Soak in the festive spirit of Belagavi Dasara

Soak in the festive spirit of Belagavi Dasara

Belagavi, ruled by several dynasties for several centuries, is a city of diverse cultures. Being situated at the confluence of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa has also meant a convergence of varied traditions. The Navaratri festival, dedicated to the three Goddesses, Mahalaxmi, Durga and Saraswati, is celebrated in various hues and forms by the various communities settled in the city.

One can see several temples in the city, with the Shahapur Vitthaldev Galli having the most number of temples, including Mahadev, Krishna, Vitthal, Balaji and  Venkateshwara shrines. Built in stone, the ancient Venkateshwara Temple is known for its unique Navaratri festival which is celebrated on the lines of Tirumala Temple in Tirupati. Starting from the first day of Navaratri, a palanquin of the Lord is ceremoniously carried within the temple for two days and then on the third day, the elaborate vaahana (the vehicle on which Venkateshwara rides) is brought out.

It carries the utsava murtis, which are carried by devotees on a special wooden palanquin, flaunted by the temple flags on both sides. Children hold and ring the gong with a wooden hammer. Divine vehicles such as Hanuman, tiger, eagle, peacock, elephant and horse are colourfully decorated. These models of the vehicles move through the key streets of Shahapur and then back to the temple. The Basavaneppa Band, which includes the third generation of performers, is a key attraction at the festivities.

The last day of Navaratri is special, in that the temple’s wooden chariot is drawn through the streets of Shahapur, tugged by devotees all along using a thick rope. The carved wooden chariot is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship with two huge wheels, a rudder and two thick long ropes. The chariot used to be much taller, but has since been replaced by a smaller version,
keeping in view the electric wires overhead and the potholed roads. Thousands of devotees visit the temple during the nine days and the last day witnesses a massive crowd.

The chariot carries the Lord’s idols and people offer aratis and coconuts on the way. The Naik family of Shahapur has been involved in the activities of the temple for over a century and the fourth generation has taken up the mantle now.

Another unique celebration is by the Chitpavan Brahmin community. They worship the Goddess on the eighth day, that is Ashtami, in the form of Mahalaxmi. Earlier, it was a household celebration, but now, it is mostly observed at a common place. Making rice idols of the Goddess is a unique aspect of their celebrations. Experts in the community knead the rice flour and create beautiful idols of the Goddess. The idol is then decked with a sari, jewellery and by evening, the idol is opened for the darshan. At night, the women get together and play games before the Goddess. They blow into an empty pitcher with a distinct ‘Fu’ sound. They also play ‘Fugadi’ and other games all night. In the morning, the idol is ceremonially immersed into a waterbody. 

The Ambabai (Mahalaxmi) Temple in Shahapur is a beautiful temple with a spacious hall that can seat over a hundred devotees at a given time. Members of the Savaji community worship the deity. The Goddess, in the form of Amba, is decorated in a different form every day, using flowers and accessories, decked with jewellery and lamps.

Touch of tradition

The tradition of offering oil and oil lamps during Navaratri is seen in all the communities. At some places like the temple in Hindwadi, the Mahalaxmi idol is decorated and shown riding an elephant or a peacock, using props. The other temples of Belagavi, including the Laxmi Temple at Sulebhavi, and the Danamma Devi and Banashankari temples in Shahapur, all undergo a facelift during the Navaratri festival.

The camp area (the Belagavi cantonment) and the Hindalco company quarters, which houses a large population of people from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, put up special pandals and consecrate the idol of Goddess Durga.

The Jains worship the Goddess in the form of Yakshini, the attendant deities of every tirthankara, most common among whom are Kushmandini (Ambika), Padmavati and Chakreshwari. Hence, there are 24 Yakshas and Yakshinis, one each for every tirthankara. The Jains perform elaborate Alankara puja for the Yakshini during Navaratri. The Basadis in Belagavi are lit with beautiful lamps and elaborate floral decorations are made for the deities. 

In spite of modernisation, the Navaratri festival has not lost its significance over the years. In fact, the new generation feels much more connected to it owing to its charm. Sahitya Doddanavar, an engineer, says that she loves the rituals, the palanquin that moves from the Basadi, the ornaments that adore the Goddess and the festive vibes in the city. Manish Naik, fifth generation of the Naik family that manages the Navaratri celebrations at the Venkateshwara Temple, says that the festival brings together over a hundred members of the extended family. While the rigour of the rituals may have eased, the fervour remains the same. A case in point is the Durgamata Doud, or the Navaratri run organised every morning, where young boys and girls join in thousands, and pass through pre-decided locations across the city.

The varied Navaratri celebrations in Belagavi, with all its hues and forms, make the festival all the more special.