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 month 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. 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 😉 ). 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 🙂 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 😀 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 😉 ) 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 🙂