Navratri a festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga is celebrated with much fanfare across the country. Though not as elaborate as in the other parts of the country Navratri is celebrated with great zeal in the city. And like all other North Indian festivals that are slowly becoming a part of the city, Navratri too has now become an important event in the festival calendar.
The city is all set for the Navratri festival as various cultural organisations have already begun organising programmes for the nine-night festival. Children are eagerly waiting for their much awaited holiday because unlike the other holidays, they will not be nagged about studying and will be completely let off the hook.
An average Malayali’s Navratri celebration ends with a day off, keeping one’s books and other items of work and study for pooja on the Mahanavami day and on the Vijayadashami day people run hither thither to put their child in some new area of study or art or he himself embarks on something new.
But for the various other sections in the city, such as Tamil Brahmins who form a major part of the city’s population, Navratri is a huge event. From the day one of the festival the Tamilians keep the ‘bomma golu’. “The ‘golu’ which is set up, signify the presence of Goddesses Saraswati, Parvati and Lakshmi at one’s home. It is arranged in steps and these steps are arranged in odd numbers. And on all the nine days special poojas are held in the mornings and evenings along with bhajans, and sweets are offered to the deity. And these are later offered as ‘prasad’ to the guests. We strictly follow these traditions every year without fail in our homes,” says Selvi, a Tamil Brahmin.
The women are given great importance during this festival. “Though a man is the important person in the house, the family’s prosperity is solely because of the lady of the house. Hence on all nine days of the festival, women folk visit various houses and they are given ‘prasad, which consists of betel leaves and betel nut, turmeric, kumkum powder, a mirror, a small vessel or plate, blouse piece etc according to a person’s wish and some money. The women who are invited are married women or young girl children. And the older women give blessings to the other for a long married life. Children from nearby streets go to the other Brahmin houses and sing bhajans in praise of the Goddess. These are some of the customs that we follow,” says Suresh, a member of the Brahmin Sabha. “As part of the Navratri festival this year the ladies’ wing of the Sabha will be conducting a ‘Vilakku Pooja’ on October 6 at Puthen Street,” he adds.
Some of the sweets and other specials that are made on the days of the festival are sakkarai pongal, sundal, lime rice, vada and so on.
Not just the Tamil Brahmins, but the Gujaratis, Maharashtrians and Rajasthanis who have made the city their home celebrate Navratri in their respective associations with splendour. “We do not want our kids to fall out of tradition and be aloof to any of our customs and traditions just because we are away from our homes. Hence we make it a point to make all arrangements at home and we also go to our Rajastani Sabha to be a part of the celebrations. The poojas which begin around 9 pm will go on for long hours till 11 pm at night. There will be garba, dandiya and so on. Girls and boys dress up and wear new cloths and participate in the festivities,” says Divya Kamnani a Rajasthani who has made the city her home and also a member of the Rajastani Sabha.
“On the days of the Navratri festival we are strictly vegetarian and some people even avoid onion and garlic. We do pooja to Durga Matha and on the last day of the festival we wash the feet of a girl child. I generally perform this ritual with my daughter. There are others who wash the feet of nine girl children and offer gifts to them. Girls are considered as Goddess,” she says.
So this week don’t just sit back in your home, instead take a tour around the city and you might come across a lot many interesting customs and traditions.