Navrathri means nine nights. It is a festival of nine nights which is devoted to Goddess Shakti, the powerful depiction of Goddess Parvathi. It is one of the longest festivals celebrated by the Hindus. Navrathri is usually celebrated in Sept-Oct months. Navrathri is known as the most popular festival in India, especially among the Bengalis and Tamil people. Hindu Puranas have always worshiped goddesses before the arrival of Aryans. We used to treat goddess as Shree or Devi meaning auspicious and prosperous, which is actually a very high position in the social system. People used to worship Devi as Shakti, the powerful one. On these nine days of Navrathri, the female goddess is worshiped in all 9 forms of emotions.
Mythical stories of Navrathri
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They are many mythical stories behind the celebration of Navrathri. There was the demon called Mahishasura who worshipped Lord Shiva and gained the power of eternity. Because of this he became a powerful person and started to trouble everyone. He killed whoever came against him. He was almost on the verge of winning the entire universe. This put the Swargaloka into big trouble and all gods went to meet Lord Shiva to get a solution. Hearing this, Lord Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma created a beautiful goddess called Durga. Once Mahishasura saw Durga, he fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. Durga told that she was ready to marry, but on one condition that he had to beat her in a fight. Mahishasura was happy hearing that because he could win over anyone. The fight went on for 9 nights and on the 10th day, Mahishasura was killed by Durga. So the 10th day is known as Vijayadashami.
Another myth is that Daksha, the King of Himalayas had a beautiful daughter named Uma. She was in love with Lord Shiva and wanted to marry him. She started worshipping and Lord Shiva married her. But one day, when Uma went to her parents’ palace for a Yagna, the king insulted Lord Shiva. Uma felt very insulted herself and jumped into the Agni (fire) and she attained salvation. She is also known as Sati. Later, she was born to the same parents and married Lord Shiva again. When she goes to visit and stay with her parents every year, it is celebrated as Navrathri.
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Navrathri celebrations in Tamil Nadu are unique and interesting. The festival is for 9 nights and the 10th day is celebrated as Vijayadashami or the victorious day. These 9 nights are dedicated to Goddesses Saraswathi, Lakshmi, and Durga for 3 days each. The Tamil Brahmins keep Bommai Kolu, which is the most interesting part of Navrathri celebrations. Bommai means dolls, and Kolu means the display. They keep dolls in wooden steps in a systematic manner. Dolls in the shape of various goddesses and gods are displayed in an order along with other auspicious dolls such as the Marappachi. The entire display is well-decorated with lights and colorful papers and flowers. Even in Andhra and Karnataka such rituals are followed. But Tamil Nadu celebrations are unique compared to any other place in India.
The Auspicious Nine Days of Navrathri
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The first day starts with Ganapathy pooja and after the main member form family, whoever it could be, will perform Kalasa Avahanam. This is done to invite Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi to the home. The stand of the Bommai will have steps in odd numbers. These steps will be covered with good fabric or colored papers before the Bommais are arranged on it. Even though wooden, China and clay dolls of gods and goddesses are the main dolls arranged for Bommai Kolu, other dolls such as the park, traffic signal etc are also arranged as a part of Bommai Kolu. Even Navdhanyas or the nine grains are kept as a part of the Bommai Kolu display.
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Once you keep the Bommai Kolu at your home, everyday evening guests, especially ladies and children, come to visit your Bommai Kolu and will give and take gifts from each other. Daily pooja is performed to please the gods and some sweet or savory is prepared as an offering. This is distributed among those visiting your Bommai Kolu. On auspicious days, during the Navrathri, few married women and girl children are invited to accept tamboola and gifted bangles and dress as they are worshipped as the Goddess. The musically inclined will sing devotional songs to please the gods and goddesses.
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On the 9th day, Mahanavami, there will be special pooja for Saraswathi. Children keep their books and musical instruments on the eve of Mahanavami for Saraswathi Pooja. Once they keep the books for Pooja they are not supposed to read or study anything till the next day morning which is Vijayadashami.
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On the day of Vijayadashami, after the pooja in the morning, children take their books and musical instruments and practice it. They have to write and read something before they have their breakfast because it is also known as the Vidyarambham day (the day to start earning knowledge) for kids. On Vidyarambham day, kids start their academic life. So it is a very auspicious day for kids and whoever is going to start a new venture in life. On this day, toddlers are made to start their academic life or start learning new skills such as dance or music in an auspicious way.
Navrathri marks the beginning of a new year of learning started in an auspicious way by worshiping the goddess of knowledge and art, Saraswathi.
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