Rajul Hegde caught up with the likes of Sambhavna Seth,Rashami Desai and Karan Grover to get them to share special festive memories and their plans for Dussehra.
First up, actress Rashami Desai of Uttaran fame shares her thoughts:
Every year I celebrate the festival with full zeal and enthusiasm. I'm from a Gujarati family and Navratri is a kind of get -together for my entire family -- being with Nandish (husband) this time it will be all the more fun. We will be visiting a few places and events across India and if we get the opportunity, I will swing some Garba steps with him! I really want to see the diverse way Garba is practiced in different states. It should be really fun; if time permits we will definitely dress up, as I love to do so.
We will be performing the Durga Puja at my place.The rituals to be followed are important, but it's also fun dancing to dandiya tunes. I won't be fasting, but will ensure that I offer my prayers to Goddess Durga everyday with Nandish.
As for my favourite festive memories, I can't single out one as every year it's a thrilling experience and we take a lot of memories back home. But the sweetest one was my first Garba as a kid. I was completely decked up and rocked the entire ground with girls of my age-group during our school days. It was too much fun, which I cannot completely express in words.
'If I see some interesting people dancing in any building or pandal, I quietly join them'
Here, the vibrant Sambhavna Seth shares her plans:
I have just shifted to my new place on Yari Road in Andheri, Mumbai and there is a big pandal right opposite. I can see the Goddess from my balcony and I am also planning to go there and check things out. Generally, what I do is go for a walk in the evening. If I see some interesting people dancing in any building or pandal, I quietly join them. But I leave the place in 10 minutes before they realise it's me...
As a celebrity I have gone to many places to grace the occasion. But we hardly dance, although nobody can stop me if I really want to dance. This season also I am visiting a few places in Ludhiana, Indore and Mumbai.
As kids, we would love to dress up on Astami, visit temples and the main attraction was to get that Rs 2 from our parents. We would happily collect it in our piggy bank. In Delhi where I used to live there was no major dancing during Navratri like we have in Mumbai.
'When I was a child, my friends and I would go pandal-hopping every day'
National Award-winning actress of Dahan fame Rituparna Sengupta weighs in:
Durga Puja is very close to Bengalis because it's the biggest festival for us. There are lots of emotions, more than anything else. It's of celebration of reunion, getting to know all the extended family -- that is the main attraction for me.
There is also a lot of fun, visiting pandals, inviting Ma Durga with beating drums and waking up to the lovely rhythm is very interesting.
I lost my father last year so I am a little sad this year. I remember my father used to eagerly wait to see me in a sari and compliment me. He would love it when I wore a traditional Bengali sari.
I am a brand ambassador for the Andheri pandal in Mumbai so I will be visiting there for two days and another two days I will be in Kolkata. I will offer the anjali to Goddess Durga there. The last day that is during Dashami, after bidding Ma Durga farewell, the women play with sindur and pray for their long and happy married lives.
When I was a child, during the pujas, my friends and I would go pandal-hopping every day. The delicious prasad one got during the puja was big, which I would never miss. As a kid I remember my friend's dad used to book a car and all of us would go to North Kolkata for pandal-hopping. In Mumbai I make it a point to go to singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya's puja in Lokhandwala Complex and Mukherjees pandal apart from the Andheri one.
'Last year, for the first time I wore a sari for Durga Puja and I got so many marriage proposals'
Says Sumona Chakravarti of serial Bade Acche Lagte Hain:
Being a Mumbaikar now, I have celebrated Durga Puja here for almost 15 years. I have never been to Kolkata for Durga Puja. I hope to go there sometime in the future and enjoy the traditional Durga Puja. Every year I visit Abhijeet Bhattacharya's pandal in Lokandwala (Andheri, Mumbai) and also other pandals in Santacruz, Andheri and Bandra -- mostly in suburbs.
I don't observe any fast as such, but on Shosti I only have plain tea, go to the temple and offer Pushpa Anjali to the goddess at noon. The bhog (prasad) which they serve is to die for! Its khichdi, mixed vegetables and some sweet dish. I hate it when my mom cooks khichdi because it reminds me of being unwell. But during Durga Puja I wait to have it. I have bunked school and college during Durga just for the bhog. I am a hardcore non-vegetarian but this bhog is something better than any other exotic non-vegetarian food.
Five days our kitchens are shut (except for tea) -- we eat outside, come home and crash. Every day we do pandal-hopping, sometimes I think we Bengalis love to eat and live to eat.
This year I am busy with my shooting schedules unlike last year. I have asked the production house for at least two days' leave. I am planning to take leave on Shosti and Astami. Last year I had fun on all four days.
Last year, for the first time I wore a sari for Durga Puja and I got so many marriage proposals. I had heard that in Kolkata during Durga Puja they do a lot of match-making. When I experienced it, I was laughing and I couldn't believe it.
'I am a horrible dancer!'
Karan Grover tells us:
I am a horrible dancer and hence I do not go and play dandiya. I get very embarrassed when people around me dance gracefully and I am all clumsy with the steps. There is one particular incident which is etched in my memory -- I was an event management student and I was part of a Garba event where Karishma Kapoor was the guest of honour. Throughout the evening I kept admiring her beauty and still remember the way she greeted everyone and distributed gifts. I think that was the only memorable dandiya of my life.
'This festival is a symbol of women's strength'
Ek Nayi Chhoti Si Zindagi star Sushmita Mukherjee says:
Durga Pujo, for me, is all about the spiritual connect which I have with Goddess Durga. This festival is a symbol of women's strength -- she is perhaps the most widely worshipped deity of Shakti. Durga means one who is difficult to approach. However, since she is the mother of the universe, she is the personification of tender love, wealth, power, beauty and all virtues.
The complete image of Goddess Durga represents destruction of evil and protection of good and reflects the point that in order to become divine one should keep one's animal instincts under control. Thus, by worshipping Durga, the idea of ruthless destruction is invoked to annihilate all the desires and unfold divinity. I have never been much excited about the socialising aspect during pujo but have always looked forward to those ten days of bhakti and introspection.
'Class IX was the first and last time I played dandiya'
Yashashri Masurkar, who plays the role of Princess Mrignayani in TV show Chandragupta Maurya explains:
I love the festival of Navratri because I'm fond of dancing. But unfortunately, my most fond remembrance dates back to when I was in Class IX, because that was the first and last time I played dandiya. This year, however, as I'm in Gujarat I'm all excited and will surely tap my feet to some foot-thumping numbers. And back home we usually have a small puja.
'I was always excited about coveted prizes during the festivities'
Pooja Gor, who essays the lead in Mann Kee Awaaz Pratigya says:
During my childhood days, I remember the Garba celebrations we had in school during Navratri. There were coveted prizes for best-dressed, best dancers etc which I was always excited about during the festivities. In college, my friends and I would attend Garba events in clubs and grounds, which were huge. In these party plots, the prizes too for best-dressed and best dancers would be huge -- such as a car. Navratri is a festival that brings with it excitement. I remember there were some people who would take classes before Navratri. For me, it is one of the most fun festivals of the year and I surely miss the Gujarat celebrations. And I do enjoy dandiya and Garba.
Navratri, since it falls right before Diwali, brings a positive start to the festive mood. In my home, we used to have Amba Mata Ki Puja and for us it had become a ritual to perform it year after year. The puja was symbolic of the win of goodness over evil as we would welcome Ram. For kids in our building, the puja would be a way for them to learn the significance of Navratri as they heard about Ram's win over Ravana.
This year I would love to play, but unfortunately I doubt I will get the opportunity due to my shooting schedules.
'I was always scared that I would hit someone with my dandiya!'
Actress Smita Bansal weighs in:
The memory that I have of Navratri is that my mom would fast for all the nine days and break her vrath only after feeding the nine girls on the ninth day. I grew up in Jaipur, we had a big group and all of us would visit different places and dance. My mama (uncle) would accompany us so we would always get one hour's grace time. I loved the garba and not dandiya, because I was scared that I would hit someone with my dandiya!
But now it's different -- as celebrities, we are invited as guests to grace a few places. We hardly get to dance, if there is an interesting crowd then we dance for 10 minutes. Now with deejays and corporate houses organising the shows, it's completely different. So no major dancing -- but I am visiting Dubai, Jaipur and Delhi during Navratri.
I observe fasting on the first day and the last day. I drink liquids throughout the day and have vrath ka khana (fasting foods). I also feed nine girls on the last day and break my fast along with my mom-in-law. I prefer being at home on the last day.
'As a child, I made sure I had nine dresses for all the nine days'
Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli actress Suhasi Dhami walks down memory lane:
Every year I look forward to Navratri. As a child I made sure I had nine dresses for all the nine days. I remember playing garba even if we had exams the next day. I have a huge group of 35-40 friends in Mumbai and every year without fail we would meet up and play garba together.
Navratri is special because I love dancing and this is the only time of the year when I meet all my friends, who I cannot meet any other time of the year due to hectic shooting schedules. This year also I will take out time and play garba, but nothing's concrete due to shoot schedules.
'Fasting becomes very difficult for actors, as we shoot every day rigorously'
Uttaran actor Nandish Sandhu gives us his take:
I have never been an active participant of dancing, but yes, every year my mom and dad did the puja at home. As a child I always loved watching it and used to roam with my friends and family to different venues.
This year my wife Rashmi and I will be performing the rituals at our house. She is an ardent believer in God and she has taken the responsibility of Durga Puja. Fasting becomes very difficult for actors, as we shoot every day rigorously, but I will be avoiding non-veg and social parties. All I will say is I'm eagerly waiting for these nine days.
This year, most of the time we will be shooting for Uttaran, but we also have a few things lined up for Navratri. We do have plans to visit few venues, but again, dressing up becomes a problem as we are constrained for time. We will try and make the most out of it, as the festival comes only once in a year and I will also get to learn dandiya steps from my wife!
'A month in advance we started our preparation for the dance'
And finally, actress Roshni Chopra tells us:
I am a vegetarian but my family also doesn't cook non-veg at home during Navratri. That is one major change in our lifestyle.
I grew up in Dubai; there, the Indian Association would organise dandiya every year. Friends and I would eagerly wait for Navratri. A month in advance we started our preparation for the dance.
Now it's different and also work-related. I am in nine different cities during Navratri. We can't dance with the same freedom now, but it's fun gracing the occasion.