Sharad Navratri, the nine splendorous and colorful nights, is one of the most awaited Indian festivals. A melodious occasion full of reveling evenings, Navratri is celebrated for ten days, beginning with holy Navratris and ending with Dusshera, Sharad Navratri, a medley of dance, fun, festivities, bonhomie, and religious devotion.
People dress in colorful and ornate traditional Indian ethnic ensembles to worship in the evenings and later join the dance events. Women wear special Navratri Lehenga Cholis, popularly known as Chaniya Choli (in Gujarat), and other Indian outfits like Gujarati Saree, colorful Anarkali Suits, and Indo-western combinations like bohemian skirts and cholis/ Kurtis. Men grace the occasion in long straight-cut or flared kurtas called Kediyas with mirror-embroidered flares, paired with a cotton churidar or dhoti and a dressy stole.
Everything You Need to Know About Navratri
The Supreme Goddess
This glorious festival is dedicated to the most revered Hindu female Goddess – Goddess Shakti and her various avatars – and thus, also feminine divinity. These nine nights are seen as an auspicious time, indicating the proximity of the Goddess to humans during this time. Varied acts of reverence -from evening aartis to rangoli decoration, home cleaning, and dancing – mark the occasion to please and invoke the highest feminine power.
The Many Faces of Navratri
With multiple religious rituals carrying immense devotion amidst thumping beats of Garba music- the Navratri festival has many forms. Over the last few years, Navratri has turned into a global festivity witnessing the enthusiasm of relocated Indians and people from other nationalities. In the eastern state of Bengal, the festival turns up as Durga Pooja/ Pujo, whereas, in Northern India, the occasion calls for a celebration with sub-festivities like Ram Navmi and Kanya Poojan. In Southern India, it takes the form of Bomma Golu, where amidst other festivities, with reverie to all Goddesses, and a keen focus on the Goddess of creativity, arts, and education – Ma Saraswati.
Folk Dances of Navratri
Where the Navratri days have devotees across different cultures of India, its significance amplifies in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, where Navratri is not only an ode to the feminine divinity but also an occasion of enthusiastic merriment combined with revelry. The Navratri nights here are a colorful melange of religious rituals and endless rounds of cultural dance and music.
Garba, Raas, and Dandiya are popular folk dances that rule the revelry- with these energetic dance forms, Navratri has spread its innate charm to the world.
Garba – the Cultural Dance Form
The dance form most closely associated with Navratri is Garba; it is also the folk dance of Gujarat and a pious dedication to the feminine power of giving birth thus, keeping the cycle of life alive. The word Garba comes from the Gujarati colloquial usage – Garbo – which means ‘Garbh’ (in Sanskrit) – which means, Womb.
A Garbha Deep – a small earthen lamp –holds the center of the open ground of festivities – along with an idol of the Goddess. Garba executes in a circle formation by women and menfolk of the community around the holy Garbha lantern.
This beautiful symbolism signifies that the whole human civilization revolves around the central premise of fertility, the female ability to give birth, and thus running the entire life cycle.
The Hindu View of Life
Apart from signifying the female power of procreation, the circular formation or dancing in rings in Garba/ Raas symbolizes the cyclical Hindu view of life. As the circle of life moves from birth to death and again rebirth, the only constant is the spiritual oneness of the world – that manifests in the form of the supreme Goddess. So, dancing in circles around the Goddess’ symbols represents infinity, the continual cycle of life that goes on – with only one constant at its heart/ center – the supreme, divine power.
Dancing to the tunes of Navratri
For all nine nights, there are communal (community) feasts and dancing programs. After the evening pooja/ worship, people gather in open areas, their community areas/ plots, roads, etc., where they dance together to the foot-tapping beats of traditional Garba/ Dandiya music. Many formal evenings and Navratri events are organized all over the cities, where people go in hoards to participate and dance.
Sizzling Nights of Reverence and Fun
There is a certain buzz in the air, and the atmosphere is electric. People of all ages and walks of life, religions/ castes, and communities join hands (and dance footsteps) to celebrate the divine power. The bonhomie and cheer of these lovely nights are bound to uplift even the saddest of souls. No wonder there are smiles and hoots of joy all around – even the trees and air seem to be full of energy and ebullience!
The NRI Navratri Love!
The Non-Resident Indian community may be away from their motherland, but they do not miss a chance to enjoy and celebrate their customs and traditions. After all, the affinity and attraction of something escalate when you are away from it! Navratri is one such festival that witnesses the peak of enthusiasm and festivity by the Indian community living and settling abroad.
In foreign lands, Indians come together and organize colorfully and fulfilled gala Navratri events. These fantastic evenings/nights are often held on the weekends, before, during, or immediately after Navratri. It allows the maximum number of people to attend and enjoy these festive events.
NRI community loves their Chaniya Cholis, Lehenga Cholis, Garba footsteps, and Navratri-special food. They dress up in traditional and Indo-western ethnic outfits and frequent these special events with their families and friends. The growing zeal for Navratri has led to many online stores based out of India catering to the festive wardrobe needs of their overseas clients through video shopping.
The Dress and Jewelry
Navratri is one of the most vibrant festivals of the year, calling for an equally effervescent dress code! People dress up in new and colorful clothes to pay reverence to the Goddess. Ornate Indian outfits, paired with traditional jewelry, are the first choice of most women for these fun and festive events.
Chaniya Choli, or the Navratri-special Lehenga Choli, is the most popular women’s dress for Navratri nights. These comprise a Lehenga or Chaniya – which is usually kalidaar and embellished with cultural decorations like Bandhani work, gota, sequins, stones, kaudis (shell), mirror-work, etc. – and a choli – a small, crop-top-like blouse.
Traditional Chaniya Choli is usually in cotton material, where the Chaniya skirt is ankle-length to allow for ease of movement. These typical skirts don’t have a wider flare and are lightweight for dancing and twirling convenience. The choli/ blouse is usually revealing from the back and waist – tied and secured only by colorful strings at the backside.
The traditional Navratri dress for men in Gujarat is Kediyu and Dhoti. However, the current trends see contemporary styles like Angrakha panelled kurtas in bright colors, indo-western dhoti suits, and the classic men’s kurta pajama sets ruling the festive dress code.
Dress Up in Style
With changing times and preferences, women and men both like to wear trendy Navratri dresses – so much so that stylish Indian ensembles, chunky vintage or antique jewelry, and vibrant accessories are on full display during any Navratri function and gathering. You must not leave any stone unturned to look your radiant best on these full of fun, friends, and romance events.
Here are a few tips –
- Prepare in advance. Sort out your dress/ dresses and keep them ready.
- Work on your dance moves and body/ body language if you wish to gran eyeballs during these boisterous ceremonies.
- Get dresses crafted in natural fabrics and ones that are not too heavy. You will be dancing, and thus, sweating a lot. Very long skirts or heavy outfits may hamper your dance moves.
- There are several Graba/ Dandiya prep classes that mushroom a couple of months ahead of Navratri. Join one of them, even if you know your folk dance well. It will help you get some extra practice and build up stamina for those favorite revel evenings.
- Most people forget to plan their shoes for these dance events. If you can’t decide what to wear, invest in colorful, light, flat ballet shoes. Heels are out of the question, and dancing bare feet on grassy, dusty open lawns, may not be a lot of fun!
- Do you wish to buy a Navratri Lehenga Choli? Or, are you planning to wear a lovely designer saree, tied demurely in Gujarati style, during a Navratri function? Whatever may be on your mind, we have some suitable dress suggestions for you for these lovely nights. Have a look at www.saree.com.