Parvati and Lord Shiva). The small details, the huge eyes, the ornaments, the long curly black hair… spectacular! Durga Puja for Bengalis is what Diwali is for the rest of India, prior to the festival there are months of excitement, anticipation and preparations!
Goddess Durga comes to Earth for her devotees! The legend of Durga Puja (because I am all about knowing the legends behind these festivals) goes a little like this…
Mahishasur, a Buffalo Demon, persistently prayed to Lord Brahma for many years. Lord Brahma saw his devotion and granted him his biggest wish, to become invincible Once he got what he wanted, he started a ravenous rampage across the world, destroying everything he came in contact with. Once the world was ruined, he wanted to kill the Gods themselves. The Gods created a force more powerful than Mahishasur, the divine feminine, Goddess Durga. In each of her ten hands she carried the most deadly weapons on heaven and Earth, and she destroyed that undestroyable demon.
Goddess Durga later blessed Lord Ram, in the Hindu epic The Ramayana, just before he killed the demon Ravana who has holding Lord Rama’s wife hostage. On Friday, there is another festival (yes, Hinduism has a lot of festivals!) to celebrate Lord Ram’s victory! Here in Nagpur, a huge model of Ravana is going to be burnt to the ground!
Inspired by the first Bengali pandal, we went to visit a second! Oh my gosh, it was so beautiful!! The Bengalis really know how to make idols! I could have spent hours looking up at her face, the beauty of Goddess Durga was completely overwhelming. I am lost for words to describe it further, just look for yourself…
There is usually a flurry of excitement when people see a foreigner among them, but this time we got a little more than we expected. As we were worshiping the idols, one of the men in the pandal asked us to offer some coconuts to Goddess Durga. I love Goddess Durga, so I was enthusiastic to do so! We then found ourselves dressed up red material (I don’t know if it has as special name), which had been blessed by the Goddess, and our photograph being taken by several people!
We had just popped to the supermarket to get paneer, I hadn’t a speck of makeup, my hair was a messy (luckily they wanted to cover my head), I had even forgotten to put on a bindi before going out! I guess you should always be ready for anything, life in India is a lot of things, but boring? Never!
Once we were back in the car, with our coconuts and blessed material, my husband said how awkward it was because he didn’t know what was going on, these traditions are Bengali and he is Marathi. The confusion and attention hadn’t bothered me, then I realised that the majority of my life in India involves: awkwardness, too much attention and utter bewilderment! I guess I have become accustomed to it. Progress!
‘Welcome to my world’, I said.
It’s now one of my dreams to spend Durga Puja in Kolkata, Bengal! The birth place of Durga Puja, Kolkata is where the festival really comes alive, with over two thousand pandals, street lights and parties. Hopefully next year! Happy Durga Puja everyone!!!