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By Shreya Panchal
AT A GLANCE:
- Symbolizing the triumph of positivity over negativity “Navratri”, means 9 nights in ancient Sanskrit language.
- This is a festival that is celebrated with zeal, fervor and festivity twice in a year, once at the onset of the winters and once in the beginning of the summer by the Hindu community all over the world.
- This 9 days are solely dedicated to the Goddess Durga/Adhya Shakti and during this 9 nights the 3 incarnations of Goddess Durga i.e. Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are invoked.
WHY IS NAVRATRI CELEBRATED TWICE IN A YEAR?
- Every year, the onset of summer and winter are two vital junctures of solar influence and climatic change. Hence this 2 junctures have been chosen as the best opportunities for the worship of the Divine Power because..
- Due to climatic change and some other changes in the nature, there is a considerable change in the minds and bodies of the people hence we worship the divinity to bestow upon us the potent powers balance our body and mind.
- Since we believe that the divine power bestows the energy for the earth to revolve around the sun causing necessary changes in the outer nature and hence the divine power must be thanked for maintaining the correct balance of this whole universe.
There are many myths and enthralling legends hitched on to the history of Navratri :
- The demon Mahishasur, caused grave terror and destruction after the god of fire Agni bestowed him with a boon that he wouldn’t be killed by any weapon bearing masculine names. Lord Shiva advised the Gods to invoke the Adhya Shakti. With the god’s prayers, a divine luster came up from Lord Shiva’s heart and from the bodies of other Gods was emerged the Goddess Shakti.
The gods gave her lion as a vehicle, ornaments and arms to fight the demon Mahishasur. She fought him for 9 long days and nights and resulted in defeating and beheading Mahishasur on the tenth day which is called the Vijayadashmi.
- Against the wishes of King Daksha, Sati (Parvati) married Lord Shiva. King Daksha organized a lavish Yagna and invited all the gods and saints except Lord Shiva, as a revenge. Sati decided to attend the Yagna organized by her father, despite of a denial from Lord Shiva. However, the King publically abused Lord Shiva and neglected his daughter’s presence. Sati committed suicide by jumping into the Yagna as she was not able to bear the insults by her father. It is said that Sati was reborn and won Lord Shiva again as her groom and every year it is believed that during Navratri she visits her paternal home along with her 4 kids Ganesha, Kartikey, Saraswati and Lakshmi.
WHY 9 NIGHTS?
- Navratri is divided into sections of 3 days to adore 3 different incarnations of Goddess Shakti. On the first 3 days, the Goddess is invoked as the powerful Durga to eradicate all our vices, defects and impurities. The next 3 days, the Goddess is invoked as Lakshmi, the donor of spiritual wealth and on the last 3 days the Goddess is invoked as Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom.
CULTURE AND ATTRACTIONS:
- The famous dance form of Gujarat, Garba is performed on all the 9 nights of Navratri .It is also includes the raas play with Dandiya which uses small wooden sticks. Stories of Lord Krishna’s relationship with the Gopis often make way to the ras-garba music.
- Garba is the dramatization of the prolonged battle between Mahishasur and the Goddess Shakti and was used to educate people about the event in the past. However, now Garba has become a social event and people team up to enjoy the festival. It is not uncommon to find Garba dancers with lit flames or swords and other varieties in their dance forms. The traditional Garba music is acoustic and the dance steps are simple.
- At the center point of every Garba circle is the small Goddess Shrine which is erected and is called the GARBO. It includes the earthen pot, in which a silver coin, coconut and a betel nut is placed. People begin to dance in a circle performing Garba around this Shrine.
- People wear colorful costumes which are lively and bright. Women prefers Ghaghara Choli along with traditional ornaments. Men may choose to wear traditional kurta with sparkling mirror work.
RITUALS PERFORMED DURING NAVRATRI:
- WORSHIPPING A VIRGIN GIRL:
During this festival, a virgin girl is worshipped for 9 days and is offered meals as well. During this the unmanifest energy in the girl gets activated since a virgin girl is symbolic of unmanifest energy thereby attracting the radiant frequencies from the universe.
- PERFORMING GARBA:
Performing Garba, according to Hinduism means to sing devotional hymns invoking Goddess Shakti with rhythmic clapping. The Goddess Shakti awakened by the rhythm of 3 claps through the frequencies of action, desire and knowledge.
- CONTINUOUS BURNING OF THE SACRED LAMP:
During Navratri, lamp is kept lit for all the 9 days. It reduces the negative energies around, the spiritual purity increases and the embodied soul benefits due to radiant vibrations emanating out of the lamp.
6 basic vices gets reduced
- OFFERING NAIVEDYA TO THE GODDESS:
During Navratri, it is customary to prepare spiritually pure dishes for Goddess Shakti. Dishes like plain curry from yellow lentils and sweets are made from jaggery and chickpeas.
- Garba circle takes on a spiritual power, keeping aside traditions and religion. Many of the songs start very slow and gradually speeds up sending the dancers to the state of trance especially when the dance and the music both are in their rawest form. Just imagine a circle or many concentric circles moving around the central showcase of the universal creative force and the mandala of the energetic potential being unleashed.
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,
Jack Daniel's is the world's most popular whiskey brand, but until recently, few people knew the liquor was created by Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved Black man who mentored Daniel.
"We've always known," says Debbie Staples, a great-great-granddaughter of Green's who heard the story from her grandmother. … "He made the whiskey, and he taught Jack Daniel. And people didn't believe it … it's hurtful. I don't know if it was because he was a Black man."
But people believe it now — in large part because Brown-Forman Corporation, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has acknowledged the foundational role Green played in the brand's development.
"The truth of the matter is, Nearest Green was the first head distiller of Jack Daniels whiskey," says Matt Blevins, global brand director for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. "We're very proud of this story and are very committed to amplifying it and acknowledging that. In the past, we did not amplify it the way that we could have in earlier eras, but we're about the future and moving forward."
America's first-known Black master distiller
The story begins in Lynchburg, Tennessee, current home of the Jack Daniel Distillery. In the mid-1800s, Green's slaveholders hired him out to a local preacher named Dan Call. Green, who had a reputation as a skilled distiller, made whiskey for Call, using a sugar maple charcoal filtering process that is believed to have originated in West Africa. Daniel, a boy who worked for Call, became Green's apprentice and learned the special technique that gave the Tennessee whiskey its smooth taste.
After emancipation in 1863, when all enslaved people were freed, Daniel purchased Call's distillery and hired Green as Jack Daniel Distillery's first master distiller.
"The best knowledge that we have is that they had a mentor-and-mentee sort of a relationship, and I would say, a friendship," says Blevins. "The stories that have been passed down [talk] about the care that Jack Daniel took to always acknowledge … the Green family."
Historic photo of Jack Daniel (in white hat) seated next to George Green, the son of Nathan "Nearest" Green Image source: VOA
There are no known pictures of Green, but there is one of Daniel with Green's son, George, sitting next to Daniel, rather than being relegated to the back.
"That photograph shows the respect that they had for one another and for their families," says Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of tourism management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "To be not only allowed in that photograph, but also positioned in the foreground and sitting right next to Jack Daniels himself."
Search for the truth
Green's role in the history of the brand was uncovered by a writer and entrepreneur named Fawn Weaver, who became fascinated by Green's unheralded contribution to the world's most popular whiskey. After extensive research, including interviews with Green's descendants, Weaver shared her documentation with the company.
"I was very pleasantly surprised when they embraced my research and updated their records to reflect that," Weaver told VOA via email. "I think it said a lot about the character of their company that they moved that quickly to course correct."
Jack Daniel's has incorporated Green's contributions into the official history of the brand, but Weaver has gone a step further. She invested $1 million of her own money to establish Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Fawn Weaver (center in red) with her leadership team at Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, including master distiller Victoria Eady Butler (far left), the great‐great‐granddaughter of Nearest Green. (Photo courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey) Image credit: VOA
The company's master distiller is Victoria Eady Butler, Green's great‐great‐granddaughter.
"Uncle Nearest is the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the fact that it is the bloodline of Nearest Green blending and approving what goes into our bottles is something I marvel at regularly," Weaver says. "Victoria is an absolute natural when it comes to blending, and to watch her work is to see something pretty darn close to perfection."
Seven generations of Green's family have worked at the Jack Daniel Distillery, a tradition that continues today with Staples and two of her siblings. But the Green family did not benefit when the Daniel family sold the Jack Daniel distillery to Brown-Forman for $20 million in 1956.
"Although they [the Green family] were very well off in terms of finances [in the 1800s] in that time, they were not the owners or co-owners of the Jack Daniel distillery," Benjamin says. "And so, those millions of dollars have been passed down through generations of the Jack Daniel family, and not necessarily the Green family."
Maturing barrels of whiskey in a barrel house on the grounds of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Jack Daniel's) Image credit: VOA
Weaver's Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has joined forces with Jack Daniel's to launch a program that provides support, expertise and resources to African-American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
Staples says her family is thrilled their great-great-grandfather is finally being recognized.
"It's kind of mind-boggling … and we are so proud," Staples says. "And to think that from here to Africa, that recipe goes all the way back. And to think that he played such an important role in establishing this company. It sometimes seems unreal. It really does."
Because of Weaver's tenacity, Green's story, although left untold for more than a century, will not be lost to history. But that's not the case with so many other stories of Black achievement and contributions to the nation.
"Part of telling his story and sharing his legacy is to give credit and to give attention to a person who, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have the Jack Daniel whiskey as we know it today," Benjamin says. "It showcases yet another example of how formerly enslaved people, Black people, African American people who have really built this country, are left out of the dominant narrative that we tell." (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Dora Mekouar)
Keywords: Jack Daniel's, Whiskey, Nathan Green, Slavery, Black achievement
Cricket fans can now book the ultimate experience with the official accommodation booking partner for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, Booking.com. The T20 Pavillion, a bespoke cricket-themed luxury stay that transforms the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel and Residences into a classic cricket stadium.
The suite offers guests an all-inclusive once-in-a-lifetime experience during the India vs Pakistan ICC Men's T20 World Cup match on October 24, 2021, packed with quirks and luxuries that is sure to satisfy even the biggest cricket enthusiast. Additionally, as a part of the experience, guests will also have the exclusive opportunity to meet Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor at The T20 Pavilion.
The booking window that opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021 and check-out on October 25, 2021. | Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash
For one night only, guests can soak in the energy of a roaring stadium to enjoy the epic match on a life-sized screen while seated on comfortable sofas -- just like the luxury box seats at the stadium. They can also head to the locker room (dining room) next to the field (living room) to have some energy drinks, just like a cricketer would do or head to the bedroom, transformed into a net practice area. It's got the field, the pitch, the locker room, pitching nets and cricket memorabilia infused in every element of the room.
The booking window opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021, and check-out on October 25, 2021. The T20 Pavilion is priced at Rs 6666 only in honour of all the great sixes smashed at the T20 World Cup. The T20 Pavilion can accommodate up to four guests. Cricket fans can visit the website or mobile app to book this cricket-inspired stay. (IANS/ MBI)