Miraj had a small Ambabai temple. There was a Durgah as well. Annually there would be a fair held near the temple at the time of Navaratra. Even Durgah would annually host a Urs. As a child I would always look forward towards the Navaratra and the Urs. Shops selling colourful toys, household items were of great attraction to me. There would be joy rides as well. But I was not interested in them. I would buy a toy and would also pester my mother to buy some household article like lemon squeezer, pair of tongs, which my mother would say was no use to us. But still I would persuade her to buy it. Sometimes she would give in. Most of the times she wouldn't.
Navratra would arrive just a few days prior to Diwali. Children would build small replicas of forts for Diwali and place statues of Shivaji and his mavlas, meaning members of his troop on it. These statues would be actually painted mud toys. But buying them was a great delight. They would be put for sale in the Ambabai temple. Whenever we went to the fair my eyes would zero on the mud toy which I wanted to buy. I would even pester my mom to buy one. She would insist that we should visit the temple first. It was her policy that while you go to the fair, you must first visit the temple , pay your respects and on the way back, backed with blessings of the goddess, you could have a little fun, which included shopping.
The temple would be decorated for the fair. There used to be festoons and coconut branches installed at the entrance welcoming the devotees. In the latter days even strings of small electric bulbs would be spiraled around the pinnacle of the temple. The idol of Goddess Ambabai would be decorated too She would be decorated with rich, expensive sarees and fragrant flowers of all kinds. There would be bakula, rose,jasmine and many other flowers whose names I didn't know. There would be scents and incense sticks burning too. The temple would be filled with mix of variety of perfumes both – natural and man-made.
There would be a different theme on each of the nine days. The goddess would be decorated according to the theme of the day. One day she would be placed in a big lotus made up of paper. Another day she would mount on lion, tiger, elephant. She would swing on the zhoola or sit on the peacock. I loved the peacock. It was so colourful, so beautiful. On the eight day the theme would be Mahishasurmardini. She would be depicted as a warrior who killed the demon Mahishasura. There was a rumour that a male goat would be sacrificed on the early morning of the eight day to the goddess. I had a hidden desire to witness this ritual first hand. But I was a child. No one would allow me to go to the temple in the dawn. Moreover, I too was scared of the darkness of the dawn.
Even my grandmother would visit the temple during Navratris. I did not like accompanying her. That was because she visited the temple in the mornings. All the stalls in the fair including those selling mud toys would be shut in the morning. Even the idol would not be decorated as per the theme. In the mornings it would be only the plain idol as worshiped on any other day. She would stand in her mundane form. There wouldn't be any elephant, tiger, lion, peacock, swing and other paraphernalia. However I would accompany my grandmother on the first day of the Navratri. On the first day of the Navaratra my grandmother would offer salt and wheat flour to the goddess. That was the custom. Two big baskets would be placed before the Goddess. One for salt and another for wheat floor. My grandmother would carry salt and wheat in two different paper packets. I liked to accompany her when she made these offerings. I would insist on opening the paper packets and pouring its contents on to the baskets. I wanted to do it on my own and she would allow me.
These incidents of my childhood had a very deep impact upon me. They taught me how colourful our country was. Yes my mother would not have always bought me the things which I wanted. But I was grateful that I had a mother who took me to the fair.
Such has been the impact of the colourful peppy fair of my town that it is permanently etched on my mind. I just close my eyes and I am transported to the fair.
This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.