Author : Shri. Ramesh Shinde, Spokesperson, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Maharashtra
A religious festival is a collective religious rites performance of people. People celebrating such festivals and participating in the rites experience joy and bliss.
Every action in relation to God is an attempt to increase the 'Sattva' component in ourselves. A 'Sattva' predominant person tries to make others happy even if it is at the cost of his own happiness. Giving happiness to others does not reduce one's own happiness. . A 'Raja' predominant person strives only for his own happiness or contentment; whereas a 'Tama' predominant person aims to gain happiness at the cost of others' happiness. If religious festivals are celebrated only with a purpose of increasing 'Sattva' component , it helps to obtain spiritual benefits and also to imbibe divine qualities.
Most of the Hindu religious festivals are celebrated in the 'Chaturmas', i.e. four months from 'Shravan' to 'Kartik' as per the Hindu Calendar..During these four months 'tama' predominant 'Yama' frequencies come to Earth. To combat these frequencies, it is essential for humans to increase their Sattva component .
Knowledge of the science behind celebrating religious festivals benefits all. Ideally, human behaviour should be regulated through self-control. However in real life this is not the case. Thus, the idea behind celebrating festivals is that at least on these particular days, human beings show restraint and exercise self-control!
In the present times tension, strife and competition in every field, monotony of day-to-day life can be driven away with the help of public celebration of religious festivals. The festivals provide an opportunity to people to exhibit their skills and creativity. Religious festivals offer a platform to people to forget differences, come together and create something new. . However, the prime objective of celebrating religious festivals is to increase devotion towards God and to learn more about one's own religion.
Navaratri festival is celebrated with as much enthusiasm as the Ganesh Festival. Shriram took the vow of Navaratri, on the advice of Sage Narada, to vanquish Ravana. After taking this vow, Shriram invaded Lanka and vanquishes Ravana. After 9 days of battle from 'Pratipada (first day of the first fortnight of the month of Ashwin) to 'Navami (ninth day of the first fortnight of the month of Ashwin), Goddess Shri Durga vanquish a demon named Mahishasur. On the night of 'Navami', Mahishasur was destroyed. Since then, Goddess Durga is known as 'Mahishasur-mardini'.
'Dashami', the tenth day, is popularly celebrated as Dassera, which symbolises triumph of good over evil. Dassera is the last day of the Navaratri festival. Dassera is festival of celebrating victory and valour. On this day, kings, farmers and artisans worship their weapons and armour. This is one of the most auspicious times (mahurat) of three and a half most auspicious times in a year.
This day is celebrated by lighting a lamp before the deities, by reading Holy Scriptures e.g. 'Chandi-paath', 'Lalita-pujan', 'Saraswati-pujan' by fasting, chanting, etc. as per one's capacity. To reduce the tama component, tama pre-dominent Goddess Mahakali is worshipped during the first 3 days of Navaratri. In the next 3 days Raja pre-dominent Goddess Mahalaxmi is worshipped to increase the Raja component. And during the last 3 days of Navaratri Sattva pre-dominent Goddess Maha Saraswati is worshipped to increase the intensity of our spiritual practice. In olden days, different goddesses were worshipped under different names in different regions. The authors of Holy Scriptures jointly gave the name of 'Durga' to all such goddesses.
Various meanings of the word 'Durga' - destroyer of demons, destroyer of obstacles, one who wards off ill-health, cleanser of sins, one who eliminates fear and enemy. The idol of Goddess Durga is consecrated during Navaratri festival. The form of goddess Durga is a symbol of this nation's power. It depicts the form of nation, mental strength, prosperity and spiritual wealth.
The practice of celebrating 'Navaratri' collectively has taken root in the past few years. Committees are established, especially by the youth to celebrate this festival and the number of such committees is increasing every year. Most people do not know to celebrate this festival. In most of the religious rituals people follow the established customs without questions. However, blind following of customs, leads to many undesirable/ inauspicious practices celebrate the victory over demons in this festival yet on the other hand in most of the public celebrations, there is exhibition of such very same demonic traits. Western culture too, has crept into the celebrations.
Today's youth celebrates religious festivals like Ganesh-festival, Navaratri-festival etc. just for the sake of entertainment. They create nuisance by establishing public committees to celebrate such religious festivals and collect money by force, create noise pollution by playing boring music on loud-speakers. Then they indulge in activities like organizing inappropriate programs; drink and gamble the whole night in marquees. Other undesirable practices are followed in the procession for immersion of the idols. Such activities are very harmful for individuals and society. The members of the committee do not even realize that their activities make ridicule our deities, religion and traditions. Such committees established just for the sake of nurturing egos and competing with other committees results only in wasting lakhs of rupees on decorations, lighting and in creating special displays/exhibits overlooking the main objective of welfare of society and creating awareness. This competition creates enmity and rift among the committees and disturbs society's equilibrium. Lokmanya Tilak used the medium of religious festivals to create awareness amongst masses towards their religion and nation. The members of such committees disregard these ideals. The society has to pay for the wrong/undesirable practices in celebrating festivals today. The committees have no regard for the basic aim of collective worship and spiritual practice.
It is a tradition to dance before the goddess during the nine days of Navaratri. This dance is known as 'Garba'. It is a type of folk dance from Gujarat its meaning and importance have been given elsewhere in this article. It has also become popular with the people of Maharashtra.There are two types of this folk-dance known as 'garbi' and 'garba'. Men, in-groups, dancing in a circle with simple dance footsteps and clapping to the tune of a folk song is known as 'garbi' and women dancing with delicate dance foot- steps is known as 'garba'.
On the first night of the 'Navaratri', small and big earthen pots with tiny holes are kept one on the top of the other in front of the idol of 'Devi'. The earthen pot on top is crowned with an earthen lamp with four wicks. Which are always kept lit. People dance around these pots. During the dance songs are sung in praise of different goddesses like Amba, Kalika, Randalma etc.
There is a legend that the grand-daughter-in-law of Shrikrushna i.e. the daughter of Banasur named Usha learnt a type of dance known as 'Lasya' from Goddess Parvati and taught it to the Gopis (women-folk of cowherds) from Saurashtra (a part of Gujarat).
Mother-Goddess destroyed the demons and protected us. While Her debt cannot be repaid, the least that people can do is to entertain and please Her with their dance. This is a type of worship like singing holy songs (bhajans) etc. The wooden sticks used in 'garba' dance are a symbol of weapons used by goddess. 'Dandiya' is to be performed with a warrior atitude. The movement of 'dandiyas' should be like a sword in a dual. The war depicted in the 'dandiya' symbolizes war against our 'Shad-ripus (six foes or defects)'.
Like the wrong practices in other folk-arts, the 'garba' also has undesirable practices. In olden days 'Garba' was a holy dance. The young generation today has however, made mockery of this holy dance. In some places, even before consecration of the idol and lighting of the lamp, garba is performed in front of a photo of goddess. In every nook and corner, 4-5 persons come together and start dancing. For the garba traditional musical instruments like clarion and drums are to be played to create 'kshatra-vrutti'; but nowadays people dance to the tune of loud film songs with obscene of distorted body movements. Colliding with each other, deliberately rubbing against each other. The 'dandiyas' too are struck any which way.
When the nation is going through a period of crisis, celebrating public festivals only for spending money on entertainment is like 'Nero fiddling when Rome was burning' Our nation is going through critical times all levels on financial, social, political, defense, international relations. The need of the hour therefore is to make use of the festivals like Navaratri for creating awareness amongst people and to seriously work on regaining our past glory. Today's student is tomorrow's pillar responsible citizen of the country. In the revolts was of the years gone by, students have played a major role everywhere. Time has now come for students to participate in the mission of national security and creating awareness about righteousness in society.
In the past few years, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha have begun on their drive to stop undesirable practices in religious festivals. To put an end to the denigration of our religion and insult to the nation, each one of us should step forward.