Thursday, July 30, 2009

What is Navaratri or?

What is Navaratri?
Navaratri is an important Hindu festival. “Nava” means nine and “Ratri” means night. During Navaratri, the Goddess is worshipped in Her various forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Though the Goddess is one, She is represented and worshipped in three different aspects, on the nine days. The tenth day is called Vijayadasami. “Vijaya” means victory, the victory over our own minds that can come only when we have worshipped Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
On the first three days Durga is customarily worshipped. Durga is the one who removes our evil tendencies. She personifies Shakti or divine energy. She is also called Mahishasura Mardini, the destroyer of demon. Mahisha means buffalo. Is not there a buffalo in our minds? We do have the qualities of laziness, darkness, ignorance and inertia. Durga Devi’s killing of the Mahisha demon is, symbolically, the destruction of these qualities within us that is difficult to destroy. By worshipping Her, we invoke that divine Power within us to destroy our animalistic tendencies.
For knowledge to dawn within us, our minds have to be prepared. The mind must be pure, concentrated and single-pointed. This purification of the mind is obtained by worshipping Lakshmi Devi. We think Lakshmi represents only material wealth. Real wealth is self-discipline and the values of love, kindness, respect and sincerity. By practising these values, our mind becomes purified. Only they help us preserve our material wealth. Our wealth of virtues is our true Lakshmi. The six forms of wealth are calmness of mind, self-control, self-withdrawal, forbearance, faith and single pointedness. Our goal is victory over the mind which comes only when the mind is prepared and this mental preparation is the symbolism of the Lakshmi Puja.
Victory over the mind is gained only through knowledge and through understanding. Saraswathi represents this highest knowledge of the Self.
Thus we see that the theme of the entire Vedas is reflected in the Navaratri festival. Purify the mind and remove all negativities including laziness and procastination. Cultivate positive virtues.
Gain spiritual knowledge and transcend limitations.
This is the real victory-the dance of joy-ritualistically performed as Raas or Garbha by some communities in India.
What is “Golu”? (Also known as Kolu, or Bommalu Koluvai)
During Navratri, it is customary in Tamil Nadu to display a "Golu". This is an exhibition of various dolls and figurines in odd numbered tiers ("padis"). The dolls, called Kolu or Golu, represent the “durbar” or assembly of subjects of Goddess Durga. This assembly is held just before Mother Goddess ventures on her mission to slay Mahishasura, the buffalo-headed demon. Therefore when depicted along with the ‘kolu,’ Goddess Durga is also referred as Mahishasura-mardini.
Generally, when people come to a person's house to see the Golu, they are given prasad (the offering given to God that day), kumkum and a small bag of gifts. During Bommai Kolu, the entire neighborhood, friends and relatives gather in a house and sing bhajans dedicated to Goddess Durga. Special sweets are prepared during the period.
Golu is adorned with dolls - predominantly with that of the Gods and Goddesses depicting mythology. At the first step of the Golu, a “Kalasam” is placed symbolizing the presence of the Goddess Durga. It is a traditional practice to have at least some “Marapachi Bommai” or wooden dolls which are figurines of a boy and a girl together. There is also a tradition of parents gifting their married daughter Marapachi bommai so that she can start Navratri Kolu display in her house.
On the 9th day (Saraswati Puja), special pujas are offered to Goddess Saraswati - the divine source of wisdom and enlightenment. Books and musical instruments are placed in the puja and worshipped as a source of knowledge. Also tools are placed in the pooja - as part of "Ayudha Pooja". Even vehicles are washed and decorated, and puja performed for them.
The 10th day, "Vijayadasami" - is the most auspicious day of all. It was the day on which evil was finally destroyed by good. It marks a new and prosperous beginning. New ventures started on this day are believed to flourish and bring prosperity. Kids often start tutoring on this day to have a head start in their education.
In the evening of "Vijayadasami", any one doll from the "Golu" is symbolically put to sleep and the Kalasam is moved a bit towards North to mark the end of that year's Navaratri Golu. Prayers are offered to thank God for the successful completion of that year's Golu and with a hope of a successful one the next year! Then the Golu is dismantled and packed up for the next year.
Legend of Navaratri
Mahishasura was an evil demon (asura) who defeated the gods and the demons. He attacked the heaven and captured it and made gods (devas) his slaves. He proclaimed that he is now Indra – the lord of the gods. The gods led by Brahma approached Vishnu and Shiva and appraised them of the situation.
The actions of Mahishasura caused intense anger in the Trimurtis. The anger emerging out of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva combined to the take the shape of a terrible form and this was Durga.It is said that the flames of fire that gushed out of the eyes of the Trimurtis – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – formed a mountain, brilliant like a million suns. Out of this mountain, Durga took shape as the goddess more powerful than all the gods.
Captivated by the awe-inspiring Durga, the gods bestowed on her their own characteristic weapons. Shiva – the trident, Vishnu – the discus, Varuna – the conch, Agni – the spear, Yama – the cudgel, Vayu – the bow, Surya – the arrows, Indra – the vajra, Kubera – the mace, Brahma – the water pot, Kala – the sword and Vishwakarma – the axe. Himavan gifted a mountain lion as her vehicle.
When the goddess was seen by Mahishasura, he fell in love with her and sought to marry her. The goddess promised to marry him, if he defeated her in the battle. A terrible combat ensued and continued for nine days. Finally, Durga assumed the terrifying form of Chandika and pinned Mahishasura down with her foot and pierced his neck with her spear and she cut his head off with her sword.
(Source: http// & various blogs on Internet)