Festival #1: Navratri and Dussehra

It’s a good time to be visiting India because apparently there are lots of festivals in the next few months! I arrived in India in the middle of Navratri, a nine-day festival commemorating one of the main female goddesses, Durga. Then the tenth day is Dussehra, which celebrates the god Ram’s victory over the demon Ravana (i.e. the triumph of good over evil). So the night of Dussehra we (meaning us interns but also most of the families at Search!) piled into a bus and drove to Gadchiroli to attend the festival there. Even the short bus ride had such a joyful sweetness: the women were dressed in glittering saris and the 10 or so kids were belting out various Bollywood and traditional songs at the top of their lungs. We zoomed down the dark road, and as we pulled in to Gadchiroli we were greeted by so many strings of lights- it looked like Christmas! To get to the glittering temple erected for Durga, we had to puushh our way in through crowds lined up to receive blessings.

The temple for Durga; its glitteriness reflects the energy of the town that night. Everyone took off their shoes before entering so there were some huge shoe piles near the entrance! The line looks orderly here but behind where I’m standing were masses of people.
Juliane and I in front of a statue of Durga, looking fierce on top of a tiger! Whenever we looked around we realized people were staring and/or taking pictures w/ their cell phones of the strange light-skinned people!

There were piles and piles of marigolds on the side of the road that are made into garlands, what a colorful sight! But I think the thing that wins the award for most colorful was the rangoli, which I love so much that it’ll probably get its own entry. It’s basically colored powder that’s used to make designs on the ground. That night I saw the vendors selling rangoli for the first time and was blown away by the way it lights up its surroundings.

Piles of rangoli… Soooooo pretty!! 🙂

There was also a little outdoor theater production showing the story behind the festival. Instead of human actors, life-size statue-figures were pushed on and off stage. Technologically it was simple compared to our special effects in movies or thrill rides at theme parks, but it was also more tangible and allowed your imagination to fill in the details.

We piled back into the bus and continued home, the kids still singing and dancing in the back. Sticking my head out the window into a cool breeze and soft moonlight on the rice fields, I felt so happy to be here. Before I came, I used to think it was strange that India had so many festivals; isn’t it overkill? But seeing with my own eyes how a festival brings people together and provides a little excitement in an otherwise challenging life, I could better understand how this tradition emerged.

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3 thoughts on “Festival #1: Navratri and Dussehra

    1. Great idea!! There’s a festival around March called Holi where people pretty much do that! People either throw the rang in a powder form or mix it with water. We celebrated it at my college every year and people come out looking like human rainbows. I bet it’s celebrated somewhere near you too…
      That’s great about the malaria vaccine… but then I need to find an alternate career. Hmm… 🙂

  1. Sulabha

    🙂 And I m happy to have you here at this time.. to share my happiness and help me miss home less. Festivals are so uplifting.. only thing is it’s done a bit too much ‘professionally’ in the cities and that makes it lose its flavour a bit. Here it’s like old times (when I was a kid.. a hundred years back:P )

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