October 2, 2013


Navarathri (or) Sharada Navarathri is a major festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga, is celebrated across all parts of India for ten days. Navarathri literally means nine nights and the tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadasami. Navarathri usually falls in the Tamil month "Purattasi" (between Oct & Nov) and it starts on "Pradhamai", the day right after Amavasya ("no-moon" day).

Lord Brahma granted Mahishasura, the “buffalo demon” a boon that he will remain invincible to all "men" and none of the men-folk could harm (or) kill him. Empowered by this boon, Mahishasura set out to conquer the world, the Heaven and Earth, and brought about the defeat of the king of deities, Indra. At the pleading of Indra, Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva created Devi Durga, by combining their own divine powers (shakti). Endowed with the trinity’s shakti, Durga proved to be a formidable opponent who fought Mahishasura for nine days, beheading him on the tenth. The nine nights known as Navrathri, symbolize the nine days of battle between Devi Durga and Mahishasura, while the tenth day, which is Vijayadasami literally means the victorious tenth day of conquest of good over evil.

While south-Indians celebrate it as Navarathri & Vijayadasami, North-Indians call it as Durga Puja & Dusshera. Of the nine days, the first 3 days are dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga (Goddess of power), the next 3 days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) and the last 3 days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi (Goddess of wisdom). The ninth day is celebrated as Saraswathi pooja / Ayudha pooja, when weapons, tools and implements of day-to-day life like books, pens, computers are worshipped & revered. The tenth day, the day of victory of good over evil, is considered as an auspicious day to start all kinds of new venture right from kid's education to high-end business.

South-Indians keep golu, arrangement & display of clay/wooden dolls of Gods & Goddesses in steps. Pooja rituals, chanting slokas (sacred verses) are performed every morning in front of the golu and in the evening, friends, families & neighbors are invited over and devotional songs are sung in praise of Gods & Goddesses. In short, golu is considered to be a divine & auspicious affair. It is still in practice to give வெற்றிலை-பாக்கு-மஞ்சள்-குங்குமம்-பூ-பழம்-கண்ணாடி (betel leaves, supari, turmeric, vermillion, flower, fruits, mirror) or anything that signifies prosperity & good fortune along with a small gift / money & neivedhyam (offerings for that day).

Golu 2013 in our home!
Neivedhyam is usually sundal - south-Indian salad made with different legumes. My mom makes sweet prasadam on Tuesdays & Fridays, Sweet ellu podi on Saturdays, Kondakadalai on Thursdays/ on Sarasawathi pooja. For rest of the days, she prepares sundal with channa dal, moong dal, peanuts, dried peas, black channa.

Back in my native, when I was young, Navarathri celebrations used to be big & pompous. Our navarathri celebrations begins atleast a week before right from planning & buying give-away gifts for guests till getting the golu steps & dolls down from the attic & getting them ready for Navarathri. The evening before the first day of Navarathri, we set up the golu steps and arrange dolls in 5 (usually odd numbered) steps with all the other arrangements like background, lighting etc. For me, all nine days means decking myself up with the newest of the clothes and all kind of gold jewels from head to toe and visit our neighbors who invited us. My tasklist for Navarathri includes adorning the golu with a new kolam/rangoli everyday using sozhi (small shells), color powders etc, to invite neighbors (I even remember the exact phrase of how I would invite "எங்காத்துல கொலு வெச்சிருக்கு, வெத்தலை பாக்கு எடுத்துக்க அவசியம் வாங்கோ"), to arrange "மஞ்சள்-குங்குமம்" & other items in a tray and distribute them to the guests. Also, I cannot forget the "மாமி, கொலு கொலு சுண்டல்!" chorus by the neighborhood kids in front of everyone's doorstep demanding prasadam!

(1) Kadalai paruppu sundal

(2) Payatham paruppu sundal

(3) Ellu podi (sweet)

(4) Arisi puttu/Aval Puttu

(5) Kunukku

(6) Vellai kondakadalai sundal
(7) Verkadalai sundal

(8) Pattani sundal

(9) Karuppu kondakadalai sundal

(10) Karamani sundal (Sweet version)

(11) Karamani sundal (Savory version)

Few of the info were taken from
- http://bheemeshwaridevi.wordpress.com
- http://en.wikipedia.org
- Mahishasuramardhini photo courtesy: http://www.bhmpics.com

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