Friday, September 30, 2011

Indian festivals dedicated to women

Month of October and November brings festivals in almost every place in this world. Summer harvest gets over and the season of autumn knocks the doors. India is no exception. Sky wears a poetic  blue color and the monsoon clouds floats away, sun-rays losses its heat and becomes softer. Many will agree with me that autumn in India does have a special charm. The charm increases its depth as most of India celebrates this season. Ramadan Eid, Ganesh chaturthi, Paryushan Parva, Visvakarma Puja, Onam, Navaratra, Durga Puja, Dusshera, Diwali, Nabanna and more. India is a conglomerate of several religion, cultures and society here is layered with the history of invasions and immigration. So most of the time it becomes very difficult to disentangle just one reason behind any festival. Hinduism being the major religion and one of the oldest religion of the world is full of myths and behind each festival several stories come alive. In India religions melt with each other and it is a common scene that one community celebrates Eid and other celebrate a Puja may be on same day.

Just now it is time for celebrating different forms of womanhood -  Navaratra and Durga Puja. Hindu religion does not mind to give the super power to a woman and make her goddess with 10 hands holding different symbols of power. Devi Durga in her different forms and her daughters Laxmi and Saraswati are visiting earth just now. This is also the time when in olden times daughters used to go and visit her parents house for celebrations. Several rituals carried out even today shows that festivals during autumn were mainly to thank mother earth and with time they took the color of certain religion. Just like how rabbit and eggs, symbols of spring and prosperity became part of Easter celebrations in Christianity.

I come from eastern India, a state called Bengal or West Bengal to be precise (after division of Bengal into West-Bengal and Bangladesh).There  Devi Durga is worshiped during this time as she is involved in fighting with a green colored monster (as 'J' named him) called Mahisasur. Devi durga was created for this particular purpose by different Hindu gods and she fought with him for 10 days and at the end she won over him. Parents of married girls say, Ma Durga visits her parents during this time and comes to earth with her kids from Kailash parvat.

Another story from other parts of India says the Lord Rama fought with Ravana and at the end of 10th day killed the 10 headed Ravana. Dussehera is celebrated in northern India believing on this story. There must be many other stories. I consider myself very limited in terms of my knowledge about India.

Here in the western parts of India where I am living now, Navaratri is celebrated, where for nine days nine forms of Durga (goddesses) are worshiped. Different forms of Indian goddesses includes that of courage, power, calmness, riches, knowledge and so on.  People here indulge themselves in colorful attires, jewels, songs and dance during this time of the year. Many of them eat only fruits or some specific food (known as fasting food - a word found only in Indian English) made from certain grains and legumes. They wear dresses of particular color on each day of celebration representing the saree colors of Devi's from different temples present in this region. Today the color was green. There are rituals were certain grains are sprouted in earthen pots may be to symbolize good harvest or new harvest I guess. Songs are sung in groups around those pots and many games are played. Little time of fun and relaxation after tiring period of harvesting and collecting crops from fields I guess. Today with so many women working in India's booming IT sector or in service providing companies, such rituals seem to come from far away land.

It is inspiring to see how women here are balancing the demands of old traditions and immersing themselves into the color and sounds of festivities and then on entering into the offices, they are picking up the phone to make an international video call for bringing business from their peers sitting in the other side of the globe.

Indian women definitely owns several facets just like their goddesses!

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