Saturday, September 19, 2009


Here we are at the start of another ten day festival - Navrati - which means the nine divine nights. It's all a little complicated as it's also called Dasara which means ten days. Here's the "Coles's notes" version: three goddesses are worshipped over the first nine days (for three days each): Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakhsmi and Goddess Saraswati. The tenth day, Dasara, is a big celebration marking the victory of Lord Rama over Ravina.
So where does Dandiya fit in? Dandiya is the dance that is featured on the nights of Navrati, using Dandiya sticks.
Everyone in our neighbourhood got together last night to celebrate at the soccer field. Alanna and I got mehndi on our hands (the photo above is Alanna's hands) and people got dressed up in their Dandiya outfits, sari's, and kurta's.
They set up food stalls and games. The only problem - it started to rain just as we were going out the door at 6:30pm. Got our umbrellas and off we went anyway. Had some good Indian food, samosas and chaat. It seemed the rain was not going to ease off so at 8:00pm we moved to the clubhouse for puja and dancing.
Everyone gathered around a small table with a picture (of the Goddess Durga?), flames, and offerings of food for puja. People took turns lifting the plate with the flames and offerings and moving them in circular motion while everyone else clapped or hit their Dandiya sticks together in a rhythmic motion.
The DJ started up the music and people danced in a rotating circle with children running and dancing in the middle. Some of the outfits were elaborate and it was mesmorizing to watch them go round and round, with scarves and sarees flowing.
Then came Dandiya and everyone had fun learning and playing with the Dandiya sticks. I had watched some video's of Dandiya on the internet and it seemed to be a group dance but here they did it more with partners or small impromptu groups.
Next week we are going to Mysore for the Dasara festival, the tenth day of the celebrations. It is to be a grand occassion of elephant processions, a torchlight parade and fireworks. And we have relatives flying in the day before - talk about stimulating the senses right away!

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