For two weekends in October, the block of Newark Avenue in Jersey City between Kennedy Boulevard and Tonnelle Avenue known as “Little India” will be the center of one big religious and cultural get-together.
The 2010 Navratri Festival takes place Fridays and Saturdays on October 8th and 9th and 15th and 16th from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m.
It is a street festival of singing and dancing performances, worship services and appearances by local politicians and other dignitaries. Up to 10,000 people are expected to attend each day of the festival.
Navaratri is a traditional celebration in which nine Hindu goddesses are worshipped, and it is considered a period for observers to fast and engage in introspection.
The Navaratri event in Jersey City has taken place since 2002, free of charge, and is jointly hosted by the Jersey City Asian Merchant Association (JCAMA) with the Govinda Sanskar Center and the Journal Square Restoration Corporation.
In India, Navaratri is usually celebrated for nine nights twice every year, in March and in October. It is celebrated in different ways in the parts of India where Navaratri takes place, but it always takes place outdoors. In the western province of Gujarat, from where the majority of business owners and residents in Jersey City’s Little India area emigrated, the nine days are marked by worship and celebration. Gujarati women dress in traditional, colorful dress and perform Garba, a dance in circles around a pot containing a lamp.
Raju Patel, the president of the JCAMA, is a Gujarat native. Jersey City’s celebration helps him keep in touch with a tradition that he still appreciates.
“I have been celebrating Navratri ever since I was a child and I never grow tired of seeing it happen,” Patel said.
Keeping tradition alive
Among the entertainers scheduled are a group called the Music Lovers of Baroda along with other local singers. The dancing will be taken care of by the public, and there will be ample space to have a ball Indian style and show off their best garba moves. And each night at midnight, the public can visit the Govinda Sanskar Center, a temple in the middle of the Little India block for religious service.
Patel said Navratri will be celebrated in Jersey City for as long as he is involved with the Asian Merchant Association. Patel is the owner of the travel agency, Travel World.
But keeping this tradition alive takes at least a year of planning, including two months of fund raising. It costs about $100,000 to hold the four-day event. Money is also raised and donated each year, Patel said, to Hudson County Community College.
“Instead of just pocketing the money, we give it to the young people who can get an education,” Patel said. “Isn’t that what’s important?”
Patel said fund raising is also planned for a scholarship in honor of Dr. Divyendu Sinha, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken who was killed in July near his home in Old Bridge.
Patel said the monies will come from the merchants, many of whom will be opened for business on the Navratri nights. However, some merchants will also give away food during the event.
To find out more about past Navratri celebrations, visit www.indiasquare.org, where photos and videos are posted.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.