Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dasara Navaratri - Celebrating the win of God over evil

Growing up in Mysore, Navaratri had a special charm, Mysore is the capital of the erstwhile Wodeyar kingdom and even though their is no king now, the traditional Dasara procession and the celebrations go on in full swing. The entire city lights up during the season - literally and figuratively, you can visit temples and attend poojas for spiritual pursuit, you can sit and watch a multitude of music and dance concerts in the Darbar hall, you can walk around the Dasara exhibition or the Kannambadi katte (KRS dam with the musical fountain) or just hang around anywhere in the vibrant city. The Mysore Palace darbar hall has many of the stalwarts of Carnatic & Hindustani musicians performing over the 10 day festival. We as a family enjoyed good music and dance and would attend as many concerts and recitals as we could during the season.
Vijayadashami day sees the world famous Mysore Dasara procession, people sit and wait at vantage points since early morning for the procession to start. All our cousins used to descend on us in Mysore as it is typically school holidays and while all of them went to see the Dasara procession, strangely I have never seen one personally. It was always 'I live here, I can do it next year' attitude and something else took precedence and also the fact that we had so much fun at home that sitting and waiting for the procession seemed like a waste of time for a fluttering kid.

One of my school friend's father was a forest ranger and the elephants that came to lead the procession and carry the Goddess Chamundeshwari's idol always were brought to his house which was 4 houses down the street. The majestic Drona who faithfully carried the Goddess's idol for many years was a treat to see upclose. We used to run to their house with plates full of bananas, rice, jaggery and coconut pieces to get a chance to feed those elephants and pet them for a few minutes. Elephants eating whole coconuts, elephants making bunches of bananas disappear in one go,  elephants drinking buckets of water,  elephants dropping big loads of hot poop on the road - we didn't need much to entertain us when we were kids :-).
We have a custom of arranging and displaying dolls in the house during Navaratri and hence it is also called as 'Gombe/Bombe habba' (Doll festival), Creativity is the only ingredient needed here and those days no one had collection of dolls from all the countries they had visited :-), the display was mainly composed of small Channapatna wooden pieces and if you were lucky, you would have a few more expensive dolls (No touching those - ha). One of my sister's friends had a big train that ran on a winding track and was operated by a mechanical key. We used to sit and wait in their living room until all the invitees filed in and the room was full and they would operate the key to make the train go around their gombe arrangement complete with all lights & choo choo sounds :-)

The best part of Navaratri was the evening Gombe aarthi and the gombe baagina, this is when all kids would go to different houses (mostly on invitation but there were gate crashers too) and come back with a goodie bag full of 'goodies' to munch on. Nammamma had invitees come over every evening starting from Sapthami (Saraswathi pooja day) - I follow the same tradition. There would be sweets & savories every day to share and evenings made colorful with everyone dressed in festive attire. All little girls would be made to sing a song or bhajan in front of the doll displays. Great opportunity at public singing for new students of the art :-) with very good intentioned, well meaning moms prodding, glaring and making sure their kids opened up.
Gombe aarthi is more about little kids unlike other festivals where married ladies take center stage. Amma had the same conversation every morning with me,  'How many friends are you inviting?' and I would say '10-15' but when evening came the number would somehow magically go into 40-50 range :-). Here is what happened, I would go to call a friend and see a few more friends of that friend hanging around and invite them too but fail to let amma know about it. I have  put her in trouble with her calculations of the gombe baagina very frequently and derailed her best laid plans. Thinking back, I really don't know how she graciously managed to serve and feed all those kids that came in, she probably had some kind of 'Akshaya Patre' (the mythological 'never empty' pot) in her kitchen. And I did get an earful after everyone left but then the story would repeat itself all over again next day or next year :-)
Navaratri also is special for me personally because BH & I met each other on the first day of Navaratri many years ago. He came to meet my parents in Mysore for the first time during the busy Dasara time. I realized his fear of heights when I first took him to the Mysore exhibition and tried the Giant Ferris wheel. I have had the pleasure of visiting that exhibition with little baby girl, tired with excitement but completely wide eyed at the lights and sounds around her. I have some awesome black & white pictures of my cherub taken at a nondescript stall.  When we set up the dolls every year, as we unpack them from their boxes we talk about where we got them from, who gave it to us and think about family & friends near and far.
We had a great time last evening with friends visiting and there was a lot of singing too by little girls and mommies and a grandmother who sang beautifully. As I have been scrambling with the arrangements and cooking, I completely forgot all about my food blog (!!!!) and so I have no pictures to share which means I will post the recipes some time later when I make them again and take proper pictures. Here is what was on the menu though - Puliyogare, Vegetable upma, moong dal pakoda, carrot payasa, kabuli chana usili, chutneys along with fruits for dinner and kodubale, 7 cups burfi, sajjappa and mucchore for the baagina.

Enjoy the remaining days of Navaratri and have fun.


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

A lovely read Nagashree...Happy Navarathri to you dear.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice narration about Mysore Dasara sandadi. bommala koluvu is a real wonderful event. thanks for the beautiful photos Sattvaa. happy Dasara to Sattvaa readers. may the Godess Durga bless you all.

Premalatha Aravindhan said...

Shubh Navaratri to u n ur family...Lovely write and the kolu.

Roshni said...

Beautiful.... love the golu

Vijayalakshmi Dharmaraj said...

Nice post... happy navarathri...
Today's Recipe - Bhel Puri Chaat - SNC No-1 Join in my first event - FEAST FOR YOUR GURU VIRUNTHU UNNA VAANGA

Kannada Cuisine said...

Reminds of all the things I am missing right now :) Loved the elephant poop part! Yes, copious poop never fail to amuse us little monkeys

Priya said...

Navarathiri wishes, well written and loved going through it.. Prefectly arranged golu and looks very beautiful.

Nagashree said...

Thanks all for your comments. I enjoyed setting up the Golu again with family this time.

Smitha - true, many things we took for granted at the time are so precious now. I am glad we have had those experiences and can remember them while at the same time moving on and making new experiences part of life.