LAFAYETTE — The nearly 400-member Lafayette Gujrati community is set to celebrate the beginning of the nine-day Navratri festival tonight in the Heymann Park Recreational Center.
Events begin with a 6 p.m. sit-down dinner that features traditional Indian cuisine, such as rice, lentil soup and puri bread. A traditional dance and other festivities begin at 7 p.m.
Navratri is a religious festival indigenous to the Gujrat state of western India. Its cultural significance lies in its ties to the goddess Amba in her three female forms: Durga, goddess of valor, worshipped for the first three days of the festival; Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, worshipped for the second three days; and Sharaswati, goddess of knowledge and art, worshipped for the final three days.
“Special thanks is also given to Mother Earth, who gives agricultural produce,” said Karishma Sha, 26, a native of Gujrat. “It’s her time.”
Navratri begins on the first day of the Hindu month Ashwina, which usually falls in September or October. It started as an agricultural festival to give thanks for a bountiful rice harvest after the three-month monsoon season in Gujrat, a state in western India. Today, it retains much of its religious origin, but its focus is more on entertainment and social activity.
Traditional dances include the garba and dandiya-rasa. Garba is the dance performed by women encircling a decorated pot with a traditional candle inside. Dancers move to the complicated rhythms of traditional songs passed down among generations. Dandiya rasa incorporates sticks with tiny bells, called ghungrus, on the tips. The bells jingle as the sticks are struck in a complicated, rhythmic pattern during an elaborate dance that involves multiple partners.
“It’s one festival that brings a lot of Indians together and gives them something to unite around,” said Jayprakash Patel, 56, event organizer. “It carries a lot of our tradition and is a thing to enjoy.”