'Too much fun': 9 things to know about P.E.I.'s first Navrati festival

The traditional festival of Navrati will be celebrated on P.E.I. for the first time Saturday evening in Stratford, P.E.I., and its organizer says it will be "too much fun."

'It's a one-time experience for Islanders to see the festival'

Navrati is taken 'very seriously' in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where it originates, and where Kish and Poonam Katariya are from. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

The traditional festival of Navrati will be celebrated on P.E.I. for the first time Saturday evening in Stratford, P.E.I., and its organizer says it will be "too much fun."

Kish Katariya, 28, and his wife Poonam immigrated to P.E.I. from India last year — he works in financial services at Invesco and she is an information technology developer — and they wanted to share this important celebration with other Indian people living on P.E.I. and the wider community.

"It's a one-time experience for Islanders to see the festival," Katariya said. 

The P.E.I. Navrati celebration is 7:30 to 11:45 p.m. at the Stratford Town Hall. It's free and everyone is welcome. 

Here's a beginner's guide to the festival, before you go.

1. It's usually 9 nights long

Navrati officially began on Thursday and ends next Saturday, Sept. 30.  

"I just wanted to start one day here and we'll see how it goes," Katariya said, noting that the festival is celebrated for 10 days in larger Canadian cities. 

Kish Katariya (right), shown here garba dancing with his wife Poonam, is organizing the Navrati festival in Stratford, P.E.I. (Submitted by Kish Katariya)

In India, people gather every evening of Navrati at about 8 p.m. and do a Puja, or a show of reverence, to the Hindu goddess Durga, lighting candles and offering ceremonial food and drink.

You need not be Hindu to appreciate or take part in Navrati, Katariya said.

2. Origins in Gujarat

Navrati is taken "very seriously" in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where it originates, and where Katariya and his wife are from.

3. It's all about the dancing

"We do dance til midnight," Katariya shares about Navrati celebrations. "It depends on which city you are [in] — if you go in Gujarat, people dance til 2 a.m.!"

Dancers usually wear traditional Indian clothing — in India, women will have different fancy outfits for each of the nine nights of the festival, Katariya said.

This is what 'garba play' or dancing looks like where Kish Katariya is from in Gujarat, India. (CRS PHOTO/Shutterstock)

4. In fact, it has its own dance

Everyone dances the traditional folk dance called garba at Navrati, calling it "garba play." 

There are lots of variations on garba, which is danced with sticks. 

"It is too much fun," said Katariya. "Once you see it, it's pretty easy."

5. Chem-free

There's no alcohol allowed at Navrati, Katariya shared.

6. It's vegetarian

Most people from Gujarat are vegetarian, so you won't see any meat served at Navrati celebrations, Katariya said.
 
There will be Indian snacks for sale Saturday night in Stratford, catered by Namaste P.E.I.

7. 2nd-most important festival

Navrati is the second-most important Indian festival for Gujarati people after Diwali, Katariya said. 

Find out more on the event's Facebook page.

Festival-goers show reverence to the Hindu goddess Durga before dancing begins at Navrati in Kolkata, India. (CRS PHOTO/Shutterstock)

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca