There is a special festival happening within the Hindu community which begins 17 October and ends 25 October.
The religious festival Navratri is a celebration of Goddess Durga and her many different forms of Goddesses. It is associated with the battle that took place between Durga and demon Mahishasura and celebrates the victory of Good over Evil.
These nine days are solely dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine avatars with different prayers held, along with traditional dances, food, and music at the end of the festival.
They will be celebrating a nine-day festival called Navratri, but due to the pandemic, changes have had to be made to ensure the safety of others.
Kiran Bali MBE JP General Secretary, Hindu Society of Kirklees, and Calderdale said, “Navratri is an important nine day long auspicious Hindu festival dedicated to worshiping of Goddess Durga, an exemplar of the cosmic energy and her representative magnificent forms.”
“It is a time of renewal and reinvigoration to bring out our positive qualities. Each manifestation of Goddess Durga exemplifies a distinctive virtue and is believed to accord spiritual and worldly fulfilment.”
She said during the nine-day festival chanting of mantras, renditions of bhajans or holy songs and devotional dance accompany the Navratri Puja rituals for nine consecutive days.
Normally, they would gather as a community at the Mandir (Hindu Temple) for this joyous festival early in the day to prepare and cook for the prayers later during the day.
Bali said this is all part of the selfless service that we practice in Hinduism. The devotional singing, poetry and garba dance would take place and then everybody who is not fasting on the days of Navratri would sit together for a vegetarian meal.
The evening would conclude quite late and this would continue for the full festival bringing a sense of togetherness and cooperation to us.
Due to local lockdowns the community will be celebrating a little differently this year by congregating virtually through Zoom.
Bali said, “We have been congregating through Zoom since March on a weekly basis, and this has served to maintain a strong sense of community and virtual interaction at these challenging times.”
“It has been a new and exciting experience and we have appreciated this medium of gathering virtually.”
For the community, they believe the Mandir is a place of divinity with spiritual vibrations to unite humans with God.
This year they are sad that Navratri cannot be celebrated as a community through the joyous and interactional devotional singing and dance.
However, the faith and appreciation are also strengthened through the distance that the community are seeing.
Bali said, “One of the beautiful aspects of Hinduism is that we can offer devotion in various ways and that worship is not confined to being of a communal nature, but also as an individual at home through silence, meditation and reflection to integrate the body, mind and spirit.”
One community member will be at the Mandir to offer special prayers for all the community every day.
Restrictions are in place to protect everyone and members of the community have been actively ensuring that these guidelines are upheld.
Bali said “We believe that the whole world is one family. It is our duty to protect each other and abide by the laws of the land.”
For future festivals they will celebrate by abiding the government guidelines and that members stay at home and pray during this time,
Bali said, “The Health and Safety of all the wider community is paramount and an integral part of Hinduism is the importance of upholding compassion and care through solidarity.”
“We are also conscious that we have a ‘new normal’ and we are looking at this in a creative and positive spirit to reflect our broader environment and our resolve towards good health for all. May the Goddess Durga bestow upon everybody peace, happiness, and good health.”
She added how the significance of Navratri is more pressing this year as we pray for empowerment and enlightenment during the dark times of Covid.
“As we proceed to Diwali later in the month, the message of victory of light over darkness strongly resonates with the current climate.”