Navratri Festival in Penang
festival devoted to mainly Hindu goddess Durga, a deity symbolising power or
Shakti and to whom devotees pray to for strength as well as power and wealth.
Meaning ‘nine nights’, Navratri is both a religious and cultural festival that
fuses puja, fasting and festive celebrations for nine days continuously.
Similarities of this Hindu festival and that of the Buddhist Nine Emperor Gods
festival have been observed and this year, 2015, they both fall on the same
dates. Navratri festival begins on 13 till 21 September.
This festival, stemmed from India where it is celebrated widely four times a
year. However, the one celebrated in September – October of each year is the
most important out of the four types of Navratri celebrated by Hindu devotees
and is considered the most vital or popular. It is also known as Sharad which
means beginning or Maha Navratri but in Malaysia, seeing this is the main one
celebrated, it is simply called Navratri.
It is celebrated at the start of the cool season of September – October and is
considered by Hindu believers to be a time for introspection as well as
purification. It is believed to be an auspicious period for new beginnings. The
first night of Navratri is believed to be when goddess Gurda cleanses the earth
of negative energy.
During the nine-day festival, the first three days are dedicated to the
adoration or worship of goddess Gurda for power, the next three days to Lakshmi
for wealth or prosperity and the final three days to Saraswati for wisdom or
knowledge. Devotees are known to abstain from meat, alcohol, grains and even
onions for nine days while in homes and while this fast is observed, a pot symbolising
the universe holds a lamp that is kept burning, uninterrupted, and throughout
the festival days is placed at a sacred spot.
On a cultural note, Navratri celebrations tend to be festive, seeping with
traditional Indian cultural music and devotional dance that uses slim wooden
sticks performed by devout performers in vividly colourful costumes. With this,
a high energy fuses the ambience and punctuates the celebration.
Where to See
In Penang, main spot to try catch this festival is the Sri Mahamariamman temple
on Lebuh Queen in George Town. It’s not only where religious rituals are
carried out during the festival days but also a chariot procession and
vegetarian meals are available. You may glimpse the procession along the roads
of Little India on the ninth day. Further information on the programme and
venue of this festival can be had by calling the Penang Hindu Endowment Board
at 04-650 5215.