Rajinder Singh Rana
The holy town of Katra clips every year a new scene from historic Navratra festival, thereby creates spiritual ambience for the local people and devotees through a series of events one after another in nine days.
This huge celebration certainly leaves a profound and long lasting impression on the minds of people especially young who are witnessing a transformation in their traditions, customs and life styles which are the signs and symbols of an identity.
The Navratra festival at the base camp of the holy shrine is an event where artists from various states of the our country display their skills through songs, dance and processions mesmerizing the pilgrims and local people.
During the festival, a series of events and festivities are organized by the Department of Tourism in collaboration with Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, civil administration, local people and other agencies who make this sacred event memorable.
Every day, a new chief guest is invited for lightning of the lamp and performing other rituals of this holy festival. This year, the reception center has been fixed at Hotel Panchvati Continent. The chief guest accompanied by huge crowd of devotees, the procession passes through main bazaar, Chintamani and then to Yog Ashram.
A scintillating cultural panorama by Regional Outreach Bureau (ROB), Government of India is one of the attractions at Higher Secondary School Katra in which artists from different states showcase their local culture. The people also enjoy stunning presentations including Rouf and Bachnagma of Kashmir, Geetru of Ram Nagar by Ramalu Ram, Jabro dance of Ladakh and popular Kud of Bhaderwah. The blowing of Narsingha and other musical instruments during the festival reverberate through the holy town.
To give spiritual look to the festival, the Tourism Department has also introduced a three-day Ramleela show which is performed by Saink Colony Ramleela Club Jammu at Higher Secondary School. This show was stared after 26 years in 2017 at the same venue where jam packed ground evoked a very good response from the public and pilgrims. In the last year, three groups performed the show but this time only one group will participate.
The visitors will also witness 14th Mission Dosti Rustam-E-International Indian Style Dangal on 16 October at sports stadium in which apart will from male-wrestlers, females will also participate. This event is continuously attracting thousands of local people and tourists since it began. This time, wrestlers from Russia, Geogria and Ukarine have agreed to participate.
The main feature of the festival is Prabhat Pheri which was also started last year. The silence of early morning turns to abrupt happiness when huge gathering of people and tourists accompanied by musical groups walk through the town. The nine days daily walk in the form of Prabhat Pheri is like an event of revitalizing the essence of cross cultural amalgamation.
Another event attached to the festival titled ‘Mata Ki Kahani’ is performed by Natrang Jammu. Conceptualized, scripted and directed by Padamshree Balwant Thakur, this mesmerizing performance based on the entire legend of Mata Vaishno Devi certainly keeps the audience spellbound with its consecutive 16 shows in eight days. This theatrical presentation has resulted out of painstaking efforts of over 70 artists who brought this creation on the stage. The show ‘Mata Ki Kahani’ was started in 2017 and has become spiritual taste for local people and devotees.
The devotional song competition being practised since 1999 at base camp of holy shrine during Navratra festival is also center of attraction for people in which apart from budding singers, popular film celebrities and artists participate. The main architect of this show is Pervaz Dewan who for the first time gave idea for organizing this event 20 years back. The budding singers compete with one another in series of competitions. On the last day, awards are given to winners.
The people during the Navratra festivities also enjoy two-days laughter show usually organized by Katra Press Club and sponsored by Ashoka Hotel, Pallvi Group, Swagat Tent House, Bank of india, Northern Railways etc. The show also witnesses the presence of popular comedians and artists. Tourism Department has also permitted Katra Press Club and local people to hold Kavi Sammelan in which poets from different areas will participate. Assistant Director Tourism who is main organizer of the festival is continuously in touch all cultural teams, events incharges and civil society to make this festival a grand success.
To highlight the cultural themes of various states and tourism potential of Jammu and Kashmir various Jhankis are taken out. The jhankis depict the religious and cultural importance of Navratra in an artistic and symbolic way. Some Jhankis also display social and cultural ethos of our country.
On the last day of Festival, popular live show of ‘Baba Jitto’ reminds the people of their centuries old traditions and practices. The audience the enjoys the performance based on local culture linked to the popular history of Mata Vaishno Devi also.
In one of the events, Muskan Group encourages differently abled children to perform on the stage. In Raghunath temple at Katra, religious people are going to hold Bhagvad Katha this year. One after listening Katha is sure to get inner strength and experience peace of mind and joy.
In Navratra, people also keep fast to purify their inner mind, body and soul and try to appease Maa Durga through different religious activities. They think that sacrificing personal interests is main part of devotion to God. Navratra starts with the change of season with different physical, mental and spiritual effects. Thus, it is believed that by observing fasts, a balance in the energy takes place.
During the holy festival, lakhs of yatris perform holy darshan of Maa Vaishno Devi. The heavy rush of pilgrims appears in long rows from base camp of shrine to the Bhawan. The tourists can also enjoy new Tarakote Marg route which was recently opened for pilgrims.
(The writer is serving as Block Development Officer Gool)
Rajinder Singh Rana