Dubai: Navratri, a festival celebrated with pomp and fervour every year in the UAE, is subdued this time around because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunill Grover – director, Signature Events and his wife Sumita, who every year organise a weekend of Garba – a dance with bamboo sticks popular during Navratri - at Zabeel and Mamzar Park, are disappointed as the celebrations cannot be held as usual. “We usually have 12,000 to 15,000 people attending the dance. This year we are missing the energy and positive vibes that the Garba brings during Navratri. In fact, it is hard to imagine Navratri without the tradition Garba dance. We hope the COVID-19 situation will be under control by next year as we would love to host the dance programmes once again,” said Sumita.
Vasu Shroff, a veteran Indian businessman associated with the the Hindu Temple in Bur Dubai, said, “It feels like the world is angry. Hopefully all this will change.”
What is Navratri?
Navratri is an Indian festival, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Navratri, meaning “nine days”, marks Hindu goddess Durga’s victory in a nine-day battle with a demon king.
Worshippers celebrate the festival by wearing colourful costumes and performing Garba, or dandiya raas, a dance with bamboo sticks covered in colourful embroidered linen. The dance usually begins after evening prayers and goes on till past mid-night.
Navratri is celebrated differently in various parts of India. Traditionally, there are four Navratri celebrations in the sub-continent. In the eastern and northeastern parts of India, Durga pooja is synonymous with Navaratri. Durga is a Hindu goddess who battles a demon for nine days and comes out victorious.
In the northern and western part of the country, Navratri is best known for its “Rama Lila” celebrations, a triumph of good over evil where Hindu God Rama comes out victorious over the demon Ravana.
In the southern part of India, a popular tradition in Tamil Nadu is keeping Golu dolls (also spelled as Gollu). These include gods, goddesses, animals, birds and rural life, all in a miniature design. “People set up their own creative themes in their homes, called Kolu, and friends and families invite each other to visit their homes to view Kolu displays, then exchange gifts and sweets,” said Lakshmi Narayan, an Indian expat keeping up the tradition in her house this year.
Lakshmi explained: “For us South Indians, celebrating Navratri is all about appeasing the nine Hindu goddesses. And one of the ways we do it is by calling women and young girls to our house and showing them our dolls and giving them a little gift. When we do this it is like appeasing the Gods.”
This tradition is also found in other parts of South India such as Andhra Pradesh where it called Bommala Koluvu, and Karnataka where it is called Gombe Habba or Gombe totti.