Navaratri ( one of the festivals celebrated by Hindus in India. "Nava" means Nine and "ratri" means Nights) is celebrated all across India and different regions/states in India celebrate it in varied styles. Growing up in Pune with a Malayalee background, helped me understand differences between the celebrations of two different states or in fact more. I have seen Ravana Dahan, Durga Pooja and also Dandiya during Navratri celebrations. The intention is to celebrate Victory of Good over Evil.
In Kerala, Navaratri is celebrated a bit different from the rest of India, when it comes to the rituals. For us the last three days of Dussehra are the most important days, namely – Ashtami, Navami and Vijayadashami (8th day, 9th day and the Victorious 10th day). During these three days people pay respect to different aspects and parts of their life which are instrumental for success in life – the most important being Knowledge. During these days ``Power of Maa Saraswati – Wisdom” is worshipped. On Ashtami we have a ceremony called Pooja Vaipu. Pooja Vaipu simply means keeping for pooja. In the evening of Ashtami, all instruments of knowledge, like Books, Musically Instruments, Ghungroo for dancers etc., are arranged properly in Pooja Room or on shelf and on these offerings of Flowers, Haldi and Kumkum is made. Alternatively, if convenient, some important books are packed neatly and taken to the nearest temple for blessings. All reading and learning activities come to a standstill till we take our books back on Vijayadashmi. On all these days we seek the blessings of Maa Saraswathy. Many people visit temples on all three days. On Navami prayers are offered to Maa Saraswathy in the morning and evening. As kids we would look forward to this day as no one forced us to study from the Pooja Vaipu till Vijayadashami.
Painting of Ambika Devi (Divine Mother) by Raja Ravi Verma
Vijayadashami, which falls on the tenth day of Dussehra, is the most important day. On this day in the morning, we go to the pooja room or temple, where the books were kept during Saraswathy pooja. On a plate full of raw rice, we write “Harishri Ganapathaye Namaha.” Later, we take those books and read some pages from them. Vijayadashami also marks the beginning of education for smaller kids, 3 to 5 years old. In many temples, especially temples of Maa Saraswathy, a special ceremony called Vidhyarambham is organized. During this ceremony, the Priest or a senior person in the family or a well-educated person, write “Harishri Ganapathaye Namaha” on the tongue of the child with a piece of gold. Later these children also write alphabets on the plate full of rice or sand in the temple premises. These children are now formally allowed to read or write after this ceremony is conducted. This ceremony can be performed on any day of the year, but conducting it on Vijayadashmi is considered auspicious.
People who have keen interest in other forms of art – like painting, music or playing instruments, also pay respect to their teachers and begin their new course. Those who are already learning something use the instruments again on Vijayadashmi after keeping them for pooja.
Many Temples in Kerala like Mookambika Temple in Paravoor, have special poojas during these three days. Vijayadashmi is considered very auspicious for new beginnings and ventures. All these rituals and celebrations makes one realize the value of education in one’s life.
Autor: Roshini Jayashankar
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