Come autumn or Sharad Ritu in Hindi and its time for Sharad Navratri. It heralds the beginning of festival season marked by 9 days of offering worship to nine forms of Goddess Durga viz. Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri, and Siddhidatri.
Sharad Navratri brings whole lot of nostalgia of my childhood days to the fore for it was time for the first school break called autumn break or Dussehra holidays. The nights in Delhi were crisply cool and it was Ramlila time, nine days of celebrating Lord Rama’s life culminating into assassination of the demon king Ravana and burning of the effigies of Ravana, his brother Meghanad and son Kumbhakarna on Dussehra day.
Ramlila staged by amateur actors happened in almost all the localities. Of course, there were more professional ones at Ramlila ground and DCM, where well known actors played the characters from Ramayana and there was good grandeur and use of gadgets for special effects. Going with friends after dinner to watch this show that lasted well up to midnight over groundnuts is an unforgettable experience. And watching burning of the effigies of the aforesaid three evils on the last day was accompanied by the mandatory treat of kadai hot jalebis though by the end of the day, spirit used to start sagging as it was school time again the next day!
In Kolkata it used to be total shutdown from the sixth day onwards during the day, with the city coming alive at night with hordes of families doing pandal hopping and eating savouries.
In Mumbai, it was all about 9 days of dandiya that presented colourful pageantry.
Readers must be wondering the use of past tense in this blog. Because while Delhi , which I left in 1986 and Kolkata, where I last stayed in 1999 are all in my memory, Mumbai, where I have stayed for last 2 decades is sensibly staying away from all this celebrations to defeat Corona virus. Like Lord Rama killed the demon king to liberate his beloved wife and goddess Durga killed Mahishasura, we the ordinary folks will have to emulate our revered gods to kill this demon coronavirus by wearing mask, washing hands, maintaining social distancing and staying safe so as to celebrate Ramlila, Durga Puja and Dandiya next year and convert the past tense into present once again.