Navarathi festival always brings cheer and lifts my spirits. The festival is celebrated as the mother Goddess’s victory over the evil Mahishasura. I am not going to tell you that story but what the celebration is all about. What significance it has in one’s life, just going beyond the legend and I will start from my house. Yes of course it’s a flash back.

Navathri in my house was celebrated with great pomp and gaiety. All the children would be waiting for this as we used to set the Kolu in our house. My uncle used to oversee all the arrangements. The house would be spruced up for the event, the pooja room used to be decorated with festoons and mango leaves. Dolls of various hues and colours, which originated from various places, would be stacked on a specially fabricated Kolu stand. All the children would wait patiently with bated breath when the dolls and idols were taken out of the cupboard for this function which would be other wise under lock and key. We were not allowed to touch these idols lest they would break as many were made of clay. There were 7 steps for the Kolu stand and the bottom portion would be allotted to us to arrange our dolls. We would make a zoo with small animals as we had a good collection. We used to create a lawn with mustard seeds, a mountain with clay and a tunnel for a train to pass through.

I remember the 3 feet Krishna statue we had with small lolak dangling from his ears and I liked that idol very much. We had statues of Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Durga, Rama’s Pattabhishekam and other colourful wooden statues of Gods and Goddesses. The centre piece in most of the house would be the bald pot bellied Nattukottai chettiar. Probably this Chettiar was playing the role of the present day laughing Buddha. Every child would like to have a feel of either his bald head or pot belly. Final decoration would be with colorful series bulbs which my uncle got especially for this function.

The decoration and arrangements of the Kolu would be completed on the previous day of the Navarathri celebrations. On the First day special lamps would be lit and every evening the house would be reverberating with Bhajans,the sound of the thal and harmonium. All the members in the house would assemble together in the pooja room and sing the songs in praise of the Goddess. Then arthi was performed by the youngest member of the family. It was a privilege for the young one and finally the Prasad would be distributed. This was very interesting as every day one pulse would be used to make Chundal. So for 9 days 9 varieties of chundal would be distributed as Prasad. Large quantities of chundal would be made and once the arthi was over all the children from neighbourhood would assemble and they would all get prasadam in paper plates. They were real paper plates as we cut news paper into square shapes to serve the prasadam readily to who ever came to our house. There was lot of fun as all children would vie with each other to get their share. We were happy to distribute the same. I think those were the little pleasures of life.

During the 9 days we had a stream of visitors in our house. Whenever any body visited the house during kolu it was expected and mandatory for that person to sing a song and get chundal in return as prasadam. Though generally devotional songs are expected to be sung, there would be surprises as some young ones would end up rendering ennadi rakkama……. or some other popular film song.

Though this festival was meant for the women folk men and boys would also eagerly take part, the varieties of chundal being the main incentive. Finally end of the day there would be arguments as to whose chundal was better off for that day. When the ladies visited our house they were given Haldi Kumkum in attractive plastic containers and vettela Pakku and bangles Those who were affluent added a blouse piece to this. All the ladies never missed any opportunity and it was a nice haul at the end of the season for them.

We also visited our friends’ or relatives’ houses and sang songs and carried our chundal and other goodies in small packets as we had to make lot of visits. We hurried for the next visit so that we got the prasadam before it got exhausted. Really fun filled days we had.

Once I was invited to my Hindi teacher’s house and I went there with my little brother who was around 4 yrs. The house was close by so I tugged him along. While leaving the house my elder sister told my brother to bring some thing for her. So when the snacks were served my brother slowly slipped a sliced banana piece in his shirt pocket. After reaching home he tried to take it out. It had become a paste. Even to day we laugh and pull his leg regarding this.

The day of Mahanavami was the happiest for us as we kept all our books for the pooja. It was No Study day for us and we enjoyed it thoroughly. The last day i.e on Vijay dashami we started our studies after praying to Goddess Saraswathi and always had a feeling of emptiness on that day as that was the end of the festivities.

I feel this festival taught me some good values of life like sharing, building relationships, adaptability and unity. I think festivals should not be seen just as rituals, we must learn how to a lead good life with a sense of camaraderie.

Jai Mata Ki!

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