For explanations of italicized terms, see Glossary below.
What do you do for a 10-day long festival? Good question. Navratri, meaning “nine nights,” is a Hindu festival that focuses on worshipping the Goddess Durga, but it is mainly about the triumph of good over evil. According to Hindu mythology, the goddess vanquishes a demon who was terrorizing the people on Vijayadashmi, and thus the festival celebrates this victory.
Leading up to the tenth day, a homage is paid to the Goddess or to various other aspects of life, and different poojas are performed on each day. This week, I performed one of these poojas that I think most Angelenos can appreciate – worshipping your car.
Ayudh Pooja is popular among Hindus in southern India, and originally it was meant to be a day to worship the weapons that enabled you to be successful in life. In today’s time, it represents being thankful for the instruments and implements of your daily or working life that help you be successful – car, laptop, etc. Usually it’s something simple, like offering a flower, which is what I did to my car. In the car-crazed culture of Los Angeles, I think this prayer is most fitting.
However, the most iconic symbol of Navratri is dancing. You will see colorful dresses and dancing at any Navratri celebration, including the annual Garba night hosted by the Association of Indian Students at USC. Attendees perform both Garba and Dandiya, and it is a fun way to celebrate, get some exercise, and spend time with friends. This year, the event was held at the Tutor Campus Center Ballroom.
Ayudh Pooja: a worship or offering to implements of your work – in today’s time, car, laptop, etc.
Dandiya: group folk dance where with one stick in each hand, dancers tap their sticks with their partner’s, and move down the line, sort of like a square dance or line dance routine.
Durga aka Devi: Goddess Durga is a Hindu deity representing power and strength. She has many forms or incarnations based on geographic region. A general reference to her is simply Devi, or Goddess
Dusshera: Hindu festival, another name for Navratri
Garba: group folk dance originating in Northern India, and starts with a few basic steps that are easy to learn – needs no sticks
Navratri: Hindu festival focused on worshipping the Goddess Durga
Pooja or Puja: a prayer, worship, and offering to God
Hindu vs Hinduism vs Indians: Hinduism is the name of the religion, practitioners of Hinduism are called Hindus, and while the majority of Indians are Hindus, every Indian is not Hindu and vice versa
Vijayadashmi: The tenth, or final, day of the festival – the meaning of the word is “the day of victory”