In the southern states of India, Navaratri is variously celebrated for Ram’s victory or for Goddess Saraswati’s blessings. In all cases the binding theme is the battle of good winning over evil.
In Karnataka, Dassehra is the state festival and it is popular for its opulence and grandeur. The Royal family of Mysore plays a prominent role in these celebrations. On Navami the Royal Sword is worshipped and taken out in a procession along with decorated elephants and horses. On Dasami ie. Dassehra the procession is held on the streets of Mysore. Goddess Chamundeswari is placed on a golden saddle (Howdah) on the back of a caparisoned elephant in procession along with tableaux, dance groups, music bands and decorated horses, camels and elephants.
All of Karnataka revels in this joyous celebration with pujas, temple visits and sweets being exchanged. Flower decorations deck up the streets and homes giving them a festive air.
Ayudha Puja is celebrated in all the southern states and is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati.It is on Navami, when Military personnel upkeep their weapons and families with craftsmen place their tools of livelihood at the feet of the Goddess.
In certain southern and western states, a part of the house is decorated with dolls called “Bommai”. In Tamil Nadu it is called “ Golu” and family members visit each other to see the Golu decorations and to wish each other prosperity.
In Kerala the celebrations are of an austere kind. On Ashtami, books are placed for puja before Goddess Saraswati at home or in temple. On Navami Day there is no reading or studying. Then on Dashami , the books are ceremoniously taken out after puja for reading and writing. This day is considered auspicious for initiating children into the world of letters and so in temples all over Kerala, thousands of kids participate in this ritual, popularly known as Vidyarambham (Initiation of learning). Children between 2 and 3 years are initiated in the pursuit of knowledge by making them write the alphabet done by the eldest family member or a learned teacher, using the point finger. Some write the alphabet or God’s name on the tongue using a gold coin. For Keralites now this is not restricted to Hindus alone as people from other communities too join in this ritual. It is purely a festival of learning and a little of festivities.
Kolu is put up mainly in Brahmin houses, visited by the believers to whom Kum Kum, Coconuts, bangles,new clothes and sweets are offered, according to one’s resources. Women believe this will help to keep them happily married and consider this offering as a sign of ‘mangalya’.
Bommai Kolu is prevalent in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka too. In Telangana, a notable tradition involves Telugu Hindu women who produce Bathukamma for the Navaratri Goddess. It is an artistic flower decoration particularly using marigolds revering Tridevi. “Bathuka” in Telugu means flower and “Amma” of course is Mother, here signifying the all pervading Mother Goddess, Shakti.
In many places in India, importance is also given to nine grains that are specifically sprouted for nine days of Navaratri and then offered to the presiding Goddess.
The spirit of Navaratri is the reflection of the common thread running through the variety of ways of it being celebrated. In every celebration is the echo of the triumph of good over evil and the protection given to us.
Read more on :Navaratri 2.