The fact that Durga Puja/ Navaratri is a hugely pompous and popular festival all over India, amazed me always. Being a Bengali, for me, Durga Puja is more than a festival. It’s an emotion for me. And when I got the chance to read a book that would help me know more about this ’emotion’, I readily grabbed it. Nine Nights of the Goddess brought me insights about this festival that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
This book has compilation of essays about different forms of Navaratri and region-wise celebrations of this festival. Navaratri is a widely celebrated festival. From Nepal to the Southern Indian States. But they differ from each other on the basis of beliefs and course and propaganda. The compilation has been done by Caleb Simmons, Moumita Sen, and Hillary Rodrigues. The book is divided into 4 major parts namely, ‘Navaratri in the Court’, ‘Navaratri on Display’, ‘Navaratri Inside’ and ‘Navaratri at Home’. Each of these sections have multiple sections, giving justice to their section header. ‘Navaratri in Court’ brings the historical relevance and procedures followed by Kings and Royalties of Kathmandu, Mysore and Odisha in celebrating Navaratri. The first chapter being dedicated to the multiple myths behind the establishment of Goddess Durga or the period of Navaratri. ‘Navaratri on Display’ focuses on the materialistic side of Navaratri/Durga Puja.
From the political agenda in West Bengal to decorative installations of the Goddess in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. ‘Navaratri Inside’ has been dedicated to the pompous celebration of Durga Puja in Bengal and one of Benares’ aghor Sarkar Baba’s traditional Navaratri celebration amongst his followers. ‘Navaratri at Home’, as the name suggests, gives details about Kolu celebrations in urban South India and Kanya Puja in Northwest India.
Nine Nights of the Goddess is no doubt the most intriguing books on festivals I’ve read so far. I read about things I knew as well as about things I didn’t know. While sections of book narrates the age old myths of Lord Rama’s inaugural ceremony of the Goddess, the editors don’t forget to incorporate the many parallel myths about the festival. As I mentioned earlier, the book has given justice to the different states/countries that celebrate Navaratri/Durga Puja. The editors have provided intricate information about the Kanya Puja rituals in Northwestern India, the rituals that involve the display of dolls (or kolus) in royal and middle class households of Southern India, the Navaratri celebrations through Ram Lila in Benares and the week-long celebration of Durga Puja in Bengal. Not to forget, they have the dedicated chapters regarding the societal and political influence Navaratri has on the people.
The book also talks about the underlying feminism Navaratri shows, be it by celebrating a fierce and powerful female, or be it the by the way women predominantly associate themselves with the ceremony.
The book may in general serve useful to readers from different walks of life. Be it students, or historians, or professionals, or be it collectors. The professionalism of the book shows in the way it is written, with its expository and descriptive writing style. Nine Nights of the Goddess is a gem of a book. A must read if you want to know about why and how India celebrates its one of the grandest festival.
About the author(s)
Caleb Simmons is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Arizona. Moumita Sen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway. Hillary Rodrigues is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Canada. His books include Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: The Liturgy of the Durga Puja with Interpretations.
Author(s): Moumita Sen, Hillary Rodrigues, Caleb Simmons
Publisher: Aleph Book House
Release: November 2018
Genre: Non Fiction/Religion
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