HYDERABAD: Hyderabad is known for its Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb, and the cultural diversity is evident during this festive season. Drive through the city and you can see that apart from Bathukamma, the State’s most important festival, how different cultures and communities are celebrating Navaratri to the hilt in their own traditional way.
Garba from West India, Durga Pujo from the East, Bommai Gollu from the far South and Ramlila from the North — all of these are happening in the city in a grand way as you read this piece. While in one street Telugu women, dressed in pattu sarees, sing traditional Bathukamma songs and make elaborate flower decorations, walk a little further and you will find Bengalis performing aarti with Pujor Dalis, followed by an intense Dhunuchi Naach. Stroll ahead and you can hear Phalguni Pathak’s Garba numbers blaring from amplifiers as the Gujaratis dance in perfect sync to the upbeat tunes.
A small house around the street corner is well lit, but quiet. The door is left wide open, the curtains are tied up and an elderly Tamilian couple decorates a mini stage to place Bommala Koluvu (a festive display of dolls and figurines). Now that you have an idea of how Navratri celebrations look like in Hyderabad, let’s get into the details of how every community enjoys the nine-day festival, giving it a unique charm of its own.
The most important festival of Telangana, the women make small Bathukammas and immerse them in water. “The festival originates from the tale of Bathukamma, an avatar of Goddess Lakshmi, who visits our home for nine days to bless us,” says Vijaya Lakshmi, a resident of Hyderabad and a traditional story keeper. “For the first five days after Mahalaya Amavasya, we clean the house, the pooja room and the courtyard. In the courtyard, we apply cow dung mixed with water and use rice flour to draw rangolis. We later prepare the Bathukamma with cow dung cakes and decorate the front yard with small conical lumps. The flowers are arranged in circular layers on a brass plate. Sometimes, we also place a small brass lamp atop the decoration,” says Vijaya Lakshmi. On the final day of the festival, a day before Dasara, the men go out to buy flowers such as Gunugu, Tangedu and Chamanti, for the women to arrange them. All the women in the community get together sing the Uyyala song as they walk to the nearby lake, where they immerse the Bathukamma.
Durga Pujo begins on the sixth day of Navaratri, with intricately decorated Durga idols placed at pandals and homes. On the seventh day (Saptami), a small banana plant, called Kola Bou, is taken to a water body where it’s washed. We then dress it in a red-bordered sari and bring it back in a Jathara and place it near the goddess. From the eighth day onwards, prayers, poojas traditional chants, Rabindra Geet and Annadanam’s take place. Bishwajeet Mukharjee, the secretary of Hyderabad Bangla Samithi which organises a grand Durga Pujo every year, says: “A fast is observed by both women and men during Navratri, until Navami, the ninth day. On the tenth day, married women initiate the procession on Vijaya Dashami by first applying vermillion on the goddess and then to each other. It is a symbolic ritual of marriage and fertility. Thereafter, the idol is immersed in water.”
The folk dance represents the fight between Mahishasura and Goddess Durga. Garba is not to be confused with Dandiya Raas which represents the love between Radha and Krishna. Hence, it is also called Raas Leela. “Today, both Dandiya and Garba are performed during Navratri in Hyderabad. Garba is a devotional dance performed in front of Goddess Durga, whereas Raas Leela is performed by youngsters for fun,” says Shanthanu Shah, a mechanical engineer at Megha Engineers, who dances Garba every year. “We are fond of playing Garba is organised by the Gujarati and Marwadi communities at cultural spaces, resorts, clubs and dance studios across the city. The dance is performed around the Garbha Deep, which represents life and literally translates to the lamp of the womb.
Although Navratri is celebrated across the length and breadth of India, the long-standing tradition of Golu marks the celebrations in the Southern States, including in Telangana where it is known as Bommala Koluvu. “Dolls and figurines are placed on a step-stand, symbolising the spiritual progression of human beings. The term ‘Kolu’ comes from the Tamil words ‘Kolu Veetriruthal’, which means the presence of kings and queens in the court. The term describes the presence of gods and goddesses surrounded by their devotees and saints,” says JS Vasan, who has preserved ancestral Golus for nearly 12 generations. “Dolls of saints and sages revered in the Hindu religion occupy the top few steps, while god and goddesses are placed above the them. The Kalash or Kalasam is kept in the middle as it denotes devotion, which is considered to be the centrepoint,” he adds. Different themes also lend an interesting and insightful spin to the tradition. “Today, even Spiderman and Rajinikanth’s Kabali and Pettai have found a place among the traditional tales of Koorma avatar of Vishnu or Sundarakandam from Ramayana. At times, even political assassinations make their way to the display,” says Vasan.
Dasara marks the day when Goddess Durga clashed with demon Mahishasura’s army and slayed him once and for all. But, the festival is also believed to be the day when Lord Rama defeated Ravana, and the victory is celebrated with fervour. Ramlila, a drama in which Ramayana is enacted, is an integral part of the nine-day festivities. Effigies of Ravana, and his brothers Meghnad and Kumbhakaran are burnt to represent the victory of good over evil. “The Ramlila is performed by several theatre artistes in the city at melas and gardens. The tradition has changed over the years. Now, artists enact only the conclusive phase of the Ramayana,” Sri Baji, a well-known actor from Surabhi Theatre, says.
Garba from West India, Durga Pujo from the East, Bommai Gollu from the far South and Ramlila from the North — all of these are happening in Hyderabad as you read this piece. Read on to know how different communities celebrate Navaratri