Navaratri is a special time when the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped. I got posted out of my hometown when I started working. I requested my mother to give me any spare kitchen items. She gave me six plates and bowls out of which none of the two plates or bowls were same. I asked her, how she got this unique set. She said those are my Navaratri gifts. Small girls (Kumari) are worshipped during Navaratri as Goddess. This is called Kumari puja. As part of this ceremony, they are invited, a small dot with vermilion is placed on their forehead. They are then offered food cooked specially for this occasion. After this they are gifted with plates, bowls and sometimes toys. As kids we used to have invitation from numerous houses in our neighborhood. If we were unable to make it, they would send the gift to our house. It used to be fun to get up early in the morning, take bath, wear new clothes and go for the ceremony. The festivities would turn even bigger from the 7 day (Saptami), when we used to visit the Bengali community. There we would have a huge idol of Goddess Durga along with her four kids. We would offer our prayers and meet up with everyone. Although these festivities are only for few days but we used to start preparing three months before.
This year I decided to offer gifts to Goddess through Kumari puja. Luckily all the Kumaris I knew were fond of books which happens to be my hobby as well, so I gifted them classics. All the kids were happy. We also visited the Durga Puja organized by Bengali Association of Pittsburgh. These festivities always take me back to my carefree school days. On the tenth day we have Dashami when the idols are immersed in water. We take blessings of our elders and wish everyone “Happy Dussehra”.