Astra Puja or Ayudha Puja, as it is more commonly known as, is an important part of the festival of Navratri. The Navratri festival is a Hindu festival of triumph and is celebrated across India. Astra Puja which also means Ayudha Puja is nothing but the worship of different kinds of instruments. Different states have different names for this festival. It is celebrated as “Ayudha Puje” in Karnataka, as Ayudha Pujai in Tamil Nadu, as Ayudha Puja in Kerala, as Aayudha Pooja in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and as “Ayudha Puja” or “Astra Puja” in Orissa.
Ayudha Puja Celebration
Ayudha Puja is generally celebrated on the Navami or the ninth day of the 15-day moon cycle. This means that this festival falls on the half-bright moon day. It usually occurs in September or October and is part of the Durga Puja, Navaratri, Dasara or the Golu festival. When the ninth day of the Dasara festival dawns, all tools and weapons are worshipped. The devotees in Karnataka usually celebrate the killing of demon king Mahishasura by the Goddess Chamundeshwari. Once the demon king was killed, all the weapons were kept out in the open for the purpose of worship. One may see the Navaratri festival celebrated across the country, however, in a number of South Indian states, where it is commonly known as Ayudha Puja, the methods of worship are different.
The three Goddesses that are worshipped during the Ayudha Puja are Lakshmi who brings in wealth, Saraswati who brings in arts, wisdom and literature and Parvati who is considered the divine mother. The general things to be worshipped during Ayudha Puja are various kinds of equipment. Tools used by artisans are revered and weapons used by soldiers are also worshipped. The puja performed during Ayudha Puja focuses on each individual’s profession and the tools associated with it. It is understood that worshipping these tools will help everyone work better and get a proper reward.
While the traditional application of Ayudha Puja is for worshipping tools and weapons, the evolution of modern science and technology has brought about a cross-cultural development. Devotees also worship computers, laptops and typewriters as well while maintaining the traditional and religious order. This worship is the same as is done for weapons. There are a number of areas in Orissa where tools used for cultivation such as ploughing, inscription writing such as lekhani or karani and war such as daggers and swords are also worshipped.
Before the pooja being performed, all the tools are cleaned thoroughly. These tools, vehicles, machines and all other devices are then polished or painted. Once this is done, they are smeared with Kumkum, sandalwood paste and also turmeric paste. One day prior to the puja, all these tools and machinery are placed on a platform and they are then decorated with flowers. Weapons are also cleaned and decorated with flowers. A tilak is also placed on them and they are all placed adjacent to a wall.