There is excitement in the air in Lake City when Navratri, a nine-day fiesta of ‘puja’, singing, dancing, fasting and feasting is round the corner.
Shakti Pujan has a long tradition in Mewar. As shown by the remains of Ahead civilization, ‘Shakti’ was worshipped in Mewar even earlier than the birth of Christ. During the reign of the Maharana on the first of Ashwin Shukla the idol of Mataji used to be set up in the Bhandar of the Rajmahal in the morning and ‘Jaware’ were sown. Also placed there were Maharana Pratap’s sword and other state emblems. Every day Brahmins used to perform Durga Path. There was goat sacrifice for eight days. On the eight day there was sthapna Visarjan and Sahastra-Choudi Havan. The Maharana performed ‘abhishek’ and ‘ batuk pujan’ and received pratap’s sword from the priest. From 2nd Ashwin Shukla, there used to be Nakkare ki Sawari every day. The Maharana would go to Chougan with his entourage where elephant fight and wrestling were organized Dogs were sent after rabbits, foxes etc. In the morning of 1st Ashwin Shukla ‘Khadog’ was taken to Sajjan Niwas Bagh. A ‘Sadhu’ sat in front of it and fasted till Astami. On the eight, the Maharana would go to the Math in Savina Kheda for the ‘Purna-aahuti’ of the ‘yogna’. He would worship the elephants and horses in Naginawadi in the Rajmahal. During Navratri the Maharana used to be go to Ambamata Mandir and Hari Sidhi Mandir for ‘darshan’ every day.
There is palpable excitement in the air on the auspicious day of Navratri Sthapna. From early in the morning, the city begins to reverberate with sounds of Jai Mataji as groups of youth go out to get idols of the Devi for their ‘garba pandals’. They performed ‘Puja’ of the idols reverently, put them in their vehicles and bring fem to be ‘pandal’ in a procession. In the evening, after ‘Puja’ and ‘aarti’, garba dance start. In homes ‘Staphna Puja’ and several rituals are performed. In small earthen puts, barley grains are sown one watered for nine days. It is believed that the growth of the small plants called ‘jawara’ indicated what kind of crops could be expected in the coming year. It is a tradition to fast during the whole period or a couple of days. A different kind of ‘bhog’ is prepared every evening. Feeding girls during Navratri is believed to be auspicious. Scriptures like Durga Saptashati and Ramayana are recited regularly.
Shaktipeeths in and around Udaipur become centers of attraction during Navratri. From early in the morning devotees can be seen climbing up the hill near Fatehsagar to reach the famous temple of Neemaj Mata. A huge number of devotees perform ‘puja’ of the idol draped in red clothes and decked with attractive ornaments. One of the most revered Devi temple situated outside Ambapol in the west of the town, Ambamata Mandir is thronged by a large of devotees. The day begins with ‘ghat staphna’. The idol is tastefully attired and offered a variety of ‘bhog’. There is a sort of stampede at the well known Sukhdevimata Mandir at Bedla on the outskirts of the city. Aawarimata Mandir at Reti Stand, Kalikamata Mandir at Hathipol and at Kalkamata road Chamundamata Mandir at Bada Bazar and Karnimata’s Mandir on a hillock neer Doodh Talai are visited by numerous reverent devotees. Other temples that attract devotees include Jawarmata, the goddess of mines and minerals, Idana Mata famous for her ‘agni snan’, Jast Ambika Madir at Jagnt and Ashapura Devi near Bedvas Village.
During Navratri, Udaipurites get caught up in a whirlpool of dancing frenzy. In addition to the buying of dresses of the latest designs materials and color combination and shoes jewellery and sandals, ‘dandias’ are in great demand. Earlier ‘dandias’ were made in Udaipur itself but due to the rising cost of materials and shortage of people who make them they are procured from Vadodra and Ahmedabad where they are cheaper. Cassette shops place big order for the latest ‘garba’ Music C-D’s from Gujrat.
The glamorous ‘garba’ has become a rage among Udaipurites Flowerers, there are still groups and communities that have tried to keep the old tradition alive. With the main aim of worshipping Devi, the festival for such people begin with the ‘ghatstapna’, setting up of an earthen pot and ‘Jagran’ accompanied by singing of ‘garbis’, ‘garba songs’. Nagars and Bhatmevads in addition to Parakhs, Audichyas, Brahmin, Varis and Gujurati Mochis, follow the old tradition. The dance is performed at Bhatmewada homes in addition to common places. Song writers, singers and musical instrument playas visit homes and late night programs like ‘jagrans’ are held. Many poets of this community have composed songs in praise of Devi that have become very popular.
The Bengali community celebrates Durga Puja in a big way. It believes that it was performed initially in chaitra but when Lord Ram found it difficult to defeat Ravana, he decided to worship Durga during this time. It is believed that the ‘Puja’ was supervised by none after flam Ravana himself, a Brahmin of big last order as there was no at priest available there. Ravana did so knowing full well that the purpose of the ‘puja’ was to vanquish him. This reveals true Indian Culture where duty is given priority over everything else-even the life of that person. Bengaleses believe that Maa Durga comes to the earth during this time as a married daughter visits her parents. So everyone wants to make the best the best offerings to her. There is a feeling of sadness when Maa is taken for ‘Visarjan’ on Dussera. Every year, a team of craftsmen from Bengal is invited to craft idols of Devi and her ensemble.
In the past, the idols of Devi were made of Biodegradable materials like papermache ad wood and only natural harmless colors were used. Later on plaster of paris and Chemical colors were used. Once again biodegradable idols are being made to prevent pollution some societies in the town have begun to offer idols that are not immersed in the lakes but returned to them to be used the next year. In some cases pictures of Devi are used in place of idols.
There is a tinge of sadness on the faces of Udaipurites when the big nine-day festival comes to an end and the idols of Devi are taken in procession to water bodies Where they are immersed in especially built water tanks to prevent pollution.
During this longest festival of Hinders of all sects the whole city is agog with excitement and people enjoy themselves fully singing, dancing, fasting and feasting.