Text and Pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
“Navaraathri” or nine nights as it is known, refers to one of the important festivals celebrated by the Hindus since time immemorial. The festival is celebrated from16th to 24th October.
Celebration of courage, wealth and wisdom
The festival is dedicated to three Goddesses ~ Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathy respectively. Mother Goddess is invoked as a powerful force as Goddess Durga is celebrated for three consecutive nights for her courage and valour, while she is adored as Goddess Lakshmi for the next three nights for granting the boon of wealth and bounty.
During the final three days, she is worshipped as Goddess Saraswathy for her innate wisdom and for bestowing the gift of learning.
This year, only eight days are dedicated to the Goddesses , three for Goddess Durga, three for Goddess Lakshmi and two for Goddess Saraswathy according to the Tamil Almanac.
“Saraswathy Poojas” are held at many places including schools, houses and temples. Books, and professional tools are kept in front of the Goddess Saraswathy statues to invoke blessings.
“Kolu” is a traditional display of idols and statues associated with worship. An array of idols and statues are beautifully displayed on a nine- step rack like a dais. “Vadai”, sweetened rice flakes and tempered chick peas are offered to the Goddess during the “Navaraathri” festival.
Legend has it that a demon king known as “Mahisaasuran” has been causing untold hardships to the “Thevars”. Ill treated “Thevars” complained to the Mother Goddess. She assured to bring an end to the evil spirit. Then, Mother Goddess commenced a fast for ten consecutive days, and at the end of the tenth day, she destroyed the demon king “Mahisaasuran”. The Mother Goddess thereafter became known as “Mahisaasura Marthini.
“Navaraathri” is celebrated in praise of the divine spirit of the Mother Goddess”, says Nagarajah Kurrukkal ,the Chief Priest of Naattukkottai Nagaraththaar, popularly known as the New Kathiresan temple, in Bambalapitty.
Tots are taught how to write their first words on “Vijayathasami” day, which falls on the day after of “Saraswathy Pooja”. “Vijayathasami” is an auspicious day to initiate learning for children. The first letters are either drawn on rice, which is often the practice or paddy with the right index finger.
Temples, houses, schools and business premises are decorated with colourful fresh flower garlands alongwith many traditional decorations. Devotees partake of vegetarian meals during the “Navaraathri” festival and throng the temple at twilight. Cultural events are held at dusk fall to celebrate the spirit of the three goddesses.
The “Navaraathri” is also a celebration of courage and valour, the defeating of evil and negativity, not just externally, but within each individual.
These photos were captured at a “Navaraathri” celebrations at Saiva Mangaiya Kazhagam in Wellawatte.
“Kolam” ~ traditional design made with coloured rice
“Kuththu Vilakku” ~ Traditional lamp is lit during the festival
Beautifully decorated “Kolu” for “Navaraathri” festival is on display
Traditional welcome to celebrate the Goddess
It’s a rare occasion women are allowed to perform Hindu religious rituals
Sweetened rice flakes, tempered chick peas and “Vadai” traditionally offered on a fresh banana leaf
Decorated deities on display
Students and teachers take part in special religious rituals
Sweetened rice flakes traditionally offered on a fresh banana leaf
Traditional worship to invoke blessings
Tempered chick peas traditionally offered on a fresh banana leaf
Enchanting decorations for the celebration
Traditionally offered “Vadai” on a fresh banana leaf
Singing of devotional songs dedicated to the goddesses
Navarathri Songs by Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiyaar:
[mp3 Audio ~ click on play]
Om Sakthi Om ~ by D.K. Pattammal and Nithyasree Mahadevan
Vellai Thamarai Poovil Iruppal ~ by K.J. Yesudas
Ujjayani Nithyakalyani ~ Sudha Ragunathan
Portrait of Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiyaar at Bharathy Public Library in Uyarappulam,Aanaikkottai,Jaffna District – pic by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai