LANCASTER – Indian communities across the world are celebrating Navratri this week. The Hindu custom is celebrated over nine days in September-October, and observed throughout India to commemorate the goddess Durga.
Locally, hundreds in the Antelope Valley Indian community, who are devotees of Durga, are celebrating Navratri by observing a fast for the protection of health and prosperity, says Mamta Jawa, owner of India Sweets and Spice.
“Each day [of the fast] represents each individual Indian goddess,” said Jawa. “We fast by eating only vegetables that are grown underground.”
She says food prepared during the Navratri fast should be cooked without onions and garlic and should be pure vegetarian meals. The observance and fast continues for eight or nine days according to the lunar calendar. Navratri 2011 started September 28th and will end October 6th. During this time, the mother goddess is said to appear in different forms. Each form signifies various traits of the goddess’ influence.
During the first three days, the goddess is separated as a spiritual force called Durga, also known as Kali, in order to destroy all impurities.
During the second three days the Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing inexhaustible wealth on her devotees.
And the final days are spent worshipping the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.
“The eight or ninth day of the fast celebrates victory over evil,” says Jawa.
On the eighth day of the observance devotees will perform Kanchka, a ritual where young prepubescent girls are ceremonially worshipped.
“We will have about 11 girls, under the age of six, who are meant to [symbolize] a respectful goddess,” says Jawa. “We worship them by washing their feet and giving them offerings. You can give them money, gifts or anything you want. It is like you’re offering it to the goddess; you’re offering it to Durga.”
Jawa says the girls are also dressed in red scarves and made up to represent a “true goddess picture.”
“It’s symbolic of the goddess, as if she is here and you are worshipping her,” says Jawa. “That’s how you finish off the fast.”
The young girls, in turn, give a blessing to devotees, which can be whatever is in their hearts. Jawa and fellow AV Indians will hold the Kanchka ritual at India Sweets and Spice on October 4th at 11:30 a.m.
They are seeking young prepubescent girls to partake in the ritual. She says girls do not necessarily have to be Indian, and any girl under the age of six is eligible.
For more information on Navratri or if you would like your daughter to participate in the Kanchka ceremony, contact Mamta Jawa at India Sweets and Spice at 661-948-6059.
On the last day of Navratri, October 4th, India Sweets and Spice will also be giving away free offerings to customers. The store is located at 1832 W. Ave. K Lancaster, CA 93534.