Navratri is the festival of worshipping the Hindu Goddesses. There are many fables related to these nine nights. This festival is celebrated in different forms in different states and for different deities. The North celebrates by fasting and feeding nine ‘girl goddesses’ on the ashtmi (eighth day). The East celebrates to rejoice the victory of Goddess Durga over the mightiest demon Mahishasur. The South also has a tradition to celebrate Navratri by setting up steps and placing idols of Gods and Goddesses and also by worshiping the items like books and vehicles, that can be the divine source of wisdom and knowledge. In West, the Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba and Dandiya Rass to rejoice the victory of good over evil.
Thus in the western zone, Gujarat and Mumbai, the nine nights of Navratri are celebrated with fervour and devotion. People perform Garba in large groups around the idol of the Goddess which is accompanied by live orchestra and devotional songs. Girls and Boys, Men and Women are dressed in traditional outfits and dance their way on the tunes of the devotional songs. The female participants are dressed in ‘Ghaghra Choli’ locally known as ‘Chaniya Choli’. It consists of a blouse and a long skirt tailored traditionally with a long scarf draped over the right shoulder. The men dress themselves in the traditional ‘Kurta-Pajama or Kedyu-Dhoti’. Kurta and Kedyu are the Frock styled traditional tunics that are paired with the Pajama or Dhoti, a loose pant styled bottoms.
It is believed that the females are the form of Goddess Durga and that the goddess resides in them. This is the reason the females are dressed in the style of Goddess Durga, the Maha Gauri. The Fair Lady. The females look their best in these nine days and no one dares to make them think differently. These nine days they are treated like the goddess and given every privilege possible for being a girl. Every prejudice is kept aside to give the females a chance to shine out. Many years ago the Garba was performed only by the females. But today the males also accompany them. But the females dance for free while the males bear the whole cost. And the usually discriminated against gender, the females, for once are at the receiving end.
These nine nights in Gujarat no female faces discrimination. On contrary the males are the ones who are discriminated. There are discounts on female outfits of Garba, there are benefits attached to buying anything in the name of a female. Every store has special discounts reserved for females. Even the food and beverages stores provide discounts to females. It is like everyone wants to please the Goddess through the females.
The devotion is imbibed so deeply that no one dares to tease or molest the women during these nights. They are allowed to go out in the night to perform garba and they are also allowed to stay out late till the garba ends. There are no questions asked and no restrictions made. They are given all the freedom without questions. The men also protect their counterparts to such an extent that they ensure that the girls reach home safely. On these nights you will not hear any news of a rape or of molestation or dowry killings or female abuse etc. which are so commonly heard on every other normal day of the year.
But these nights are different for every woman. These nights bring to her all that she wishes for, all that she desires – respect, love, freedom and equality. And that is why these nine nights of Navratri are a miracle in itself. These nights, somehow manages to bring forth the good in people and the lost respect for females. And I wish that every night of the year becomes a Navratri night so every female is treated equally by the males.