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Navratri – a festival dedicated to the Goddess Shakti. 9 days of Navratri are dedicated to the 9 different forms of Goddess Shakti. In Gujarat it is one of the main festivals and is celebrated all over India as well.

When I was young, I use to have lots of excitement for this festival. That point of time we stayed in a society of row houses and our society use to have a center stage where Mataji would be kept with a Garbo (akhand divo in an earthen pot) and on daily basis Aarti was done at sharp 8PM. Everyone from the society would gather for the Aarti. And after Aarti and Prasad we would disperse and start getting ready for garba. Wearing those traditional chaniya choli with mirror and cowry work, oxidised jewellery was fun and exciting. Garba in our society were done on traditional garba songs and beats and we loved doing those traditional garba steps and styles. One of the nine days use to have fancy dress competition and it was super fun to dress up every year and then wait for the announcement of the winner eagerly till the end. Last day everyone would do garba till almost 4 AM and then take the Garbo(akhand divo) to the Mataji temple near by, its a tradition called “Garbo varavu”. My dad use to do fasting for all the nine days. I still remember him eating nothing at all and every evening around the sunset time he would sit in the ghar mandir and do puja of Gayatriji, chanting Gayatri mantra using the Rudraksha Mala. On the 9th day he would also do a mini havan and offer prayers to Gayatriji. He had a real dedication when it came to Bhakti. We also use to make gabbar aka malla mata and decorate it with toys we had and use lights and diyas with Aarti everyday. I miss those fun 9 days! They were innocent and traditionally celebrated with worship and dedication in real sense.

I feel sad about the way it is celebrated these days. I wonder if the young generations even knows the actual purpose of celebrating this festival. All they know is how to look their best and impress a girl or a boy while they dance. Those traditional chaniya cholis are extinct now. All we see are crop tops, backless cholis, no dupattas, female dhoti pants and what not. It’s more about body exposure for girls these days. On the very first day of this Navratri there was a half page ad of Enamor(an Indian lingerie brand) on front page of TOI showcasing multistraps bras, bustiers and cage bras for backless and low neck cholis. Even lingerie companies now understand that girls would spend any amount on them! Almost every girl goes for full body waxing and polishing before the start of Navratri to ensure they shine in those backless cholis and knee high ghaghras. Boys aren’t left out from shining out either. Why should they!

Garba classes?? Seriously?? Garba is so complex now that you can’t survive if you go to a party plot even for few minutes, if you haven’t been trained by an expert! I must say,  some people have a very good business plan and the rest just have lots of money to spend! Girls and boys spend crazy amount of their parents’ money even if they belong to lower middle or middle class. And parents allow them to do so and then complain. I recently read an article in the newspaper which mentioned that during Navratri the business of private detectives increases by almost 50%. Why? Because parents hire them to spy on their children to ensure they aren’t going out of their lines and not being in wrong company. They want to ensure their girl does not fall prey to a guy – why not be a good parent and see the reason why she would get trapped in the first place! Spouses hire detectives to spy on their better half to see if they are “better” any longer in these 9 days! It has also been seen that the visits of parents with their daughters to gynaecologists increases following Navratri because they want to ensure their daughter is not pregnant!

Garba on those actual traditional garba songs are extinct too.  Bollywood songs make the garba beats now. Item numbers are what people love to do garba on. Now it’s selfie garba that’s in. It has become more of a competition between youngsters and even elder generations on who looks better and can shake their booties better!

Traditional garba use to be done in a circle around an idol of Goddess Shakti and now everyone does garba around their footwear in center and bags in center. You won’t even see a tiniest photo of Goddess Shakti in the party plots for that matter. Stage backdrops are covered with the names of sponsors and co-sponsors. Passes to these party plots cost almost about Rs. 500 per person. There are people who would say they cannot afford good school for their children because of high fees but these same people will spend all their hard earned money on these passes and beautyfing themselves during Navratri or for hiring a private detective. These detectives charge about Rs. 7000 per night, so that’s Rs. 63000 for 9 nights. Isn’t that less than a monthly take home salary for thousands out there! But still they manage to spend somehow. When I was young, parents and spouses would sleep peacefully while their children and spouses did garba, knowing that no nuisance is going on even if it’s 4 AM in the morning.

Worshipping is the last thing left in the garba now. This year it feels like Goddess is showing her displeasure with all the thundering and rain. But all in vain!

Goddess Shakti must also be wondering what does “Kala Chasma” have to do with her?! ?