Navratri, literally meaning nine nights, is an Indian festival and is celebrated in various ways by different communities. Some communities celebrate it by observing fast, Bengalis have Durga Puja and Gujaratis have Dandia-Garba during the Navratri. Apart from its religious and mythological importance, Navratri is an important occasion for community gathering.
In Gujarat, and thanks to TV serials and Bollywood movies, now across India and all over the world among the Indian community, Garba-Dandia is very popular. This is the longest dancing festival – nine nights when people gather at a place to worship nine goddesses through singing and dancing. It provides a reason to meet family members, relatives, friends and also to make new friends. Marriages result from the acquaintances made during the dance in Navratri.
I was happily surprised to attend two Navratri celebrations in London, which reminded me of my childhood in the villages of Gujarat.
One place I attended Navratri Garba was SKLPC which had a gathering of over five thousand people, all dancing to the tunes of Garba in a big tent. Different groups playing in their own styles, unknown to each other but dancing on familiar tunes, was an impressive scene. Even British representatives were present at SKLPC. It is claimed to be the largest gathering of Navratri in Europe.
Another place was a small organisation having Garba in their community hall. Mainly composed of people from own community, SSPC-Southall had a gathering of fewer than five hundred people, but almost everyone was familiar with each other. This Garba gathering was very traditional. Their dress code was Ghar-Chola – a typical Gujarati saree for ladies. Men were mostly in Kurta. The selection of Garba-songs was also traditional and religious.
Some take-home points from the two Navratri celebrations that I attended with my wife and friends:
- May it be any part of the world;Some celebrations never go out of fashion. Garba-Navratri is one of them.
- The Indian community, mainly Gujarati, can let go of anything, but Garba.
- The strength of community, especially when living abroad, lies in connecting to their roots. No tree can grow stronger if its root is not deep.
- The UK is one of the places where Indian culture has flourished and contributed to the host country as well.
- Such functions help organisations and communities to become more adhesive.
- Navratri is one of the few festivals that still attracts people of every age group, across generations, from children to old age. It should be used as a platform to reduce the generation gap.