Navarathri means nine nights (evenings) dedicated for the worship of three Devis, viz., Sri Parvathi, Sri Mahalakshmi and Sri Saraswathi. It is predominantly celebrated in South India as Navarathri and in North & East India as Durga Pooja.
It commences on the first day from Mahalaya Amavasya, i.e the new moon day following the full moon day in Badrapada month. In fact, the period of 15 days from Badrapada Poornima to Mahalaya Amavasya is called Mahalaya Paksham, i.e period dedicated for obeisance to the departed elders in the family. People observe fasting during this period.
For the Year 2021, Navarathri commences on Thursday, 7th October 2021 and concludes on Friday, 15th October 2021, the Vijaya Dashami day.
The day Mahalaya Amavasya occurs, festivities begin. In Tamil Nadu people belonging to some communities keep the idols (made of clay or papier-mâché or stone or ceramic) of the Hindu Gods in an array (with or without theme) on 3 or 5 or 7 or 9 or 11 steps at their homes. This arrangement is called ‘Kolu’. From next day onwards, the Navarathri festival is celebrated.
The first three days are devoted for Sri Durga, next three days are devoted for Sri Mahalakshmi and the last three days are devoted for Sri Saraswathi. On all the days, chanting of Sri Lalitha Sahasranamam is done twice the day. Kids especially girl children are given royal treatment during Navarathri times.
They are invited for sumptuous lunches and new dresses & ornaments are gifted to them. In the evening, the kids are made up to the images of Gods and they visit the houses of their friends & relatives and they are given gifts.
The ladies also enjoy the festival by visiting their family and friends to see and appreciate the various modes of kolu. The ladies also give and take gifts for every visit. Incidentally, Navarathri is also the harvest time for pulses such as channa, peas etc. Hence only the boiled pulses are offered as Neivedyam to the kolu before distribution to the visitors.
As per the legend, Saraswathi Pooja / Ayudha Pooja is celebrated either on the Sapthami or on the Navami day. In some places, the festival is celebrated on Tuesday, 12th October 2021 and in other places, it is celebrated on Thursday, 14th October 2021.
On that day, the idol / picture of Sri Saraswathi is separately kept near the kolu. The kids’ school books, household account books, Ramayana (if it is available) are kept in front of the idol.
If there are any important instruments / tools, they are also cleaned and kept there. Invariably all the vehicles are cleaned, decked up with flowers, Chandan and Kumkum.
Sri Saraswathi Ashtothara Pooja is done. Sugiyan, the dish made of urad dal and jaggery is offered as neivedyam. On this day, kids are not allowed to read or write as the implements are kept in pooja.
The next day, Friday, 15th October 2021 is the day of Vijayadashami.
This is considered as a very auspicious day for commencing education, starting to learn music, art or sport, inauguration of new business etc.,
Aksharabyasam, the ritual denoting the commencement of education for kids is celebrated. In Kerala, this is celebrated across all religions.
There are many stories attached to Vijayadasami. ‘’Vijaya’ means ‘Victory’ and ‘dasami’ means tenth day.
It is believed that Sri Parvathi Devi had extinguished the asura who was buffalo headed, viz., Mahishasur on this day. Hence, She is also called Mahishasura Marthini.
In Bengal, Navarathri is celebrated as Durga Pooja in memory of this event. There is another belief that Sri Rama had killed Ravana on this day only. In most parts of India, Ram Leela depicting the killing of Ravana by Sri Rama is enacted in open grounds.
Basically, Vijayadasami is celebrated to connote the victory of the good & virtuous over evil. At Mysuru, the Dasara festival is celebrated in a grand scale at the palace. In Gujarat, the sword dance named ‘’Garba’ is performed signifying the killing of Mahishasura by Sri Durga.