Navratri celebrated with traditional fervor

web33SOMERSET/ELIZABETH, NJ: Backless cholis, embroidered chania, colorful dhotis and kurtas and a kaleidoscope of saris were all out as Gujaratis in particular and others in general danced to the tune of loud music in Somerset as Navratri began with the usual gusto throughout the United States.
The celebrations started when darkness fell and continued till the wee hours of the day. Young and old, men and women danced their heart out in front of Amba Mata. Particularly in the New Jersey area which is the hub of the Indian and Gujarati population. Musicians from India made it to the shores of the US to make the Indians dance to traditional rhythms mixed with modern beats. Myriad dresses of fantastic colors carrying a hoary heritage draped countless beauties and they blossomed each midnight to the cadenzas of wild music.
It all began with the traditional Raas which continued for an hour followed by the Taali Raas. With every song like the `chundi udi udi jai’,`mehndi te vavi mandve’ `maniyaro’, and `bhamariya re lal bhamariya’ the steps began to pick up speed and so did the music and the singers stepped up their beat so as to reach the crescendo.
The most fascinating was the Dandiya Raas. Colorful Dandiyas, some of them specially ordered from India, had modern looks. While the traditional Dandiyas are made of wood, it is now the age of aluminum and even colorful plastic. Some of the Dandiya s change color with every beat making it all the more fascinating. The non-stop Dandiya for almost 90 minutes not only drains the participants but the musicians also. The viewers are left spell bound by the fast rhythm and pace.
Crystal Jenkins, an American girl in her 20s had taken special training on the Raas and Garbas from her Indian friend, Pratiksha Mehta, so as to participate in this year’s Navratri at Peter Kothari’s Garba at the Garden State Exhibit Center. “It (the Raas) is something I always wanted to do after I had first seen it two years ago at the Navratri in Jersey City. I was fascinated by the synchronized movement of the hand and the feet and so I learnt it during the summer break so as to do the Raas this Navratri. I will participate all the three weekend as it is so much fun,” Crystal observed talking to this paper.

A number of younger generation participants that this correspondent spoke to were apprehensive. Rohit Pandya, a 10th grader who participated in Peter Kothari’s event, said, “though I do not know too much about Goddess Durga but have heard from parents, I can say that she is Goddess of strength and fights the evil and since then I have started respecting Her. We are here to uplift our tradition and our god and goddesses give us inner strength to fight today’s world which has so much violence.”
Peter Kothari’s Garbas, organized under the Indo American Religious and Cultural Center, are well known not only for their scintillating music and performance but also for the elaborate arrangements.
A large number of devotees of Amba Mataji also had flocked to the Gayatri Chetna Centre because the Raas and Garba there was totally devoted to Mataji and had no Bollywood angle. The songs were purely traditional and the boys and girls, men and women were dressed in their traditional best as a respect to Mataji.
During the Navratri celebration, which spread across several weekends, Indians are at their best with high wattage music, pulsating crowds and months of preparation. For nine nights the singers from India and the local population would put the Virgin star to shame.

Sudhir Vyas

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