Navarathri(9 nights) or Dusshera is celebrated in various ways in different parts of India. Had read Reema’s entry on Durga Pujo. Decided to write this on how it is in South India, especially Tamil Nadu.

This Hindu festival is celebrated in Purattasi month (tamil lunar monthΒ  around Sep -October) starting from the Mahalaya Amavaasai (no moon day) for 10 days(Dusshera). During these 10 days Goddess Durga (Ichcha Shakti) , Goddess Lakshmi (Kriya Shakti) and Goddess Saraswathi(Gnana Shakthi) serve as the main deities and are allocated 3 days each.Β  The first 3 days are specific to Goddess Parvathy. The next 3 for Goddess Lakshmi. The last 3 for Goddess Saraswathi. The 9th day is “Saraswathi Puja or Ayudha Puja” when everyone gives their tools of the trade — pens, machinery, books, automobiles, school work, etc. a rest and ritually worships them. On the 10th day, all of these 3 deities are worshipped together to culminate the puja. The 10th day is “Vijayadashami” ; an auspicious day to start any new endeavour, the day when gurus are paid homage by all the students.

Why do we celebrate this? In the south, it is to acknowledge the victory of good over evil by the killing of the “asura” Mahishi by the Goddess Chandika (who then on was called Mahishasuramardhini). Goddess Chandika is an embodiment of the 3 Shaktis.

In Tamil Nadu, we celebrate the festival by arranging dolls on steps, inviting friends and family. Traditionally, the women and girls invited are given the “tamboolam” that consists of betel leaves, turmeric, betel nut, the day’s offering to the Goddess (usually a “sundal”), fruits, coconut. Off late, a small gift is also added. This festival enables the mingling of friends, neighbours. This is a social festival. The women and girls invited are asked to exhibit their talent in singing or even dancing. The arrangement of the dolls on the steps allows the exhibition of the artistic aptitude. Even if one just arranges all the dolls on the steps, it encourages the artisans who make the dolls which could be of any material – Clay, papier mache, wood, wax, plastic, paper….Obviously, it also includes dress up. Small girls even dress up specially (I remember being in the traditional madisars, wore mundu, and just experimented….rather I guess my mom had fun with me not really complaining up to an age πŸ˜‰ ). There are households these days which base the arrangement on themes. A friend of mine has alien invasion, another has handmade dolls by her 80 + year old grandma portraying Ramayana & Krishna katha. Global warming, pollution, current affairs also find their place. There are competitions in neighbour hoods under different categories.

The number of steps are supposed to be odd in number (3,5,7…). One adds a “park” alongside where in the kids pitch in with their imagination. On the religious side, apart from the two major pujas mentioned above, a fast or vratham is followed with a diet of no onion/garlic; those who take meat avoid it. Daily pujas are done with emphasis to the Goddess – slokas like the Lalitha Sahasranamam, Soundarya Lahiri are read. Daily offering is made in the form of “sundal”. Lamp is lit by the “kolu” (the steps arrangement).

Below are a few pics of the kolu we have at my place this year. It is a smaller version; thanks to space constraints. Supposedly, A and his space take precedence…so the kolu has shrunk πŸ™‚ I posted the pics just to give an idea of how the kolu looks like in most houses. This year, we just placed the dolls on the steps, no themes or anything…more keen on taking care that A does not break the dolls that have come down generations even πŸ˜€ Though, credit to my dear son, he is a gem…he loved placing them oh so tenderly on the steps.

Ooh…I forgot…placing of the kolu…usually, people place the kalasam first. The Kalasam is usually a pot made of silver filled with either water or rice. Some put a set of tamboolam inside. And end up putting mango leaves around the rim with a coconut on top. We at my place for some personal reasons, don’t do the traditional kalasam but place a doll replica. Then Lord Ganesha’s idol is placed. Followed by “marapachi” dolls. These dolls can be decorated (or buy those that already are πŸ˜‰ ) A and I have that as our next project – decoration of the marapachi pair :D. Then the rest of the dolls are placed. Usually, most houses would have the dasavatharam, chettiar-chettichi selling their produce, dolls depicting a traditional wedding, along with dolls of other deities like the 3 Shaktis, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Muruga. We get various sets to depict the various mythological stories (My mother reminisces how her grandma used to actually position or make various dolls to depict these stories…whereas we all have it so easy; yet we crib about doing the kolu thing!!)

You can click on the picture for larger/album view.

Edit: Vishesh – This is this year’s park πŸ™‚

part of As train set & other toys thrown in.
part of A's train set & other toys thrown in.

18 thoughts on “Navarathri

  1. Very nice. All my life, we never had a golu at our house at all – only witnessing them at temples. Only a few more days to go… Enjoy!! πŸ™‚

    It is great fun to set up the golu…Seems I created a ruccus when I was around 4 at home, saying I wanted it set up. Dad had to go get the dolls, set up the steps and I was in dreamland when all this was being done pleasantly surprised the next day πŸ˜€ That is how it started off at home though it is tradition at home to keep it. Guess I was a pain πŸ˜‰

  2. Nice write up Apar. Loved it – written very succinctly.

    Really A-kay? Succinct? This is one of my longest posts I think! Thanks. ps: corrected the error…thank you! πŸ™‚

  3. Hey Apar, this is a very cool description of the festival and enjoyed reading it, especially your description of the Kolu. I have always loved this time of the year when I was a kid. In Madurai, they used to do Kolu outside the house using sand and placing small toys on it. It used to be fun to look at each one of it every evening and yes they kinda had different themes. Pictures are very cool.

    PS: I didn’t know you are Tamil, are you?

    Thank you Dinesh! Sand steps…wish I could see pics of those. And aah…the question….are you tamil? I am Indian πŸ˜‰ born and brought up in TN :D. Technically no, am not Tamil; I speak tamugu (or is it telil?)at home. πŸ˜‰ Mom makes it a point to make us talk in that; did not mind cos I was a trilingual kid before I went to school πŸ˜€ Clear?! Feels like everything in my life right now is answered as “technically am this” πŸ˜€

  4. Nice post… πŸ™‚ Lol,where is the park?

    Thanks! Aaah the park…this year it is a mish mash of A’s toys which he also plays with. He accepted not to touch the dolls on the steps calling them “amachi” πŸ™‚ but his toys…though it is part of the park….he has to play with them…will post a pic of that too here…

  5. Oh, very nice pictures of your beautiful and special dolls. Loved your description of you as a child. It was nice of your parents to prepare this for you when you were asleep. I did not know much about this festival, so your presentation is very enlightening. I did not even know there are three Shaktis; I have only ever heard “Shakti and Shiva” as two distinct entities. I’m so glad you wrote this; it looks like fellow Indians have appreciated it, but it’s a treat for outsiders like me to begin to understand more, too! πŸ™‚

    I guess I was a real pain as a kid…no less now πŸ˜‰ You want a write up on the Shaktis? The sahasranamam I have mentioned literally translates to 1000 names. Each is a name of a Shakti. For someone inclined to music like you; you should listen to that rendition.Will try pick a good link and send it across.

  6. Lovely description Aparna.Remembering the days of dressing up and decorating the park with methi seeds for grass,home full of guests and nice time.Cannot value those days when compared now.
    The three shathis nicely potrayed.

    I liked yr golu…

    Hey Bhuvi! Thanks…yeah fun times…don’t think I bother to dress up these days though for the occasion. My friend actually forced a dress code on me the other day, so ended up wearing a saree to their place πŸ™‚ Shame on me…I know! πŸ˜€

  7. Ah! so you are a Telugu in Chennai. I was just being curious as you were so detailed about the festival πŸ™‚ The sand kolus were not made of steps, it was just a flat kolu on the floor. Kinda unofficial look with all sorts of toys, bridge and cars and lorries going on it.

    Yup, was brought up in Chennai. Born in Tuticorin. You would know the place being from Madurai πŸ™‚ The kolus would still make a good pic πŸ˜€

  8. Apar, here from Laksh’s blog. I enjoyed reading this post. Is it ok if I forwarded the link to a friend and posted in on my blog?

    Happy Navaratri to you and A.

    Welcome Suman! Thanks! Happy Navaratri to you too. Sure thing…go on ahead link it up πŸ˜€

  9. The golu is beautiful! this is my favorite festival and I really miss all the things related to it:) the planning and the arranging and the finished display year after year!

    Happy Saraswathi pooja to all of you!

    Welcome JS πŸ™‚ Happy Puja to you too. Yeah, it is a fun festival.It is amazing to sometimes see how different the end product turns out to be year after year even with the same old dolls! :)….now comes the time to pack everything up and store them carefully! πŸ™‚

  10. wow!! excellent post and I’m glad u did write about how Navratri is celebrated down south. Nice pics!

    Thank you Reema for your appreciation and more so for the inspiration from your cool post on Puja πŸ˜€

  11. excellent post, loved the pics. I remember being invited to a friends place during dasara to see the dolls displayed and I was blown away… Looking at your pics, I’m just awed..

    Thank you Imp’s mom! You are welcome to come home any time you are in Chennai my dear soul sis πŸ˜‰ and especially during Navarathri…condition is to bring your little imp along πŸ˜€ A needs company too πŸ˜€

  12. Did nothing but make sundal this Navaratri… and you’re Tamugu? I call it the vostunde-irukken clan πŸ™‚

    lol! Did not make sundal even once, just ate that prepared by others πŸ˜‰ Am not that bad…but “jaragu” becomes “thosko” at our place πŸ˜€

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