Navratri 2023: Take A Look At Traditional Maharashtrian Navratri

Navratri 2023: Take A Look At Traditional Maharashtrian Navratri

Goregaon-resident Smita Naik and her husband Girish are both excited and weary. The retired bankers are prepping to welcome Devi for Navratri

Yogesh PawarUpdated: Saturday, October 21, 2023, 03:13 PM IST
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Ranjita Putunkar from Waghbil, Ghodbunder in Thane organises Bhondla every Navratri. |

Goregaon-resident Smita Naik and her husband Girish are both excited and weary. The retired bankers are prepping to welcome Devi for Navratri. It is also their only grandchild’s fourth birthday. “I’ve left Mirav’s birthday arrangements to his parents,” says the Naik, 64 who adds, “As the eldest daughter-in-law, I ensure everything for ghatasthapana is according to what my mother-in-law did and her mother-in-law did,” she says about their familial Navratri.

Ghatasthapana (water-filled kalash with coconut and diya for Devi worship), also involves sowing nine kinds of seeds (representing fertility, food security) on a soil bed. Watered twice a day, these sprout into grass which is worshipped.

Naik smiles at the altar, “Navratri for me is like the daughter-I-never-had visiting her maternal home. I do everything for Her, even giving up non-veg, onions and garlic,” and hums a Bhondla (called Haathga in Western Maharashtra) song about mothers and daughters while fondly remembering this age-old tradition. “Women sang and danced in a circle (around an image of the Hasta Nakshatra) in different homes daily. The hostess of the house treated everyone with khirapat,” she reminisces and laments, “The flat system and appropriatory Gujratification is destroying the Maharashtrian Navratri.” 

Goregaon resident Smita Naik has an unbroken family legacy of ghatasthapana from several generations...

Goregaon resident Smita Naik has an unbroken family legacy of ghatasthapana from several generations... |

But this destruction has not reached 28 km away in Thane’s Waghbil, Ghodbunder, where women still gather in a community space for Bhondla. “We want to keep our cultural legacy alive,” says local resident Ranjita Putunkar who remembers going to different wadas for Bhondla. “I miss that. All of us knew so many Bhondla songs by heart. The dancing went on till Kojagiri.”

Despite conscious invisibilisation in mainstream media and Bollywood, the Maharashtrian Navratri has always had its own unique regional flavour. “Such invisibilisation seems like a punishment for its resistance to socio-political and cultural invasion,” explains cultural historian Sachin Parab. He underlines how this region was always into Shaktism. “In fact Lord Ganesh arrived in Konkan as a Shakta deity worshipped with his mother Gauri.”

Prithviaraj & Jyoti Hingale are descendants of the family that found the Goddess' idol in the sea while fishing.

Prithviaraj & Jyoti Hingale are descendants of the family that found the Goddess' idol in the sea while fishing. |

Devi worship and Navratri celebration predates Chhatrapati Shivaji’s reign, Parab observes and says, “Vagina worship as Lajja Gauri (like Kamakhya, Assam) was widely prevalent in the Deccan region and these idols still emerge in excavations.”

No wonder five of the 12 jyotirlingams and 3.5 shaktipeethams (Kolhapur, Tuljapur, Mahur, Saptashringi) are located in Maharashtra. “Shivaji Maharaj built/patronised several Devi shrines and was a devotee of Bhavani,” avers Parab who adds, “Look at our music forms like jaagar, gondhal, etc. They all invoke Devi.”

He further says: “Peshwas gave Ganesh worship supremacy and that caught on as the Brahminical stranglehold on the region tightened.” Parab cites Prabodhankar (Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s father)’s autobiography, to explain how this went on till the same Lord Ganesh who came riding piggyback with Devi worship opened doors to Maharashtra’s Sarvajanik Navratri in 1926 as a counter to the ‘Brahmin-dominated Ganeshotsav’ ushered by an inclusive anti-caste social reform campaign.

Hinglaj Mata temple at Vesave village in Andheri....

Hinglaj Mata temple at Vesave village in Andheri.... |

Though donations were gathered from individuals across castes at the Dadar’s NC Jawale Road Ganeshotsav, the all-Brahmin arranging committee ensured even speakers, singers, and kirtankars were only Brahmins. “This was challenged and Prabodhankar, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and S K Bole led a procession to the Ganeshotsav venue. There Prabodhankar threatened to smash the idol if Brahmins stuck to caste apartheid,” recounts Parab.

Eventually though a compromise saw Ambedkar’s associate Ganpat Jadhav ‘Madkebua’ hand over flowers to a Brahmin priest as an offering, Prabodhankar decided to start an inclusive Navratri under the aegis of Lokahitvadi Sangh. And it soon caught on.

Goregaon resident Smita Naik & her husband Girish feel the Goddess is the daughter who comes visiting

Goregaon resident Smita Naik & her husband Girish feel the Goddess is the daughter who comes visiting |

This inclusive arc of the Mother Goddess goes beyond caste, class, and even nation states as is evident at the Navratri crowd at the Hinglai temple at Mumbai’s Vesave fishing village. “She represents syncretism for Indians and Pakistanis, Hindus and Muslims, Kolis and Sindhis,” explains local Koli resident Pradip Tapke who adds, “Along with Kolis, Hinglaj Mata is revered by several warrior and trading clans across the subcontinent.” No wonder there are temples dedicated to her in Hinglajgarh in MP's Mandsaur; Hinglajpura in Gujarat's Mehsana; temples in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Bhilwara in Rajasthan; across Maharashtra’s Solapur, Kolhapur and Gadhinglaj; Shimoga, Hubli and Sirsi in Karnataka; in the Cauvery delta across TN and even in Odisha and Bengal.

As one bows down with the realisation how Devi is the glue which joins people across caste, class and political divides and looks up, Hinglai Mata is smiling.

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