Dubai: Indian expats in the UAE are celebrating Navratri from today, September 26, as the annual Hindu festival this year lines up a series of community events for the first time in two years since the pandemic struck.
Navratri (which means nine nights) is a festival in honour of Hindu goddess Durga. According to ancient Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga kills Mahishasur, the son of Mahisi and the great-grandson of Brahmarshi Kashyapa, with her trishula (trident), after which she gains the epithet Mahishasuramardini. In this symbolic celebration of victory over evil, Indians celebrate Navratri over nine nights and 10 days.
Indian expat Ambika Ramaswamy, who is from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, said during Navratri, nine Hindu goddesses are worshipped over nine days.
“We keep the golu [or arrangement of dolls] which I have been doing for the past 15 years. It’s a great time to have family and friends over and visit them too. The celebrations have evolved to include a lot of colour, music and dance too, she said.
Niki Shah from the Indian state of Gujarat said she is looking forward to celebrate Navratri with her family and friends. “Navratri is a cherished festival for us. Since I was a child, I can remember how our mother used to dress us up every night to participate in Garba, a traditional dance form in Gujarat. We used to dance till the wee hours, socialise and win prizes.”
She added that Gujaratis are very fond of Navratri. “We prepare well in advance for the garba, shop for beautiful ghagras and cholis [dresses]. Many also keep a fast over the nine days. Navratri is truly festive,” she added.
Welcoming back thousands
The India Club in Oud Metha has two weekends of festivities planned for its members.
Bharat Chachara, CEO, India Club, said this year over 2,000 members and their families (more than 8,000 people in total) will come together to celebrate Navratri. “For two years we did not have any [major] celebration due to COVID-19 restrictions. But this year on popular demand, we are going all out [in line with existing protocols].”
Chachara said on October 1 and 8 there will be a slew of activities at the Club. “We have DJ Noddie and DJ Kimi on October 1, DJ Gautam and DJ Tushar playing on October 8. Plus we will have dandiya and garba raas from 8pm to 10pm followed by Disco Dandiya. A spread of multi-cuisine food will also be laid out,” he added.
Expat Pavithra Menon from Kerala said being in Dubai opened her eyes to Navratri celebrations.
“In Kerala, we celebrate Onam and Diwali in a big way, but not Navratri as much. However, thanks to my friends here I have come to love Navratri festivities. Be it the Dandiya Raas or the incredible food we get to eat, it is such an amazing experience celebrating the nine-day festival,” she said, adding, “This year post-COVID-19, Navratri celebrations promise to be big. And I am going to go all out to enjoy myself.”