In the heart of September, something enchanting is on the horizon. The sun, which has baked the land all summer, now bathes the land in a softer, golden glow. And that can only mean one thing – the festive season is approaching. It's a time when my country becomes a whirlwind of colors, flavours, and aromas, and as a woman who's absolutely enamored with the Indian culture, my heart skips a beat in anticipation. These festivities aren't just about merrymaking; they are experiences that weave together tradition, spirituality, and the vibrance of existence itself.

What's truly special about this season is the celebration of Devi, or The Goddess. Navratri, a nine-night festival dedicated to the Divine Feminine, is a treat to the senses. During the night, one turns inwards through sleep, and wakes up feeling refreshed and rested in the morning. In the same way, Navratri or the ‘nine nights’ is that time of the year when you get the chance to experience deep rest. This deep rest brings freedom from all kinds of botheration, deep relaxation, and creativity. The nine days of Navratri are designed to melt down the year-long tiredness and restore mental cool.

This time is also celebrated as Durga Puja. Elaborate pandals are set up, each one a work of art, and within them are exquisite clay idols of the Goddess. The air is thick with the fragrance of incense, and the rhythmic beats of the dhak (traditional drum) resonate in the surroundings. The whole community comes together to honor the Devi. It's believed that during these days, the Goddess herself graces Earth. 

No Indian celebration is complete without mithaai, or sweets, and the festive season is a sweet lover's paradise. From the sheer indulgence of Rasgulla to the comforting warmth of Gulab Jamun, each sweet tells a story of generations preserving recipes and techniques. The bazaar is tinged with the scent of jalebis sizzling in hot oil, and the sight of sweet shops decked with an array of sweets is a feast for the eyes. It's the time when my love for Indian sweets reaches its peak, and I wholeheartedly indulge in the ghee laden goodness that feel like a warm hug in the approaching winter.

As the season unfolds, I often find myself trying my hand at making some of these mithaais at home. The act of creation, deliberate and unhurried, allows me to connect with the age-old traditions of sweet-making. Kheer, a sweet rice pudding, becomes my canvas to experiment with flavors, like an artist with a palette. I would try a new base such as sprouted ragi, add some freshly ground vanilla beans or zest it up with some orange. The aroma of cardamom wafting through our kitchen is a reminder that simple ingredients can create the most delightful experiences. 

The festive season is also an opportunity to support small businesses. They are the lifelines of our local economies, and they carry forward age-old traditions. Be it artisans crafting beautiful idols for the festivals or local sweet shops preparing mouthwatering delicacies, this season offers them a chance to shine. As someone who values the significance of preserving these traditions and supporting local communities, this is a moment to engage with small businesses, recognizing their dedication and craftsmanship. I invite you to take a walk down the memory lane, perhaps to your neighbourhood bazaar and do the same. The festive outfits, flower gajras or glass bangles, you'll find them all.

When I choose to shop for festival essentials at local markets and support small businesses, it's not merely a transaction; it's participation in the narrative of countless artisans and entrepreneurs. This act of solidarity is a celebration of their hard work and an acknowledgment of the beauty of handcrafted products. I find immense joy in discovering unique items that carry the essence of tradition and history, like handwoven textiles, glass bangles and intricately designed clay diyas.

For me, the vibrant festive season in India embodies the essence of all I hold dear – the celebration of Goddesses, my love for Indian sweets, the sensual aroma of raat ki rani in the evenings, and the importance of supporting small businesses. It's a time when culture and tradition come to life, offering a sensory experience that's unparalleled. As someone deeply passionate about handwoven textiles, I'm particularly drawn to the traditional outfits worn during these festivals. The intricately woven sarees, vibrant lehengas, and beautifully embroidered kurta sets showcase the rich textile heritage of India. Wearing them in this season, feels like the best form of appreciation.

hand block print dress on a woman in local bazaar mapusa market goa

As the season unfolds, I find myself reflecting on how the year has treated me, and it's a moment of both looking back and looking within. It's a time to assess my personal goals, to count my blessings, and to appreciate that life has a way of surprising us, often in unexpected but incredibly meaningful ways. Every year, as I embrace the festivities, I can't help but take a moment to consider the journey I've been on. The year's ups and downs, its challenges and victories, all find their place in my reflections. I think about the goals I set at the beginning of the year and how they've evolved with time. Some might not have materialized in the exact way I anticipated, but I've come to realize that life often gives us more than we ask for – just not always in the way we expected. The surprises and blessings that come our way are often in areas where we truly deserve to receive.

Immersing in the festivities, I'm reminded of the richness of India's heritage. It's a story that is woven into the intricate patterns of handwoven textiles, a palette of vibrant colors and traditional motifs that tell stories of our exceptional craftsmanship. These textiles are a living testament to the expertise of our artisans and the diversity of our regions. Each thread in these fabrics is a thread in the history of our country, and wearing them during this high vibe season feels like a tribute to our ancestors and their artistic legacy.

October 26, 2023 — Vidya Sethi

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