Here Is How I Experience Navratri With My 5-Year-Old Daughter

Posted: October 21, 2015

I have a daughter and how she views Navratri is of importance to me, because it is a festival that celebrates a woman’s power in all its ferocity and grandeur. In other words, we value tradition but are fiercely individualistic in our interpretation of it.

Navratiri is my favourite festival. It celebrates women, the female force in all its awe-inspiring glory and my daughter, who is named after Parvati, shares my enthusiasm. Part of the reason why I want to celebrate Navratiri so thoughtfully and conscientiously is because I want to celebrate a woman-focused festival so that my daughter learns to celebrate herself and grows up to be a strong, independent woman.  Here are 5 ways that I take my daughter through Navratiri, that magical festival when kitchens smell of ghee and jiggery and when hands are messier, feet are lighter and voices are higher.

1. Wander the streets and visit the markets

For me, festival time in India is all about the energy, colour and fanfare on the streets, right from the lady selling flowers to the incantations that sear the dewy morning air. The flower and fruit markets are ablaze with colour. Itinerant vegetable vendors boast about going to their hometowns, grumbling women talk about having to stock their storerooms well in advance.

During Dasera, my daughter and I visit the Gandhi Bazaar market in Bangalore and also visit the doll shops in Malleshwaram. We look at all the varieties of golu dolls and even had a blink-and-you-will-miss-it moment when we spotted a Ganesha idol dressed up as Jesus in Calvary! We couldn’t photograph it but it was precisely why I took her there: the streets are where the real festivity plays out and we see a mix of cultures. We look at the art shops and their paintings. We look at all kinds of golu bommais (dolls).

2. Play with the dolls on display 

I take a lot of trouble putting up a golu display but I cannot understand people who censure children who want to play with the dolls on display. Aren’t dolls meant to be played with? I always imagined a doll to be unfulfilled if it is not played with, if a doll could have feelings. When I was a child, I used to play with the golu dolls of gods and goddesses – I would stage wars with Garuda helming an army of Ganeshas from a music band, each wielding a different instrument. I would enact stories that my mother had told me, with figurines of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna. To me, this humanizes the gods and mythologies. Wasn’t it Einstein who said that to bring up a brilliant child, we must read fairy tales to him or her? These stories, these mythologies, power a child’s imagination more than rituals do.

My daughter transposes the heads of the male and female chettayar bommais, she makes tigers wander into schools, and places a potter squat in the middle of a rich man’s wedding celebration. This, to me, is democracy.

3. Sing any song, not just classical, in front of the golu display

Saraswathi Pooja has always been an important tradition in our family. My mother, a Carnatic musician, always taught me to value knowledge above anything else and from all the rituals that form part of our culture, worshiping books and valuing art is very close to me.  As a child, I was a rebel and preferred rock music to Carnatic music, which was such a huge part of our house growing up – my father is a great singer and both my parents come from music families and my mother learned from some of the greatest musicians of our time. But my mother never forced me to learn her music and in fact, when we were asked to sing in front of golu displays, which is a tradition, I sang ‘Hey Jude’ by the Beatles, encouraged by my mom. Today, my daughter’s rendition of ‘Let It Go’ hits all the high notes in front of our golu!

My daughter transposes the chettayar bommais heads, she makes tigers wander into schools, and places a potter squat in the middle of a rich man’s wedding celebration. This, to me, is democracy.

 

4. Make a different golu display

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Photo courtesy Namitha Menon

We do a traditional golu display every year but with such wonderful, wacky and innovative golu ideas on display, we decided that next year, we will do somearnathing totally different. We are very keen to try Namitha Menon’s Picture Book Golu. My book-crazy five-year-old lost her mind when she saw these pictures and cannot wait for 2016!

5. Cook together

Yes it’s messy and yes the food may not turn out great but who cares? I involve my daughter in the kitchen as much as possible. She goes to a Montessori, so she loves working on pulses, grains and food. She picks peas out of their pods, lays the table, washes the raw banana pieces and so much more. She understands what she eats and what goes into making it, information that nurtures a five-year-old’s understanding of the ecosystem that she is part of.

To me, these experiences form my daughter’s history and I want them to be as eventful, colourful and truthful as possible. Do you have any unique ways that you celebrate Navratiri with your child?

Image via Navratiri2015

I am a work-from-home mother to an imaginative five-year-old girl. I

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