India is so beautiful and diverse in its culture and traditions and each festival is celebrated in a different way in each corner of India. I am born and brought up in Tamil Nadu and the festival of Navaratri is celebrated in a yet another nice way.
While I have hardly paid attention to the intricacies of Navaratri and its special significance, I do know that Navaratri is celebrated to cherish the victory of good over evil. Navaratri denotes 9 religious nights and in Tamil Nadu, each of the 3 days are associated with each Goddess. The first 3 days are devoted to Goddess Durga, the next 3 days are devoted to Goddess Lakshmi and the last 3 days are devoted to Goddess Saraswathi.
There is always a tinge of happiness and festivity in the air before Navaratri starts. When we were children, we were very excited that our exams were over and we could celebrate the festival more peacefully and happily now! In Tamil Nadu, most homes who were celebrating ‘Navaratri’ had beautiful ‘golus’. A ‘golu’ is a collection of dolls on padis or steps. The steps had to be in odd number format. The steps were covered with a fabric and the dolls were placed on it. We can either make our own steps or you can get the ‘Golu stand’ from the store right away(which are foldable)
The ‘golu’ had dolls from the Hindu mythology and you can see various stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted by the the dolls. The top most steps had idols of Gods and the ‘kalasham’ ( a jar with coconut and mango leaves) The lower steps have dolls depicting everyday life, weddings, bride and groom, kitchen play set and more. Seeing the ‘golu’ in different houses is always a delight!
While we never had a golu in our house, we used to have fun ‘golu hopping’ when we were young.
The most exciting part of the Navratri has to be the ‘golu’ hopping. We are always invited to a multitude of houses and little girls are dressed in beautiful pattu pavadai and make the house more happy with their giggles and laughs! They are encouraged to sing a nice song and the shy and the introverted girls soon croon a devotional song here and there!
Once the singing is over, prasadam mostly consisting of ‘sundal'(lentil) is distributed to all those who come home. The guests are then given vethalai, paku, mirror, comb as parting gifts.
Saraswathi Pooja/Ayudha Pooja and Vijayadasami:
The ninth day of Navaratri is celebrated as ‘Saraswathi Pooja’. On this day, the Goddess of learning, Goddess Saraswathi is worshipped. Goddess Saraswathi is decorated and we keep all our textbooks and notebooks from school/college/work before her. We keep sandalwood paste thilak and kumkum thilak on the books hoping the Goddess blesses us with abundant knowledge!
We were also instructed not to touch the books or open the books for a day at least (and we used to be very happy then – that we did not have to study for that day!! :))
‘Ayudha Puja’ is also celebrated on the day of ‘Saraswathi Puja’. We celebrate all the instruments in the house by first cleaning them and then applying ‘thilak’ to all appliances in the house like TV, refrigerator, car, bike and even the doors.
The 10th day after Navaratri is ‘Vijayadasami’. In Tamil Nadu, Vijayadasami is an auspicious day to start new activities. I remember I started to learn Bharatnatyam on a Vijayadasami day many,many years ago. Young children are encouraged to start any new pursuits on this day as it is supposed to be more successful that way.
After Vijayadasami is over, the dolls are carefully packed and put to sleep in their boxes. They will be refreshed again for the next Navaratri!
I hope you had fun celebrating Navaratri virtually through my words! This year, COVID playing truant, has kept most festivities under control. I hope the next year, we can celebrate ‘Golu’ with all gaiety and happiness!!