Thursday, September 24, 2009

Colours of Navratri

To me it was one of those fun things you do in an organsation- during the nine days of Navratri, every working day was allocated a colour, which everyone was to come dressed in. The first of those days was ‘red day’. Since I don’t possess any appropriate office attire in the colour, I could have gone either in gym sweats or a saree. It being the festive season, I chose the latter.

On the train, the ladies standing on either side of me were in red. “They’d fit right into my office today”, the thought momentarily flitted across my mind. At the next station, half a dozen ladies boarded the train, all in red. At the terminus, I saw three women standing together in a group – all were in red. I looked around the compartment- more than half the people were in various shades of red.

This was getting almost spooky- was the entire city in red? “But it is the festive season, and red is a very popular colour”, I reasoned to myself, and shut my eyes to the colour.

The next day was ‘sky blue’ day, another colour missing from my wardrobe. I dug out a kurta I hadn’t worn for over six years, and which was three sizes too big for me. And guess what colour the lady sitting next to me on the train was in– you guessed it, sky blue! With an acute sense of déjà vous, I looked around – more than half the women and many of the men were in sky blue.

Things were getting really complicated. The entire city couldn’t be following the colour code of my organisation? I fiddled around with google, and discovered something a lifetime of living in India hadn’t taught me.

A different manifestation of the Mother Goddess is worshipped on each of the nine days of the festival, and each is associated with a different colour. Which is why, in some parts of India, women dress according to the time honoured ‘Colours of Navratri”. With organisations adopting the colour code, the practice has now gone beyond the religious and has entered the realm of a purely secular social custom.

Which perhaps explains why there was a preponderance of green when the idol of the Mother Goddess was being taken to her place of worship on Saturday.

Today is ‘yellow day’, and with every yellow saree, kurta, shirt, skirt, or scarf that I see, my heart soars. If the twenty million people of a city can come together for an activity like this, can’t they be galvanized to achieve practically anything. Isn’t the change we all need, just waiting to happen?

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ladyfi said...

Lovely post. I can just imagine the city coming together in lovely rivers of colour!

dipali said...

Sounds so beautiful:)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It really does sound gorgeous. I've always envied the beautiful, flowing clothing in India.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Fiona - believe me, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Imagine so many people getting up in the morning and reaching for exactly the same colour. And I never knew there were so many shades of yellow.

@ dipali - it was. Incidentally, were you aware of this custom, or is it only a Maharashtrian/ Gujarathi one?

@ Elizabeth - our clothes are beautiful. The pity is that we have embraced Western attire and Western colours with so much enthusiasm, Indian garments are in danger of dying out :-(

dipali said...

I'm not quite sure- will have to check with Bengali friends.
In Thailand there are different colours associated with different days of the week, which many people still try to follow.

Cruella Collett said...

I remember a campaign a few years ago back home - wear red to support the victims of the conflict in Burma. Granted, a university is probably not representable in the total amount of people following this, but that day I saw people wearing red everywhere. It really is a quite powerful statement.

And I agree - it does show that people can come together and work towards a mutual goal. Truly inspiring.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Not to be the voice of doom and gloom, but….I wish it were so. I wish people could come together as easily as they observe clothing conventions. But, alas, humans being what they are, I’m doubtful it could or would happen for bigger issues of politics, prejudice, or money. Still, it’s a lovely thought and without lovely thoughts, where would we be.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Anything that brings people together is good. Feeling part of something larger than yourself is to start to imagine glorious possibilities. It sounds magical where you are right now.


Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Galen - much as hate admitting it even to myself, I do know that you are right. It is easier to get people to do the smaller things- it is getting them to rise over bigotry that is much more difficult. But again, if people could come together for something, that is the first step towards getting them to come together for bigger things.

@ Elspeth - the feeling of being a part of a collective is wonderful. Wouldn't it be great, it that spreads....

@ Mari - a university is not the same as a city, but it is an indication. And colour coding for fun is quite different from colour coding to make a statement. Maybe I start a movement to remember the victims of the November Bombay Terror Attacks by wearing green? Wouldn't a city of green be the most powerful statement to perpectuators of the terrorism that terror tactics don't work?

@ dipali - even in Hinduism, every day is associated with a colour (and a gemstone). We don't follow it, but my grandmother did. And my father always wore either blue or black on Saturday (I do too, when I remember).


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