‘Navaratri’ or ‘Nine Nights’ is a Festival for Hindu Women
Sara Vui-Talitu, Producer, Voices (RNZ)
Auckland, October 16, 2018
The lively Hindu Festival of Navratri – in which worshippers celebrate the Hindu warrior goddess, Durga – has been drawing bigger and bigger Kiwi in the last couple of decades.
Navratri is a nine-day Festival celebrating the victory of Durga – an eight-armed Hindu deity who defeats an evil demon intent on destroying the earth while carrying eight different weapons and riding a tiger.
Navratri participants at Auckland’s Mahatma Gandhi Centre.
(Photo: RNZ/Sara Vui-Talitu)
Navratri is celebrated everywhere, but each community and each caste of religion has their own way and their own story – Ritesh Vaghela
About Ritesh Vaghela
Devotee Ritesh Vaghela, who is Hindu, shows me around The Mahatma Gandhi Centre in central Auckland, where the Navratri celebrations will take place.
Ritesh migrated to New Zealand from India when he was just 17 and resides in the City with his immediate family.
He has taken time out of his very busy schedule to attend this Festival along with other devotees to worship the Goddess Durga with prayers, songs and traditional dances.
Ritesh Vaghela enjoys Navratri (Photo: Supplied to RNZ)
Navratri is an opportunity to reconnect with people from different ethnic groups, he said.
Over the weekend, the Festival always jam-packed and one of the draw cards is the dancing.
Some nights, hundreds of people end up doing the same moves at the same time, he said.
Anyone can dance
“You don’t need to know how to dance. You just come and bust out the moves. It is all about the dancing as it is not for fun – but people do it for fun as it is actually a form of worshipping the God,” Ritesh said.
He is an actor in Indian theatre productions and a member of an Indian dance group.
He is also a musician in a band and a radio jockey (RJ) for Auckland’s Bollywood radio station HummFM.
Despite being so busy, Ritesh said that the Navratri celebration is important to him because it’s about cleansing oneself of evil.
“We all have different religions and different gods but we (are) all heading towards the same light. Hindu, I believe, is more of a concept in which everyone can join,” he said.
Preparations for the Festival started a couple of weeks prior and lots of yummy delicious Indian food is on the menu.
Volunteers in the kitchen preparing for Navratri crowds
Photo: RNZ/Sara Vui-Talitu
The food is a big attraction, with many volunteers working hard in the kitchen to get it ready.
Ravin, a volunteer who only gave me his first name, said that back in India the dance Festival is held outdoors because it always draws huge crowds.
“It is the biggest religious dancing Festival that happens around October but does depend on the Indian calendar. So a lot of people do make the effort to come here,” he said.
In Central Auckland, there is a limit to the number of people allowed in the Mahatma Gandhi Centre and with nearby neighbours, there are issues of noise control to consider.
The Festival only happens once a year; many people come from all over Auckland, Ravin said.
Initially, the Festival was strictly religious, Ravin says, but now it’s more relaxed, which is appealing to the younger generation.
Many people at this Festival are fasting, including Ritesh, who will eat one small meal during daylight hours then won’t eat again until after sunset.
“Here in New Zealand, we use it to we use it to get together with family and friends, extend our networks and make our bonds stronger,” Narendra Bhana, President of Auckland Indian Association said.
Sara Vui-Talitu is Producer of ‘Voices,’ at Radio New Zealand. Indian Newslink has published the above Report and Picture under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz