Shubho Maha Navami

Shubho Maha Navami

October 13, 2013

Durga Puja is a ten-day-long festival. However, it is the last four days - Shaptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami – which are celebrated with the most fervour.

Navami is the ninth day of the festival, or in popular celebration among Bengalis, the third of the four days. After the euphoria of Shaptami and Ashtami, Navami brings about a certain sadness, the end of the carnival being at hand.

However, the day begins with a lot of expectations, like the rest of the days. The joy is still in the air. Like the other days, people visit pandals in large numbers, dressed in all their finery.

Festive Spirit – Dhunuchi Naach

A special attraction of the day is the ‘dhunuchi naach’ or dhunuchi dance in the evening. It follows the ‘sandhya aarti’, the evening puja. This is often said to be the most exciting event of Durga Puja. Dhunuchi or big earthen lamps with a flared shape, with slow-burning coconut husk, on which incense (usually camphor) burns, are held in both hands and people dance away in gay abandon to the mesmerising drum beats of the dhaaki. Besides the thumping feet, the way people contort their bodies, often to impossible poses, is a sight to behold. Apparently unfit people can really put professionals to shame!

Dhunuchi dance is something in which men, women and children, all take part. Traditional dresses are often the norm for this dance. Competitions are held in many pandals. The often intense but friendly rivalry brings about a special flavor to these events. Competitions for dhaaki are also often held. Now with the advent of sponsored pujas, all these competitions often come with attractive gifts.

Beyond Bengal

Outside Bengal, this day is also marked by the dandiya dance. This originally Gujarati dance is now popular all over India. Both often take place at the same venues.

This brings to mind the marketing angle. Dandiya and garba are now heavily marketed by the government of Gujarat and as a result have become very popular. Dhunuchi dance, with its mesmerising moves and intense competition, has an equal potential to be marketable to an India-wide, and even a worldwide, audience.

And why just dhunuchi dance, the entire Durga Puja is comparable to unique festivals like the Brazilian carnival. The frevo dance held in the state of Pernambuco during the Brazilian carnival is inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Dhunuchi dance and Durga Puja have a similar potential. Serious efforts should be made in this direction.

Puja Spirit as always

Of course, like the rest of the Puja days, crowds throng the streets. Long queues to enter pandals can be seen at many places. Food stalls do brisk business. Children badger parents to buy them things. The next day being the end, Navami night is practically the last day to soak in the carnival atmosphere. And people usually do, with greater energy and vigour.

Along with the excitement, Navami also brings sadness. It is the fag end of the festival of the year. However, the next year will bring in another edition of the festival, and that calls for renewed hope.

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