"Programs held during Navratri celebration should be
about Righteousness (Dharma) and culture (Sanskruti)."
(Compiler: Mr. Hanumant Karumbelkar, Ratnagiri, India.)
Mr. Sudesh Surve, a resident of Mandavi, Ratnagiri, India, is a sculptor who has been sculpting the idols of Lord Ganesh and the female deity (Devi) for the past six years. He is also a member of the Navratrotsav Mandal in Mandavi. His thoughts on his art of sculpting and Navratri celebration are given below.
Sculpt idols from Shadu clay (a type of clay) instead of from plaster of Paris
Mr. Surve mentioned that he looks upon sculpting idols not as a profession, but as an art. He uses Shadu clay for making sculpture. He said that he does not make idols of plaster of Paris material because it does not dissolve in water properly. Hence, after immersing such idols, some parts of them may be seen floating near the seashore or riverbank. He said he feels distressed seeing the remnants of idols floating thus. He said that he makes idols of different forms of the female deity (Devi), such as sitting on the lion or tiger, destroying the demons (asur), seated, etc.
Realization that the Goddess Herself is getting the idol sculpted through him
Sometimes after completing an idol, Mr. Surve realizes that the Goddess Herself Who got it sculpted, using him as a medium. He has noticed that the atmosphere at home is Blissful when an idol is being sculpted. Also, ever since he started sculpting idols, he has never experienced any financial or physical constraints.
Experience of increase in unity in the town during Navratri
While mentioning about celebration of Navratri, Mr. Surve said that before the beginning of Navratri, everyone from various parts of their town comes together to discuss and plan the celebration. Accordingly, they celebrate it collectively in the main areas of the town instead of celebrating it individually. They celebrate Navratri not only for the Garbha/Dandiya ras, but also with the intention of uniting all the townspeople. During the celebration, they organize spiritual programs, such as singing holy songs (bhajans), performing ritualistic fire (Chandiyag), etc. They play only holy songs on the public celebration music system.
Members of their organization are assigned a satseva responsibility each to perform for the 10 days of Navratri celebration. During the celebration they organize different types of programs for children. For the award ceremony, they invite a person who is good in character, rather than inviting politicians. During this period most people from their town do not consume meat, alcohol or tobacco.
Donations for celebration should be voluntary not demanded
Regarding collecting donations and playing the music system during the celebration, Mr. Surve said that they follow time limits (as set by the local government) for Dandiya ras and only accept donations that people give voluntarily.
Organization members' attention to preventing misbehavior during celebration
Mr. Surve said that from the rice and coconuts offered to the female deity (Devi) during Navratri celebration, they prepare sacred offering (prasad) and distribute it to all the townspeople. Smoking, drinking alcohol or chewing tobacco are prohibited in the celebration. During the celebration, it is made sure that people are not disturbed, by keeping the noise level low and not obstructing the traffic by selecting the celebration venue with care, etc. Since the intention behind the celebration is to unite the townspeople, help from the police for managing the celebration is not requested.
Programs during celebration should be about Righteousness (Dharma) and culture (Sanskruti)
Mr. Surve suggested that programs during Navratri celebration should be educational and informative. Programs that provide information on our Dharma should be held. He further said that our benefit lies in behaving as per our Scriptures or Holy texts. Hence, during Navratri celebration, their organization holds sattvik programs for children like grammatically correct writing, memorizing holy verses (shlokas), etc.
Social service during celebrations
Mr. Surve mentioned that as a part of the celebration of Navratri, they take up a social service project and provide opportunities for people to volunteer their time and effort. During the last three years' celebrations, they have cleaned the local crematorium (smashanbhoomi) and cemetery (kabrastan), and temple, respectively.
On the day of immersion of the idols of Navratri, Mr. Surve's group waits for the rallies of other groups to complete their idols' immersions. They also perform ritualistic worship (puja) of the idols brought by other groups for immersion. Mr. Surve's group goes for immersion of their idols only after other groups' immersions are done. During their group's immersion rally, they use moderation when throwing Gulal (red color powder) as a symbol of victory and festive spirit. They sing only holy songs in the rally.