Navratri, though literally means nine nights, is typically celebrated with greater pomp and show in the last 4-5 days. The lights, ethnic clothing, folk music and dance and other festivities galore makes it worth celebrating with your kids too. While it has different colors in different parts of the country, there are some which are marked by their grandeur.
Up North, Mata Vaishno Devi is known to cast her divine charm on those who seek her blessings. Those who believe in her, say that only the chosen ones can visit her in Jammu & Kashmir, after an arduous journey in the Himalayas. She is the form of Goddess Durga, worshipped all over Northern and Central India. Daily Pooja is typically followed by 'aarti' twice a day all through the 9 days.
Tip: Performing the rituals with kids brings in a sense of faith and discipline in them.
In the Eastern India, this festival is celebrated in a larger than life manner and holds a special place in the hearts of Bengalis in particular. People in Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, also tend to worship the goddess in her resplendent 10-armed form. Bengalis also believe that she comes home (to her maternal house) along with her four children – Goddess Saraswati and Lakshmi, Gods Ganesh and Karthik. They worship her like their daughter for the last 5 days of Navratri and is immersed in waterbody on the 10th day in a bid to see her off. This festival also acts as a huge social platform for people from different walks of life.
Tip: Since it is celebrated at the community level, cultural programmes are an integral part of the celebration – Kida have ample opportunity to showcase their talent, especially in Bengali music, dance and drama. Also, queue for the delicious bhog (for lunch) at a Pooja pandal in your locality and I bet, your kid will drool over it until the next year.
In the western India, the Gujaratis put up a spectacular show during Navratri. Every member of the family is dressed up in ethnic wear in vibrant colours and all nine nights are spent in dancing the popular 'Garba', whose rhythm can make just anyone dance! In another form of the dance, called 'Dandiya', rhythm sticks are played with a partner and the whole mob moves in a circle in a much synchronized manner. It's said that one doesn't need to teach Garba to a Gujarati child as they are born with that rhythm. Truly a delight to be a part of this enthused mob!
Tip: There are several classes for teaching kids and adults, the steps for Garba/ Dandiya. If you check around, you may find a Garba/Dandiya raas (community folk dance) being organized in your locality and just sway to the rhythm with your child.
A rather cute form of Navratri can be seen in Tamil Nadu, down South, namely Bommai Kolu, meaning Divine Presence. It is like the Doll Festival. Women in many households in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, display dolls, figurine, court life, everyday scenes along with the divine presence of the Goddesses Saraswati, Parvati and Laxmi.
On the first day of Navaratri, following some rituals, an odd numbered Kolu is (usually 3, 5, 7, 9, or 11) set up using wooden planks. After Kolu has been covered with fabric, it is then adorned with various dolls, figurines and toys according to their size with the deity at the top. The decoration includes everyday scenes using wooden toys, miniature kitchen utensils or, anything a little girl would play with.
Tip: Just visit a family friend (native of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka) who sets up Kolu at their place and let your child explore the different stories in those pretty dolls.
Enjoy the colours of Navratri with your children while showing either or, all of these diverse forms of socio-religious celebration. After all, tenets of culture is an important source of learning!
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