Navratri Festival in Penang

A 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.

Its Background
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.