The Navarathri Survival Guide

 

A comprehensive summary of recurring themes that inevitably present themselves during this 10 day extravaganza.

Pre-Navarathri

Forget about embracing your inner Goddess. Weeks preceding the festival facilitate a need for you to embrace your inner architect. After hours spent thinking about which spot in the house would be perfect for the Golu of your dreams, there is then the business of designing the 3/5/7/9 step structure fit to bear the burden of both the idols, and the weight of your expectations. Of course after all the effort and time that you and your family members have put into the golu, mere completion of a frame that actually works brings about relief aplenty. To your eyes, the structure looks just as good as if it were designed by Vishwakarma ( the celestial architect) himself. Once the golu is set up,  there’s just a few more things that need to be addressed before the festival starts.

Step 1: Bring out all Sarees and Kurtas that have not seen the light of day since Deepavali of the preceding year

Step 2: Think about all bad qualities and habits that you’d like to give up

Step 3: Mentally prepare yourself for the consumption of copious amounts of Chickpeas

Day 1-3: Goddess Durga Special

The first three days of the festival are dedicated to Goddess Durga. Dynamic and powerful, She is the giver of all forms of energy – spiritual, mental and physical. She represents the first potency present in man, the power of purposeful action (Kriya Shakthi). As your tongue rolls its way around the lyrics of the Lalitha Sahasraanam and your body acclimatises to the Navarathri fasting regime, you will be more than grateful for all the energy that you are tapping into during the first few days of the festival.

Day 4-6: Goddess Lakshmi Special

She is the Goddess of wealth galore; the wealth of character, intellect and health! She manifests herself as will power or Ichchaa Sakthi in you. Her worship thus serves as a reminder of the importance of accumulating the wealth of character, firm faith and steadfastness in your spiritual journey. Praying for iPhone 7s and Sephora gift cards are not recommended. Chanting the  Mahalakshmi ashtakam is suggested instead(better long term gains, you see).

Day 7-9: Goddess Saraswathi Special

This period is when you will witness the devout outpourings of fellow students in prayer rooms across the globe. With hands folded together in prostration, they pray earnestly. The phrasing might be slightly different, but in essence they are all praying for one thing. Maa Saraswati Gyaan do (Divine mother, please grant me enough knowledge to pass my exams). Goddess Saraswati bestows intelligence, the capacity for intellectual inquiry, and the power of discrimination . She manifests herself as the power of discrimination or Jnaana Shakthi. Ayudha pooja (worship of all educational tools) is conducted to pay respects to the instruments that help you in your worldly work. From a spiritual perspective, the weapons to be worshipped are the divine powers in man that enable spiritual progress.

Day 10: Vijayadashami

A day of great joy and jubilation, this day represents the triumph of good over evil. It is also a celebration of the conversion of ;

  1. Your will power (ichchaa shakthi) into a yearning for God
  2. Your purposeful action (kriya sakthi) into a force for doing Divine actions
  3. Your power of discernment (jnana sakthi) into the Divine Itself.

The entire festival is thus an elaborate construction of man designed for you to  contemplate on God for ten days and cleanse yourself of all impurities to experience the divinity within. So enjoy visiting other people’s golu’s, basking in the glory of Her worship and chanting Her many names this Navarathri! You might get sick of sundal and all the fasting you’re going to have to do, but you will always be glad for the inner peace you derive from celebrating this festival!

What are some of your cherished Navarathri memories? Leave a comment down below:)

 

Nava= nine, Rathri= night. Navarathri= nine nights devoted to the worship of the feminine principle. Various goddesses are revered throughout the course of the festival- culminating with Vijayadashmi on the tenth day. The festival symbolises the victory of good over evil and the awakening of Divinity within us.

Tamizh New Year Adventures!!!

Kausalya Supraja Rama Poorva Sandhya Pravartathe Uthistha Narasardoola Karthavyam Daiva Manikam*….. The smell of incense wafted through the air, amidst the fragrance of the tremendous ghee content present in the javarisi payasam* offered as naivedyam* in the prayer room. Patti* had already heated coconut oil and camphor in her prized kuli karandi* which she had apparently inherited from her great-grandmother.  She gently applied this oil onto my long tresses while simultaneously delivering a dose of scolding. “Thala la ozhunga ennai thechuka matela? Yen ipdi thalaiya viruchu potundu pei madri sutharel?” “Patti, neenga mattum ipdi solrel. Ellarum enakku  Koonthal Azhagi nu per vechirka*”. The oiling was complete and Patti gave the hair one final brush through. Amma walked in with the new panchangam*, freshly anointed with sandalwood and vermillion. “Where is everyone? I’ve been calling everyone to come to the puja room for the past twenty minutes!”

En Kaadal Sikki Mukki Thikki Vikkethu, Kumari*…. Appa emerged from the bathroom with an enraged expression on his face. “Who is playing all this kandraavi* on New Year’s day? Sailu, how many times will we have to talk to you about this?” “Yenna, be happy that he is at least awake at this time. Remember last year….?” Amma came to the rescue of her precious son, as usual. Eventually, everyone settled down, much to the relief of patti, who looked like she was about to blow her fuse at any moment. She could never understand why so much hoo-ha was caused on festival days in this household.  Of course, as the resident chamathu kozhandei* of our family, I cause 0% of this hoo-ha. Naturally, 100% of problems are caused by my brother, who due to some misfortune, believes he is God’s gift to mankind and has the freedom to do as he pleases.

No festival day is complete without a family photo in which we are all dressed up in our finest sarees and veshtis which will most likely only ever make a re-appearance during Navarathri* several months later. Obviously, the photo will be sent to all relatives and family friends who will gush over how big I’ve gotten and tell amma to dhristhi sutthi podufy* me.

Anyway, New Year’s day or not, the practice of oiling and plaiting my hair is a regular occurrence. I have a natural hair product collection that could rival any modern day girl’s makeup collection. Almond oil, bhringraj oil, coconut oil, amla oil, shikakai, gingelly oil etc. Let me tell you that washing hair that is way past your hip is no easy feat. That stuff is time consuming. Not to mention the drying process. But, it is such a therapeutic thing to brush out your hair, such a comfort to have your head massaged by your paati and no doubt, a great joy to have sambraani* waved under it to have that heavenly smell lingering about in your hair all day long.

I used to wonder why all Indian women had such long hair and it was only recently that I found out that it wasn’t just about the aesthetics. Hair is inextricably linked to energy and the Kundalini and that is why many saints and holy men place their hair at the very top of their head. This leads to a higher perceptibility to higher order thinking and actually aids in spirituality. Staying away from cutting your hair regularly also means that the energy your body would utilise to regrow your hair continuously, can be better used for spiritual enquiry! Keeping hair tied and not letting it hang loose is also an aid in conserving energy. So as much as many of my friends and family members would like me to “layer” my hair and “get with the times”, I think I’ll stick to my long hair thanks. Nothing more beautiful then a long, neat braid with some jasmine flowers in it :p

Happy Tamil New Year to all my readers! How will you be celebrating today?

Glossary: Kausalya supraja…..= line from a morning prayer regularly played in Indian households, javarisi payasam= sago sweet dish, kuli karandi= steel, curved spoon naivedyam= food offered to God, paati= grandma, Thala la ozhunga…= won’t you put oil in our hair properly? I don’t understand why girls these days walk around with their hair loose looking like ghosts, Patti, neenga….= you’re the only one who says all this, everyone calls me the one with beautiful hair, panchangam= hindu calendar, chamathu kozhandei= well-behaved child, En Kaadal….= line from a love song, Kandraavi= nonsense, Navarathri= festival, dhrishti sutti podufy= removing evil eye, Sambraani= frankincense 

 

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Any Brahmin influences on my writing are solely due to the fact that most of my exposure to the tamil language have been from my TamBrahm friends (I am not one). Happy reading! – Divya