Festival Roundup: Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra leading up to Diwali

Festival Roundup: Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra leading up to Diwali

No matter which country they live in, the Indian diaspora communities thrive on their annual festivities.

October is among the biggest festive seasons for British Indians and after last year spent in lockdown, various small and big scale events are a welcome sight across the UK, which will lead up to one of the biggest celebrations of the year with Diwali.

Last year, due to the pandemic-induced restrictions, most of the festivals had been marred or muted. With a majority of the UK population now being vaccinated and Covid hospitalisations at a welcome low, it does feel like everyone is gearing up for a wholesome celebration and festival extravaganza for the coming weeks. Although learning from the past, Covid safety and health assessments are a top priority for most organisations.

'iGlobal' caught up with some of the organisers who are planning festivities in the coming months, which include Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra and Diwali.

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Navaratri & Ras Garba

Nothing celebrates community spirit and positive vibes more than an energetic group dance, Raas Garba.

Garba, a dance form originating from the western Indian state of Gujarat, is traditionally dedicated to the feminine energy – 'Shakti'. The dance is performed in large gatherings as a part of the ritual of Navaratri (Nine Nights) before Dussehra, the tenth day of the final victory of good over evil.

This year it starts from October 7 till October 15. However, most organisations have kept a restriction in the entry to keep the celebrations Covid safe.

Namratta Bedi, Chair of Shri Radha Krishna Temple, Manchester, said: "Navaratri is a special time where we all come together and celebrate not just the religious but cultural aspect. We all get together to have fun with family and friends and dance away the blues.

“This year is special, as after last year's lockdown, we all want to forget the tragedies and pains, and look forward to celebrating agin with family and friends. Incidentally, our temple is holding it's first Garba Night this year.

"We have hand gels at the entrance, requesting people to bring masks, track and trace is being done on the day, as per government guidelines."

Shree Radha Krishna Temple, Manchester, presents Raas Garba Night on October 8, with live singing by eminent singers Shweta Ghube and Sachin Ghube.

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Dussehra

The word Dusshera comes from dus meaning 10 and hara, meaning annihilated, referring to the destruction of the ten-headed Ravana. And perhaps, it also refers to the ten negatives from within our souls.

Bhaktivedanta Manor, UK, explains Dussehra as the victory over obstacles from within:

"Raavana was a great obstacle to Rama, and he was only destroyed when his heart was pierced. Similarly, we have many bad qualities that form an obstacle to us developing a love for God.

“These bad qualities can only be destroyed when the Lord Himself removes them from our heart. On this day, we can pray to Lord Ram to destroy those bad qualities in our heart, so we can quickly return to His kingdom where there is eternal happiness."

One can take part in their celebration and worshipping of Lord Rama on October 17.

Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth fasting is done during Krishna Paksha Chaturthi in the Hindu month of Kartik and is rooted in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Southern India. The fasting of Karwa Chauth and its rituals are observed by married women for the long life of their husbands. Traditionally, married women worship Lord Shiva and break the fast only after sighting and making the offerings to the moon. The fasting of Karwa Chauth is strict and observed without taking any food or even a drop of water after sunrise till the sighting of the moon in the night.

"In the everyday busy life of UK, especially for women with school runs, household chores, office, we hardly get a moment to celebrate the bond with our husbands. Karwa Chauth, to me, is a beautiful way of expressing love. In today's generation, both the husband and the wife keep the fast for each other. I feel it's essential to take a break from daily monotony and reaffirm the vow of love with each other," says Rashmi Mishra, Director of Inspiring Indian Women (IIW), a registered non-profit organisation in the UK.

IIW is celebrating the Pre-Karwa Chauth event on October 23, 11 am to 4 pm, at Southhall Mehfil restaurant, with lunch, DJ, Dhol, ramp walk, Best Dulhan costume and much more.

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Durga Puja

UK-based charitable organisation Bengal Heritage Foundation, behind one of the country's biggest Durga Puja celebrations known as London Sharad Utsav, is known for creating a unique magical experience of festivity for the diaspora.

Last year, amid the severe lockdown restrictions, they had used the cutting-edge Google VR technology to ensure the festive happiness reaches every home and mobile device across the world in the best possible manner.

While discussing this year's surprise, Suranjan Som, trustee of Bengal Heritage Foundation, highlights another unique experience for the British Indians to cherish.

"We'll be recreating the exact nostalgia and feel of the 'Bisharjan' (immersion ceremony) with all its culture and ethos as that of Kolkata, inside the Ealing Town Hall. To know more and experience the magic, you have to come and visit us," Suranjan says, mysteriously.

"We're requesting everyone to pre-register and help us to keep the Puja Covid Safe. We have the track and trace process in place, as per Government guidelines, and taking particular care regarding safety. Already two thousand people have registered online, and we're expecting more," he adds.

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Diwali

Of several prominent Diwali celebrations in the UK, the ones that have always stood out and to look out for this year are Trafalgar Square, London, Wembley Park, London, Diwali Light switch on at Leicester, the Deepavali, Festival of Light Birmingham, Dussehra Diwali Mela, Albert Square, Manchester and Lightopia festivals at Edinburgh.

Here at iGlobal, #LivingBridge is the theme for this year's Festival of Lights celebration for the British Indian diaspora, the beating heart of the UK-India bond.

It will cover a full day of inspiring Living Bridge Conversations and conclude with a star-studded and foot-tapping DiwaliFest2021 Concert, Reignite – to be headlined by popular entertainers Navin Kundra, Ambika Jois, The 515 Crew, and the Bollywood Dance Group – on October 30 at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham.

*Booking info: DiwaliFest2021

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