Tradition must always be observed, if not in the same fashion, should atleast be modified to suit the times that we live in. One of the few festivals that I thoroughly love to celebrate is Navaratri. While in the south of India, the three forms of Shakti, that is Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswathi are worshipped for three consecutive days each, in the north, the nine nights culminate with Bhagwan Ram killing the asura Ravana. The theme however remains constant. It personifies the destruction of evil and the establishment of peace and prosperity.
Beyond all these myths and beliefs, it is the spirit of the people that I love most. All houses have the golu or the dolls stacked in steps. Each step generally has a theme to it and the number of steps could be any odd number. It is also believed that once the tradition of golu is carried out in a particular year, it must be ritually celebrated every other year. I am not quite sure what the logic is, but there is quite a lot of debate that goes forth into the golu season before the dolls make their appearance. The LalithaSahasraNamam , containing the thousand unique names of goddess Lalitha is chanted on all these nine days. The mantra is believed to contain hidden sutras and known to have cured many ailments. Each day, a variety of sundal is made and the women decked in silk sarees go along with the pretty girls in pattu pavadai (or silk skirts) to invite family and friends to see the golu. The visitors are encouraged to sing and exhibit their talent outside the walls of the kitchen. It is quite a lot of fun because not everyone can carry on the same fervour and pitch while exercising their rusty vocal chords. At the end of a long chat, the women are offered kumkum, betel leaves with betel nuts, Re.1 as dakshina, and small gifts that may or may not be given by everybody. A packet of sundal offered as prasad to the Shaktis are packed into small covers and given along with the betel leaves and nut.
These festivites also give a chance for people to get together and move further towards a bright new future. In a world of chaos, the season of Navaratri will hopefully breathe new life and bring peace into the lives of millions torn apart by grief and destruction.