What an incredible but blessed Navratri it has been for Chinmaya Gurukul this year. We had 9 days of Navratri chanting at the ashram followed by Vijaya Dashmi Celebrations. And then to top that we had our annual Navratri Mela held at Duluth High school , very well organized and well attended.
The preparation for puja started a week in advance of Navratri. The puja team got busy setting up the Altars where our beautiful Devis ,Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, sat waiting for us to come. Simultaneously we had golu setup done . This beautiful collection of dolls arranged in steps has great Vedantic meaning, each of the steps representing our different stages of evolution, culminating at the top altar with realization which is our goal. It is also an incredibly fun and bonding activity here at our ashram where the young and the young at heart bonded alike.
Puja team had also organized the shlokas that were to be chanted daily and also the colors of each day. Devotees gathered each day at the ashram, bringing prasadam and flowers . Coordinators for each day ensured everything was setup in advance for Aunty to start the puja. It was a treat to watch Sushma Aunty help the puja coordinator and start the chanting. Lalita Sahasranamam was chanted every day while certain other shlokas would be changed depending on the day. But what we all gathered around for was Aunty reciting Devi MAhatmyam and explaining the stories. We were all wide eyed little kids listening to stories of the killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha at the hands of PArvati Devi. Finally after the soulful Jai AMbe Aarti, there would be the chanting of ‘Sarva Mangala Mangalye’ 11 times and prostrating on each one . With all that exercise most of us were ready for the prasad. All of this culminated in the VijayaDashmi Celebration on the 10th day which marked an end to the festivities. The other highlight of this Navratri was that kids got to check out the Golu and also participate in garba at the Ashram . Every grade kids enjoyed the amazing music set by our in house Djs 🙂
So you thought that was the end of it? Not so fast .After 3 years we had our Navrati Mela this year on the 28th of Oct. Anticipating a crowd of over 800, the Mela team zeroed in on a venue which is a local high school where the gym could be used to accommodate the crowd of swirling dancers. Different groups got busy . Social Media team started publicizing the events, more efficient ways of managing tickets were tested, food team got busy trying to come up with the menu , Teams looked out for sponsors for the event . There was a team to figure out the logistics of how everything would be managed, where the music would be setup, who would be the DJ and of course there was live Golu and so much more. Live Golu is an event exclusive to Chinmaya Gurukul ,where Pre K – 3 rd graders are dressed up as diff gods, freedom fighters etc and sit on the Golu steps with devotional music, props and decorations.
Finally on 28th Oct , as we entered the school, the ticketing team had setup booths where people where checked in with a QR code. Inside the gym ,as parents gathered behind a black curtain, it fell away to reveal our little gods and goddesses. There was Shiva, Durga, Murugan, Ayyapaa, Rama Sita and myriad Krishnas. There was Jijamata and an Indian bride and groom and so many more.It was wonderful to watch the kids sit still as parents clicked away . There was a parade which was followed by Garba.
An altar had been setup by the volunteers at the center around which the dancing started. What started out as hesitant steps by a few dancers gathered speed and before we knew we were all dancing together in tune and sometimes not in tune with the music. It was a wonderful sight to see the colorful dresses, the wide smiles , the love , the bonding and unadulterated joy that was on everyone’s faces. There was the line dance where even inexperienced dancers can join the fun and Sanedo where we got to bring out some funky moves.
Meanwhile the food team had setup in the gym and did a great job managing the crowds, because guess what happens when people dance? They get hungry but we had Annapurna beaming on us and everyone was well fed.
Finally after Aarti, the celebrations slowly winded down. Cleanup teams gathered making sure we got everything put away . While we cannot thank out volunteers enough , we also want to recognize the cleanup and janitorial staff at the school who did a big part of the cleanup.
Thus it was that Navratri the festival may have ended at our Ashram, but the celebration of the Strength , Love and Knowledge which these Devis embody will continue in our hearts.