Friday, October 3, 2014

Its time to "Blend in" with the festivities of Navratri and Durga Pujo..

Every year with the advent of autumn, the air is filled with a peculiar joy. It vibrates the arrival of Goddess Durga with the onset of Mahalaya and its time to go in a frenzy mode with Dandiya Raas and Garbas of Navratri everywhere around. The Hindu festival of nine nights dedicated to the glorification of Shakti, the feminine form of the Divine, its celebration time not only for Gujaratis but is an ensemble of all religions these days. It’s a time to wear colorful costumes and perform a special type of vigorous dance known as garba and or dandiyas.

Come the sixth day of the Navratri and its Durga puja time for all the hardcore Bongs (read Bengalis) who have waited eagerly for the arrival of Maa Durga with her full family regalia. The joy is not only contagious but can be seen everywhere - right from buying of new clothes, shoes, jewelleries and anything and everything that can make one bright and colourful. Even the darkest corners of the city get lightened up at least for these few days before culminating on the 10th day with the festivities of Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera.

And while the Navratri and Pujo fever gripped the Nation, one question we couldn’t help but ask “What does Durga Puja / Navratri mean to you?” While it is obviously about prayers, rituals and worshipping Maa Durga, it is also about celebrating the joy and happiness within that an idol of clay brings to everyone. Let’s ask some of our celebs what it means to them and how do they celebrate it.

Tanishaa Mukerji
It's Durga Puja time - A time when many of you like me are here to pay respects to Ma Durga. This is also the time of the year to catch on friends and distant families at one big get together. This is also the time when every Bengali will put aside the collective love of food and fast - only for a short while though, until they've showered the Goddess with flower petals in the traditional Anjali. After that, it's back to celebration mode.

After a day of elaborate Puja, Tanishaa Mukerji who attended her family Durga Puja at Hotel Tulip Star, Juhu looked splendid in a Vaishali S outfit with exquisite jewelry from Just Jewelry. Following the family tradition of hosting the Durga Puja every year, Tanishaa who came in with mom Tanuja also seeked for blessings from Maa Durga for her future endeavours.

Nitin Mirani
International Comedian
Well, even though I have been in Dubai all my life, Navratri is celebrated with great gusto there. I do play dandiya, however playing dandiya with me is like an episode of "Khatron ke khiladi". But this time it’s not dandiya raas. I am in Kolkata - a city that goes in a frenzy mode celebrating Durga Puja. And believe me, it is absolutely surreal. I’m here with a dear friend actress and model Madhu Sneha and was amazed to see the dedication and devotion which is actually contagious.

2014 has been a blessed year from me but the biggest news is that I’ve made it to the Top 4 out of Top 10 funniest people in the world competition and will be flown down to compete for the title in Hollywood. I will be representing UAE and India and am extremely excited. Bollywood is also a big possibility this year. So indeed it’s celebration time. And I’m celebrating it in Kolkata during Durga Puja. And from the looks of it, I’m loving the Bong way of celebration and doing it in typically "Bong Style". And Maa Durga's darshan before my big competition in USA, is also simply indescribable.

Shoaib Khan
I am more or less a Half Bengali (being the Tolly town heart throb), and hence Durga Puja means a lot to me. The dhoop-filled pandals, the aarti, anjali, the mesmerising Dhaks, shankh blowing, the overwhelming images of Maa Durga and ofcourse the delicious bhog - the spirit of the puja is really infectious. But considering the frenzy in Kolkata, Delhi (from where I come) is much milder. Having said that, no matter how tight your schedules are throughout the year - missing Durga Puja is nowhere on the list of a bong as each and everyone had bowed down to her and asked for her blessings. 

Earlier I used to go around pandal hopping in Delhi, but these days being in Kolkata it becomes inevitable to visit the pandals at times as guest and at times to also promote my films. And I just love that. This time too I was also there at quite a few pandals as guest and also for my oncoming Bengali film “Gangster King”. In short, it’s one big celebration time and a time for bonding as well with friends and I really enjoy the aura of this festival with feelings of positivity.
Madhu Sneha
Actress and model
Yes, I am back in Kolkata for Durga Puja with Nitin and a dear friend Sourandra Kumar. Thankfully my spirituality has not been affected with all the good things I have been blessed with this year personally as well as career wise. Pandal hopping is an experience that I have always cherished from my childhood and all this hopping actually gives me focus.

But this trip was dedicated to spending lots of family time which is the essence of Durga Puja celebrations. But I have visited a few pandals in North Kolkata especially the famed Shoba Bazar Rajbari which is also a shooting ground for many Bolly movies including Gunday. This is one of the oldest pujas in Kolkata that was held 257 years ago at this palatial old building. I also would like to wish all the readers a Shubho Bijoya and pray that “May the Goddess bring you more peace and power to achieve success and prosperity and make a difference with your actions”.

Vijayendra Kumeria
The Navratri festival is one of the most auspicious festivals for me. I am a firm believer of Mata Rani. I wait for these nine days of the year - the sound of the aarti fills my house with positivity and this positivity lingers around. I have spent my childhood in Ahmedabad, so I have experienced the garba and dandiya masti in my growing years and I love the energy of this festival. Talking about Dassera or Vijaya Dashami - apart from it being a festival, it is my birthday too according to the Hindu calendar. And in sync with it being called Vijaya Dashmi as well, that’s one main reason why my parents named me Vijayendra.
Twishaa Bhatt Sandhu
With Navratri fever and Durga puja gripping the nation, there is lot of festive fervour everywhere. Since my kuldevi is Maa Kali so it definitely means a lot to me. Since Durga or Shakti represents the cosmic power of God, which does the work of creation, preservation as well as destruction, the worship of Shakti re-confirms the scientific theory that energy is imperishable. It cannot be created or destroyed, it is always there. While Navratri is the most eagerly awaited fiesta, the saddest part about Dashami or Dussehra is that the nine days of celebration nears its end. Dushera is all about decorating my home temple with garlands, flowers and doing special puja, buying new clothes and it’s a happy happy environment for me. 

Dr. Debashish Naha
Spending time with family and friends, offering Anjali, pandal hopping, eating out - to me, this is what Durga Puja is all about. Apart from the mythological and religious issues, it’s a merry time to be with family and friends or meeting the most random people, starting from childhood friends to friends from a different city. Let me also add that in today’s fast life it’s a relaxation time that we need badly.
Arrghha Banerjee
I celebrate Durga Puja by going pandal hopping and roaming around all the nearby durga puja pandals held in the B Town with family and friends. We may be extremely fashion conscious for the rest of the year but as soon as Mahalaya comes with the morning tune of Mahishashurmardini, Bengalis like me turn totally traditional. We just love the decorated pandals, the huge idols on the stage, when the dhaak starts playing incessantly - It defines our Bengali culture. And it’s also the time for women to adorn white sarees with thick red borders, round sindoor bindis, Panjabi-Payjama (Chudidar Kurta) or dhotis for males coupled with Anjali, the sweet smell of gadaful (Marigold), joba, bel paata and dhuno! And not to forget Bijoya Dashami’s Sindoor Khela and Kolakuli with loads and loads of mishti. Thatz the significance Durga Puja has for me. And why me? No Bengali would like to miss out on these small pleasures of life.

Sogat Banerjee
Model & Actor
Durga Puja in Bangalore aims to be authentic in terms of its images and decoration, bringing artists and craftsman from Bengal to create impressive pandals. Most of the well established Puja’s in Bangalore have their pratimas (idols) built by artisans who come from Kumartuli, a potter’s colony of Kolkata. However, unlike Kolkata, where Durga Puja is experienced very differently with scores of small pandals dotting every street corner and people entering and exiting pandals to see their craftsmanship, we aim to make Durga Puja an event to meet and greet friends. For we ‘Probashi’ Bengalis (Bengalis living outside Bengal), Durga Puja is also the time when our parents try and instill those cultural values that we aren't exposed to being out of Bengal. However, the last day amidst immersion chants of “Aaschhe bochhor, abar hobe! (Next year, once again), we bid goodbye with a heavy heart and look forward to welcoming her again the next year.

Manas Dalal
Dussehra in UK is just as good as another day but the feeling is definitely different. It brings back the memories from when and how we celebrated in India. It rejuvenates that bond that might have been overlooked because of the busy schedule and the rat race and of course gives one more reason to go out and have some delicious delicacies. Navratri is definitely a very popular festival everywhere there are Indians. We do have events where we go and play although I don’t, but I do make sure I witness the occasion at least once because that’s when you see people all dressed up in bright and shiny clothes. Seeing all of that and being there makes me feel that yes I am still close to my country and its tradition.

Ashish Kukreja
For me Navratra and Durga Puja means a time for cleansing of the souls as it comes immediately after the shradh, bringing in more spirituality with it. I celebrate Navratra and Durga Puja both the festivals with equal fervour because both are about worshipping the Goddess. The sounds of the dhaaks herald the arrival of Maa Durga and a season of fun, laughter, shopping, eating and of course, offering prayers for all. But the most of it I love is Pandal hopping which is my favorite pastime activity during the occasion. 

While the most eagerly awaited fiesta is nearing its end with Vijaya Dashami, one thing that wouldn’t change over the years is your eyes getting moist with the chants of “Aaschhe bochhor, abar hobe! (Next year, once again)” as you wrap nostalgia around your heart and partake in Ma Durga's visarjan. But its also time for celebrations, gorging on mishtis and as well wishing all near and dear ones a Shubho Bijoya.
Mohan Das
Guest Editor

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