Why do we celebrate Navratri?



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aryan20

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Navratri- One of the most significant Hindu festivals celebrated with great zest throughout India certainly sets one in festive mood, makes us visualize colors of our faith upon Goddess Durga. The word ‘Navratri’ is derived from two Sanskrit words—Nava' which means nine and 'Ratri' meaning night. Faith says that Goddess Durga blesses people who observe fast and offer special prayer to the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga.

 

 I, belonging to a cultural Hindu family am not behind to be excited upon the approaching Festive season, the onset of which is marked by Navratri. Since this year, we are avoiding a lot of shopping due to the ongoing pandemic, I decided on shopping online and was scrolling the internet to study some rituals and what all do I need to observe fast and was reading some basic stuff to satiate my intellect about Goddess Durga. That is when Google by its virtue of Its keyword suggestion, suggested something called ‘Abused Goddess Campaign’. I was curious and could not stop myself to accept the suggestion and browse further.

Within few minutes, I had an overflow of tabs on my laptop. So many articles upon this campaign. And why not when we live in a country where we worship women as goddesses during Navratri and yet do not spare them from being burnt for dowry. We want girls to worship on the eighth day when celebrating Ashtami, yet we do not spare them even when they are in the womb.

I continued reading about the campaign and reached a page which had some pictures…I got goosebumps. I was so wrong to think that the concept was banal. I was so wrong to think that when we know that we cannot do away with these crimes, why make a hype of it again and again. However, on the contrary the pictures were so catchy depicting Lakshmi, Durga and Sarasvati in traditional poses with cuts and bruises on their conventionally beautiful faces that I could not refrain dwelling deep on the subject even though I knew the content would disturb. And that is the reality, we worship the clay idols of Goddess Lakshmi, Durga and Sarasvati while being least bothered of what the Lakshmi, Durga and Sarasvati around us are going through in their day to day life-the struggles they face, the harassment they are subjected to, the discrimination at workplaces, the stigma they face and what not…worst being when they are objectified and are subjected to eve teasing and rapes.

 

Like any other topic, this campaign too triggered a debate in social media circles. On one hand it had many who appreciated the initiative and were praising the impact these images would have, there were others who were raising objection because it uses Hindu mythology as a tool to represent domestic violence survivors.

But it was not about the campaign, I was getting furious with the thoughts this reading provoked- It reminded me how my friend was crying her heart out over a phone call the other day and told me about her husband who of course claims being a stalwart Hindu, who brags about not missing recitation of the Durga chalisa even for a single day since he turned 10, yet when he beats his wife up for not serving him dinner with 3 grand vegetables and at times for talking back when she might have a different opinion to a subject of discussion, will this campaign make him stop and think about Durga Chalisa he recites daily, the next time he hits her? Does he even bother to understand the true meaning of Durga Chalisa he has been reciting for almost 2 decades now?

I further dwelled into stats which indicated that today more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence and the number is rising exponentially. Worshipping our goddesses during just these 9 days as icons of strength and independence seems absurd in a nation where females are killed, raped and oppressed.

While on the first three days, we worship the spiritual force of Durga or Kali who is the destroyer of impurities, do we not think why the matrimonial ads we come across not consider ‘Kali’ as pious as Indians pretend to while worshipping an Idol of Goddess Kali? Why do they specifically mention ‘Fair’ as one of the attributes to decide upon whether that girl is suitable for their son or not? In the second set of three days, we worship the mother as a giver of spiritual wealth, do we not think that when a girl leaves everything behind and enters our home to spend all her life, why can’t we consider mere her entrance as an entry of spiritual wealth? Why do we expect her to get suitcases of monetary wealth along with? Why do our relatives stare her from top to bottom to scan how much jewelry this so called ‘Lakshmi’ has on her? Is our Lakshmi powerful only when her parents send her loaded with gold and powerless otherwise? The Final three days are meant for worshipping the Goddess of wisdom-Sarasvati, the idol of this Goddess holds intellect in her hands, don’t we visualize lotus, a rosary, books when we think of Goddess Sarasvati? However, when we think of that girl named Sarasvati, what do we visualize? A Pan, A broom? Why can’t this Sarasvati claim an equivalent pay for the work she does in a multinational as another male candidate?

Just when I was so deeply engaged in all these thoughts, my father called out and seemed overjoyed stating “Congratulations, your sister got through her entrance in Bhabha Atomic Research Center” We had a budding scientist in our home and not just our home-In two homes, our and her in-laws. Indeed, my parents are proud to be birth givers to this Sarasvati. Indeed, her husband would be proud to call himself the better half of this Lakshmi. Indeed, her in laws would be smiling thinking of the day when they said strict no to any dowry as they got this pride their home. Just the next evening we got a video call from another sister who resides in Germany, overjoyed in tears as she was expecting and during fifth month Ultrasonography, gender determination is legal as the law of land there. She could not control her tears of joy when she announced “Congratulations! Be ready to welcome yet another Durga…It’s a girl” and our home lit with the joy of Navratri.

Yesss…This is the true essence of Navratri, Respect Women, not just the clay idols you purchase in exchange of Money. Not just these nine days, Every second of your life. They are our Mother, Sister, Wife or a special friend. Treat them equally. They are the ones who assist the Almighty in getting life on this Earth. May our Lakshmi, Durga, Sarasvati feel safe wherever they are every ratri..Only then we can proudly wish Happy Navratri!!

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