4 October 2011

Navaratri [Sharad] 2011

Each year Sharad Navratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. The festival is celebrated for approximately nine nights once every year during the beginning of October, with dates and longevity determined by the lunar calendar. This Navaratri started on September 28th and will complete on October 6th, 2011. To read about Navaratri in more details go to this link here.

The origin of Navaratri came about when Adi Shankaracharya gave Upadesham to the people at two primary locations during the installation of the Sri Chakra. He delivered his Upadesham at Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) and Koolurmugambika (Karnataka). He directed the women folk to worship the Goddess and seek her blessings for wealth, prosperity and long life for their husbands and overall happiness in the family. To read about the worship of Shakti during the days of Navaratri go to this link here.

This Festival is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, depending on region, local history and family influences. Some see it as a way to commune with one’s own feminine divinity. A widespread practice honours the Goddess in every woman by inviting young girls to the family's home, feeding them and offering new clothes. During the Festival, women also perform tapas and selfless acts.

Families in Tamil Nadu traditionally prepare in their homes a kolu, an exhibition of small dolls, figurines and small artifacts on a stepped, decorated shelf. At least one murti of Shakti must be present, as well as wooden figurines of a boy and a girl together to invoke auspicious marriages. For information about Kolu Dolls go to this link here.

Kolu Dolls Display

The Navaratri festival or 'nine day festival' becomes 'ten days festival' with the addition of the last day, Vijaya-dasami (day of victory) its culmination.

On all these days, Mother Mahisasura-mardini (Durga) is worshipped. According to the narrative from the Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana in which the form of Durga was created as a warrior goddess to fight a demon.

Below photographs are taken in one of four Amman Temples at Arunachala during this year's 2011 Navaratri. Right click to view enlargements.

Adi Kamakshi Temple,
Goddess meditating on Lingam

Arunachaleswarar Temple Mandapam,
Sri Lakshmi

Adi Kamakshi Temple,
Goddess with Sri Venkateshwara

In South India the Goddess is worshipped in three forms. During the first three nights, Durga is revered, then Lakshmi on the fourth, fifth and sixth nights, and finally Saraswati until the ninth night. Durga ("invincible" in Sanskrit) is the epitome of strength, courage and ferocity. Her devotees approach Her, sometimes with difficult penances, for those qualities and for the protection she Bestows.

Kamakshi Temple,
Gaja Lakshmi

Durga Amman Temple,
Goddess with Parrot

Kamakshi Amman Temple,
Rishaba Vahanam

A more gentle worship is observed for Lakshmi also called Annapurna "Giver of food," Lakshmi is the Goddess of abundance, wealth and comfort. She is the ever-giving mother, worshipped for well being and prosperity. A traditional way of invoking Her is chanting the Sri Suktam. In Her honour, food is prepared and offered to neighbours and all who visit, thus strengthening community ties. On the full moon night following Navaratri, it is believed Lakshmi Herself visits each home and replenishes family wealth.

The last three days of Navaratri, exalt Saraswati, the form of Shakti personifying wisdom, arts and beauty. Her name literally means "flowing one", a reference to thoughts, words, music and the Saraswati River. Mystically Saraswati is believed to be the keeper of the powerful Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted during the festival to invoke Her supreme blessings. Devotees meditate for days on this mantra alone, as it is considered the door to divine wisdom.

Kamakshi Amman
Temple Lights

In the next posting, photographs of Vijaydasami at Arunachala Amman Temples, and the significance of the Goddess at this place during Navaratri.


gracehill said...

Wonder if its real money in the photo of the Goddess at the feet of Balaji?

Meenakshi Ammal said...

If it was real money don't think they would leave it lying around like that. If it was real that would be a lot of cash.

Anonymous said...

A Brahmin family invited me into their home over Navaratri to look at their Kolu doll collection. Surprised that a working family has the time to observe all the rituals so exactly.