Navami is the third of the four days which comprise Durga Puja for most. After the euphoria of Saptami 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 on 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, that is, the evening puja. Dhunuchi naach is often considered the most exciting event of Durga Puja. A dhunuchi, basically a big earthen lamp with a flared lip, with slow-burning coconut husk, on which incense (usually camphor) burns, is held in each hand by the dancer as he/she contorts the body (often to impossible angles) in gay abandon to the mesmerising drum beats of the dhaaki. A well-performed dhunuchi naach is indeed a sight to behold. The better dhunuchi dancers can easily give professional dancers a run for their money, such are their skills.
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 dhaakis are also often held. Now with the advent of sponsored pujas, all these competitions often come with attractive gifts.
The mesmerising dhunuchi naach
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 some state departments and as a result have become very popular. Dhunuchi dance, with its mesmerising moves and intense competition, has an equal potential to be marketed 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. So people go about 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.