Chennai

How families and communities are celebrating Navarathri against the backdrop of a pandemic

Children sell thambulam packs for a cause

Navarathri is always a grand affair at RMT, MRC Nagar, with the entire community getting together every day for a community golu, themed games, Lalitha Sahasranamam chanting and bhajan sessions at the club house. This year, we have refused to let the pandemic defeat our community spirit and we have come up with themes that would still enable us to celebrate together while ensuring everyone’s safety.

The key events being conducted include daily Zoom sessions for Sahasranaman chanting, Navarathri-themed storytelling and quiz sessions for the children, bhajans performed by children, a fashion show and daily interactive learning sessions conducted by the resident-volunteers on simple skills like garland-weaving, rangoli-making, festive decorations and prasad making.

We have also planned a Dandia and Garbha flash mob on Saraswathi Pooja as the finale, this too from the safety of our homes via Zoom.

RMT’s cultural team has also provided basic guidelines on the safety precautions to be kept in mind keep in mind when visiting homes/inviting people for thambulam. These include avoiding congregation of large numbers at a home and limiting the number of guests to three or four at any time, keeping separate days for visitors from outside the community and ensuring basic precautions within homes like availability of sanitisers on arrival, wearing masks and maintaining distance.

One of the highlights this year is the initiative by the children who are making and selling thambulam packages to the residents and nearby communities, the proceeds from the sales of which will be used to bring cheer to the residents of an old age home that has been hit hard due to the pandemic.

RMT Cultural Team

Kolu with frontline workers

Navaratri celebrations at Sakambari Women’s Group is not complete without offering some assistance to the underprivileged. Last year, 25 women, mostly domestic workers, flower and vegetable vendors and cleaners participated in the celebration. This year, it will be a low-key event that we will be hosting on October 25 at our centre in RA Puram (we also have one at Indira Nagar), for women, including women conservancy workers who keep our roads clean.

The number of participants will be limited and the celebration will adhere to social distancing norms. With a mini kolu, the function will be marked by chanting of songs and music.

At the spacious premises of our centre on Third Main Road, R.A. Puram, around 50 persons can be accommodated, but this year we have invited less than 20 people. Ten to twelve chairs will be arranged leaving more than three feet between chairs. If a guest turns up without a mask, we will provide them with one.

We have decided not to serve any food; instead, take-away packs will be given away. The gift kit will contain provisions and ₹100 each — the cost of this kit is covered by contributions from members.

Raji Rao, president, Sakambari Women’s Group

Masks and sanitiser as return gifts

I am among the few families at our 50-flat apartment complex in Vadapalani that is displaying the kolu this year. I did not want to miss out on this tradition but at the same time I wanted to ensure sarve janah sukhino bhavanthu (a Vedic mantra that translates into “May all be happy and free from all illness”) so I have taken all safety precautions before inviting people home to witness my kolu alangarams.

How families and communities are celebrating Navarathri against the backdrop of a pandemic

Unlike in the previous years where guests were welcome all through the nine days, this time I invite only five families a day. Masks are compulsory for those entering the house.

To minimise any physical interaction whatsoever while distributing return gifts, I have placed them in a table near the entrance of my house. The traditional thambulam is packed with a hand sanitiser and masks as part of the return gift.

This is the first time I am celebrating Navaratri without distributing prasadams, but I am thankful that I am able to celebrate it in these testing times.

Rani Sairam, Vadapalani

Distribution at temple

We usually keep nine steps for the golu, but due to the pandemic I plan to reduce the number of steps and also limit the number of visitors invited to view our arrangement at home. Alternatively, I plan to visit the nearby Ponniamman temple, two days, and give thambulam to women. This way, I would also be limiting the number of guests coming home.

Girija Sridharan, B Sector Women’s group, Anna Nagar West Extension

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 4:40:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/how-families-and-communities-are-celebrating-navarathri-against-the-backdrop-of-a-pandemic/article32889971.ece

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