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24 September 2014

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A Navratri dancer
A Navratri dancer

Nine nights of dance

Things aren't what they used to be when in comes to Navratri as bright lights and Bollywood tunes take precedence over religion. Find out more about how a Leicester-based arts organisation is rekindling interest in traditional celebrations.

Navratri, the Hindu festival of nine nights was celebrated by 100,000 people in Leicestershire last year.

"I enjoy the dancing so you can't keep me away. We are all dancing together from two year olds to seventy year old ladies and gents"
Priti Mattani, secretary of Shruti Arts.

Leicester is reputed to be the best place in the UK to enjoy the dancing, music and worship associated with the age-old festival. But can local celebrations be even better than some of those in India?

As with many Leicester gatherings, most Indian celebrations have moved away from the traditional tunes to embrace popular culture with songs now being sung to familiar Bollywood tunes and trendy new costumes replacing the usual chanija choli.

Leicester-based Shruti Arts is battling to keep these ancient traditions alive by bringing artists from the sub-continent to perform at celebrations in Leicester.

Priti Mattani with traditional Navratri costumes
Priti Mattani with traditional costumes

Priti Mattani is secretary of Shruti Arts. For her, Navratri is a chance to celebrate with friends, family and the local community.

She said: "Personally, I enjoy the dancing so you can't keep me away. We are all dancing together from two-year-olds to 70-year-olds - ladies and gents."

Among Shruti Arts' regular performers are Bombay couple Ashit and Hema Desai who have been performing in Leicester for 12 years. Ashit said: "We stick to the most traditional, the folk music.

Ashit and Hema Desai come from Bombay to perform
Ashit & Hema Desai travel from Bombay.

"I play harmonium and sing. We have a shehnai which is like an oboe and dhol drums played with sticks. The people here are away from India and feel that they are missing something from their roots so they want to listen to our music."

Archana Patel works at a Leicester-based Indian fashion and music shop. She loves the dancing. She said: "There's the three-clap garba, the two-clap garba and the ras."

She admits it's very tiring keeping up with the housework and going out dancing every night. But she says it's worth it for the excitment.

last updated: 22/09/06
Have Your Say
Is Navratri becoming too commercial? Do you miss more traditional celebrations?
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Mastwati Hjosh
it is wonderfully refreshing and most thrilling, with all those beautifull babes

i think there should be a mixture of traditional and commercial as navratri is a time of celebration,it should enjoyment to people of different ages.but the underlying religion aspects should also be reflected, nowadays the youth are going there mainly to meet other boys or girls rather then celebrating a religious event.

Joyten Shukla
Nine Nights of dance, NO only two Nights of dance in Regina, Canada. I lived in Leicester for over 25 years and moved to Regina Canada over a year ago and found it shocking that Regina,s asian community only have two nights of Navratri festival.(my god) So lets make Navratri very commercial and world wide, so that i can have more then just two nights. Thank you. Joyten Shukla Regina, Canada

saroj mistry
I think Navratri should be commercial, that is the only way our children learn about our tradition. Our Prajapati Community Centre in Ulverscroft Road, Leicester, is brilliant because we have our own singers and musicians who plays Tabla and Dhol. Each day we have different groups singing. We celebrate all our traditional celebration at our community centre so we do not miss out on anything.

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