The festive season is poised to begin in India with Navratri, one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year.
What is Navratri?
There are four Navratri festivals annually in the Hindu calendar. However, the sharada or autumn Navratri is the most significant.
Celebrated in honour of the deity Durga, festivities take place across nine days. The name Navratri comes from Sanskrit – nava means nine and ratri is night.
When is Navratri 2023?
The dates for Navratri changes every year, as it falls in Ashvin, the seventh month of the Hindu lunar calendar. Festivities usually begin on the new moon. This year, it begins on Sunday.
Dussehra will fall on October 24 and Diwali is on November 12.
How is Navratri celebrated?
In India, and among Hindu communities around the world, Navratri is celebrated in different ways, but all in honour of Durga, a deity associated with protection, strength, motherhood and destruction. The festival is also a bank holiday in most parts of India.
In eastern India, it's marked by Durga puja, which celebrates the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasura. Intricate idols of Durga are set up in marquees across various communities where songs and dances are performed across nine days. On the 10th day, the idols are immersed in water, in rivers and lakes, amid dances, feasts and other celebrations.
In South India, Durga is revered as Kali, one of the deity's many avatars.
In North India, Ramlila events are observed, where the story of the deity Ram is enacted as per the Hindu epic Ramayana. Translating to Ram's play from Sanskrit, the age-old performance then culminates in Dussehra, where an effigy of Ravana, the demon king, is burnt, signifying the victory of good over evil.
Both the Ramlila and Durga puja are inscribed in Unesco's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Another highlight of Navratri is the performance of garba, the communal dance that originated in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Groups of people dressed in colourful traditional clothes form circles and dance in co-ordinated movements using dandiyas or sticks. The garba can be quite a spectacle, with dance circles sometimes reaching hundreds of people.
Events in the UAE
Navratri celebrations around the world, including in the UAE, often feature concerts by top artists, with crowds performing the garba in unison.
Navratri Utsav – Dandiya Nights, featuring top Bollywood performers, is being held this year for two nights on October 20 and 21 at Zabeel Park Amphitheatre in Dubai. Tickets, starting at Dh35, are available on platinumlist.net.
Atrangi Navratri is also being held at Time Square in Dubai Sports City from October 13 to 15. Organisers promise garba events as well as performances and a night dedicated to "disco dandiya". Tickets, starting at Dh45 for a single-day pass, are available at 800tickets.com.
A number of restaurants are also serving special navratri menus, including Dhaba Lane, which is offering a nine-dish Navratri thali for Dh45. The menu is available from Sunday until October 24 at the restaurant's branches in Karama, Garhoud, Al Nahda and JLT.
Fine-dining restaurant Punjab Grill is also serving a set menu for Dh150 from Wednesday until October 24, which includes a three-course meal of festive classics. The Navratri set menu is available at the restaurant's Abu Dhabi and Dubai branches.
Pincode, chef Kunal Kapur's Dubai Hills Mall restaurant, has also launched a Navratri Thalil, featuring a selection of pure vegetarian dishes that honour the traditional fasting practices of the festival. Priced at Dh99, the menu will be available all day until October 23.