Auckland Malayali Hindu Samajam commences Navaratri celebrations

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The whole world becomes a stage as daily events go online

Mahishasura Mardhini or Durga forms the Central Deity of Navaratri celebrations (Photo AMHS Facebook)
Soumini Varma

Soumini Varma
Auckland, 7, 2021

The Auckland Malayali Hindu Samajam commenced its Navaratri celebrations today (October 7, 2021) showcasing the cultural heritage of Kerala and the talent inherent in the community.

The Samajam Could not conduct the nine-day programme at a public venue because of lockdown Alert Level 3 restrictions currently in force in Auckland.

Samajam President Chelat Divakara Menon said that organising such a festival online takes the same effort and time as conducting it at one of the venues in Auckland.

“However, we are disappointed that we are unable to meet and greet our members and guests from various communities personally, watch our cultural programmes and enjoy our Kerala cuisine. We hope that the talents of our participating members and their families being showcased online will delight people all over the world,” he said.

Mr Menon said that the Festival this year also has the participation of amateur and professional artistes residing in Kerala.

Papakura Ganesha Temple Chief Priest Parameswaran (Chandru) initiates Navaratri celebrations of AMHS at his home on October 7, 2021 (Photo from Facebook)

Navaratri: Scope and Extent

Navaratri literally translates to Nine Nights (Nava = 9, Ratri =night). 

These are nine nights of celebration and worship.

There are four seasonal Navaratri programmes celebrated in various parts of India. Out of these the Sharada Navaratri (September/October) is one of most celebrated and observed Festivals, with the worship of the Divine Feminine in different forms all nine nights.

Covid Alert Level restrictions mean that our celebrations of Navaratri, here in Auckland, is limited to online celebrations. AMHS has been actively supporting the community during various Covid Alert Levels. We are happy to say that we could help in the Indian Diaspora effort of providing free food to the needy.

Mahishasura Mardhini Recitation Group (Athulya Shreejit Nair, Bindu, Gayathri, Indu, Komal, Preethi, Sheetal B, Sheetal S, Swarna) Photo Supplied

We are excited to announce that various cultural and other programmes of this year’s Navaratri Festival will be streamed via Facebook and YouTube.

Following are the These are the main highlights of our programs

We have 43 ladies from our community singing Sri Adi Shankara’s famous Mahishasura Mardini Stuthi – Ayi Giri Nandini Nanditha Medhini.

Navaratri: Theme Bhajans and Songs

Our members’ families and friends back in India also get a chance to showcase their talents for our wider communities. There will be dance performances by expert classical dancers within our community. We have a day dedicated to other states of India, to understand and know, how Navaratri is celebrated.

And with the help of our sponsors Biju Surendran from Menon & Associates (2011) Ltd and Julie Ithappiri (VJ Associates Ltd), we are proud to stage two ancient traditional art forms from Kerala, namely Kathakali and Prabandha Koothu (also known as Chakyar Koothu).  These art forms are being presented exclusively for AMHS.

Bhairavi Vandana: Dancers Athira, Archana, Athulya, Chithra, Dhannya, Remita, Remya, Renjini, Shalini (Photo Supplied)

New Social Club 

Apart from cultural programmes, AMHS is inaugurating a Social Club exclusively for its members. This will conduct many activities including teaching our members (interested adults and children) the culture and traditions of Kerala, Spoken English for new immigrants who struggle with the language and programmes to integrate our members into the New Zealand Society.

Finally, on Vijaya Dashami (the last day) of Navaratri, as per Kerala tradition and culture, we will facilitate Vidyarambham (the beginning of Learning). This is the day when children (from two years of age) are introduced to the world of letters. Usually, an elder person in the family or someone who is considered wise and knowledgeable, writes on the child’s tongue with Gold, reciting, “Om Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namaha.”

Kathakali

Kathakali is a classical art form of Kerala. Meaning, Story-Play, it is displayed in dance form.

The text of Kathakali is known as ‘Attakatha’ (story used for the play) in Malayalam (Mani Pravalam interspersed with Sanskrit). Many ancient critically acclaimed literary works in Malayalam are in this form.

The AMHS Navaratri virtual celebration will incorporate a short excerpt from ‘Nalacharitha’, written by 18th Century Unnayi Warrier.

This is a love story of King Nala and Princess Damayanthi. Our performance will be that of a Swan that acted as a messenger between the King and the Princess.

Kathakali involves many artistes including actors, two singers and two percussionists on stage.

Behind the scenes – Aniyara (the Green Room) also requires artistes specialised in that field for the elaborate makeup of Kathakali.  Due to Covid, all celebrations and Festivals in Kerala have been halted for the past 18 months and many artistes suddenly found themselves without work. The art field is slowly coming back in Kerala and AMHS, with the support of Menon & Associates (2011) Limited, is proud to have contributed towards this through the Kathakali performance. 

We will stream Kathakali on Mahanavami at 7.30 pm (NZT) on September 14, 2021.

Mohini Aattam artistes Prenitha, Shalini, Soumini, Shalini, Preji, Dhanya (Photo Supplied)

Prabandha Koothu (Chakyar Koothu)

Koodiyattam is a form of Sanskrit Theatre, traditionally performed in Hindu Temples in Kerala. This Theatre is believed to be at least 2000 years old, making it the oldest living theatre tradition in the world. UNESCO has recognised this as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.’ 

Prabandha Koothu is a solo male-only art form, a sub-genre of Koodiyattam. 

The artiste, in elaborate makeup, narrates a Sanskrit verse from Ramayana or Mahabharata or any other Sanskrit text usually in the form of Champu Kavya (Prose and Poetry). 

He then explains the meaning in Malayalam.

Mohini Attam Dancer and Teacher Dr Dhanya Sreekanth (Photo Supplied)

The artiste has to be a master of narrative skills. He usually intersperses the meaning with current affairs and modern situations, spicing with wit and humour.

The artiste is called Vidooshaka (comedian) in Prabandha Koothu.

It is said that he enjoyed the privilege to mock and criticise Kings.

For AMHS Navaratri Celebration, ‘Panchali Swayamvaram’ will be performed. 

Written by the renowned 16th Century Scholar and Writer Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, the artiste describes the scenes of the marriage hall of Draupadi where all the powerful Kings, including the disguised Pandavas, are present.  

South Indian Classical Dancer Niranjana Sethu (Photo Supplied)

AMHS, with the support of Julie Ithappiri from VJ Associates Limited, is proud to bring this ancient art form to our community and the younger generation who may otherwise not have a chance to see it.

The Prabandha Koothu will be performed on Durgashtami at 8 pm (NZT) on October 13, 2021.

Online Streaming

We invite all to keep a watch out for our informative and entertaining Navaratri Programmes on our Facebook event page https://fb.me/e/1jQyGz6S7

These programs will be streamed online on our Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/Aucklandmalayalihindu/ and our YouTube channel  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOmhkGssC6t3zWanvXuU8mA  over the nine days.
Soumini Varma is the Secretary of Auckland Malayali Hindu Samajam.

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