30 September 2017

2017 Navaratri Alangarams at Tiruvannamalai—Days 1, 2 and 3

Each year Navaratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. The Navaratri festival or 'nine day festival' becomes a 'ten day festival' with the addition of the last day, Vijaya-dasami (day of victory) as its culmination. Today, Saturday September 30, 2017 marked that tenth day of Victory.

A legend explaining the origin of Navaratri is that Adi Shankaracharya gave upadesa at two primary locations during the installation of a Sri Chakra at Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) and at Koolurmugambika (Karnataka). At the time of the installations he directed 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. 

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. To view photographs of the 2017 Navaratri Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram at Tiruvannamalai go to this link here. To view photographs of the 2017 Kolu Display in a private house go to this link here.

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. 

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. 

Tiruvannamalai has many beautiful Temples dedicated to the Divine Mother. The below photographs are of alangarams on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd days of the Shakti Goddess during this 2017 Navaratri Festival.

Navaratri Alangarams—Day One

Angalamman Temple near Market

Angalamman Temple near Government Veterinary Hospital

Kamakshi Temple on Thirumanjana Street

Goddess Soudeshwara, Tiruvannamalai

Goddess Vasavi, Tiruvannamalai

Navaratri Alangarams—Day Two

Adi Kamakshi Temple near Bus Stand

Close up of Goddess at Adi Kamakshi Temple

Angalamman Temple, near Market

Angalamman Temple near Government Veterinary Hospital

Close up of Goddess, Angalamman Temple near Hospital

Unnamulai Temple on Car Street

Durgamman Temple near Bus stand

Kamakshi Temple on Thirumanjana Street

Close up of Goddess, Kamakshi Temple Thirumanjana Street

Gangaiamman Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Ramana Ashram

Soudeshwara Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Vasavi Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Navaratri Alangarams—Day Three

Angalamman Temple near Government Veterinary Hospital

Gangaiamman Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Kali Temple, Chengham Road

Kamakshi Temple Thirumanjana Street

Ramana Ashram

Seshadri Ashram

Soudheshwari Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Unnamulai Temple, Car Street

Vasavi Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Close up of Goddess, Vasavi Temple, Tiruvannamalai

[With thanks to Professor Hari Prasad for photographs]

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