Durga Pooja with a difference

Posted By: Poonam Srivastava/Atika Singh                

Like Lent before Easter for Christians and Roza for Muslims, in the case of Hindus the nine days of Navratras, twice every calendar in spring and autumn are times of fasting, prayers and a unique opportunity for self improvement. Many of us engage in the routine rituals of not consuming cereals or non vegetarian food items when fasting on these days. However, we can improvise and add our own twist to starting long desired life style changes during this time. For instance one can try giving up on habits like smoking or start an exercise routine or go for a health check up as part of our Pooja drill. If we can succeed in instilling some change in our lives for ten days through the faith channel, it is a very good way of encouraging long term permanent lifestyle changes for our betterment. So have you ever tried to do something different like this? It would be great to learn of your experiments which may serve as a role model for other readers.

It can also be a good period to make other forms of investments like working on improving neglected personal and professional relationships. We worship Goddess Durga as the special presiding deity during this festival. It is a good reminder about gender sensitization and to extend the same respect to other women folk around us. A special prayer ceremony and sweets are offered to little girls traditionally towards the end of Navratras. We have observed many families presenting gifts to underprivileged girls as kanjaks on this occasion which is very touching. One can go a step further and make a longer commitment of maybe educating a young girl from a disadvantaged background as our form of offering special prayers and gratitude. Similarly at work gender issues can be resolved through special communication workshops to ensure staff motivation and participation.

Durga Pooja is special as it is also time for singing, dancing, late nights but with a difference in that it brings us closer to our traditional culture instead of the westernized disco brand of entertainment. It works very well especially for the younger generation to learn about our folklore and heritage from our elders which might otherwise stand the risk of getting lost. It is also a good way of integrating the modern with traditional. We can go shopping to new age malls for goodies which are equally geared up with festival ideas and promotional themes to nurture the spirit of celebration. Children lead us better when at school their interest is inculcated through special educational and celebratory events about different festivals. Often taking time to participate in some of these children’s activities can be a reinvigorating experience to break the stressed out monotony of adult life.

These days the environment debate also features prominently in all forms of celebration and we may feel attracted to ideas about doing things which don’t harm our environment like polluting water bodies through indiscrete immersion of chemically coated idols after the celebrations. It is challenging to think of solutions to such sensitive issues yet it’s never a dead end and we can make our minds find ways out of such quandaries.

Each one of us has at some point either heard or directly encountered a special tale that has made a festival time more memorable. Do share those magic moments as these stories inspire others with ideas of creativity and generosity by which we can make festivals more fun and special for ourselves, our loved ones and our larger surrounding communities.

Happy Durga Pooja Celebrations!

(Poonam Srivastava is a Delhi based writer who has published books and articles on subjects of social innovation and practical spirituality. She also actively volunteers her time to promote causes related to these spheres.)

(Atika Singh is a post graduate in Counseling Psychology from Amity Institute of Behavioral & Allied Sciences and graduate in History from Delhi University. She has been actively involved in the emotional counseling space; and is passionate about empowering individuals to deal with their personal and professional issues, and achieve greater success. She is a certified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner.)
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