The Navaratri festival (2023) is the celebration of "Woman Power"

 There are so many Hindu festivals being held  year round across India connecting the change of  seasons, mythological episodes, astronomical events, etc. Such festivities are not mere pomp and pageantry and each one has a subtle meaning most relevant to our lives and survival in a competitive world.

Happy Navaratri greetings 2023

There are  many  festivals exclusively related to the worship of  goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. The most popular and celebrated widely across India in the Hindu homes in villages and towns is the Navaratri festival meaning 'nine nights.'  Navaratri  (''Sanskrit'';  a synchrony of two words: ''nava'meaning nine and “ratri” meaning night),  comes four times a year  Sharad Navaratri, Chaitra Navaratri  Paush Navratri and Magha Navratri.  we give much importance to  Vasantha Navratri  observed in the Tamil month of April (Chithirai) by the temples. The auspicious period of Navaratri  begins on  come Sunday, October 15, 2023. The nine days festival, goes on till October 23, 2023.

During  Vasantha Navratri  special pujas, alangarams (decorations) and processions of goddesses are conducted by the temple with religious fervor; beautiful decorations with flowers, etc impart a divine ambiance to the temple premises. There is no dearth of cultural activities like dances, etc on the agenda and such activities go up to midnight in the place of worship.  You have to bear in mind that navaratri is a celebration of women's power and whose active role is indispensable to the growth of the family and the society. Hence we worship goddess Durga, (valor) Mahalakshmi (wealth and welfare) and Saraswat (wisdom and knowledge) emphasis the stellar role being played by them in our society despite gender discrimination. The festival concludes with Durga Puja - annihilation of evil forces and negativity in the homes. 

In the Ardhanariswara form of God Shiva  the feminine energy is propitiated as Shakti, with many features. Male and female are equally the forms of Shakti. According to Adi Sankara ''every celebration is Shakti and every renunciation is Siva''.

Brass Ardhanariswara .half  Shiva and half

Above image: Ardhanarishvara, a symbol of  Shiva's all-pervasive nature is a unique and thought-provoking concept. It is nothing but  the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and highlights the inseparable form of  Shakti, the female principle of God, and the male attributes of  Shiva, The union of these principles is exalted as the root and womb of all creation. The male half of Ardhanarishvara stands for Purusha and female half is Prakriti. Purusha is the male principle and passive force of the universe, while Prakriti is the female active force;

Durga Puja, 2923

The other Navaratri being  Sharad Navaratri  or Sarada navaratri that comes up in the Fall/Autumn season during the prevalence of congenial climate across India.    Normally,  the festivity begins on the  day of Amavasya (Mahalaya Paksha - 15 days of austerity dedicated to the worship of Pitrus/ departed ancestors by offering food to them and expressing our gratitude to them)  as per Hindu calendar) in September/October.  The new moon day marks the threshold of the Dasara festival.  Though vedic pujas are conducted during the 9 -day event, in some states, it is said,   tantric pujas  are held to propitiate the Devi. Tantric pujas are normally associated with  removing  spells, black magic, etc and the pundits who do it are supposed to  possess good knowledge of Atharva vedas. 

Navaratri  festivity  actually lasts for 10  long days and 9 nights and the period is said to be the most  auspicious one of the year. With regard to traditions and  rituals, they may vary among the Indian states. In south India Golu - display of numerous dolls (mostly religious), etc on the 9-step stand  covered with clean white cloth (mostly Veshti) is a common feature, When it comes to decoration on the floor  in front of  the Golu the family members' imagination may run riot in setting up parks, small temple with tanks, streets,etc. The dolls are preserved for decades and many families are sentimental about them  as they are  handed down from one generation to the next one. Invariably, golus  follow a theme and based on it, the dolls are being displayed. 

Kolam or rangoli with stunning colorful patterns, daily naivedyam and offering of Sundal (made from well cooked/boiled green gram, chenna, lentils, grated coconuts, etc) in the evening are mandatory during the 9 day event. But such interesting rituals are slowly on the decline in the past decades primarily due to stressed and mundane life style .  

This unique festival gets our attention and excitement toward the culminating period.  The 9th day  marks Saraswati Puja, special prayers are offered to goddess Saraswati who is symbolic of knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment. Books and musical instruments are traditionally placed in the puja and worshipped with devotion  and reverence in all Hindu homes  as the deity is a source of knowledge. The 10th day is equally important called  Vijayadasami day; on this day the evil was vanished by the goddess Durga who emerges from her marital home - Kailash on the first day of celebrations. 

On the Vijayadasami  day, very young kids are, for the first time, introduced to the world of letters -  alphabet in their native language. A Guru/teacher will guide the kid to write the letters on  a brass plate  of rice mixed with turmeric powder , etc., after prayer to the deity.  Often Called  Vidyarambham (Sanskrit), it  is an important religious ritual in the life of a kid and is  common  in the southern states. Surprisingly, people from other religions also follow this age-old tradition. It is a simple ceremony for a child between the age of 2-5years. In Kerala and elsewhere, it is mostly held on the temple premises under the guidance of a priest/pundit after prayers to the main deity in the temple. . Across Tamil Nadu and elsewhere,  Ayudha puja is celebrated with devotion on this day and the workers, taxi, bus and auto drivers, shop owners  decorate their places  with flowers, festoons, color balloons, etc and offer prayers to their tools, etc  because, tools, machinery, etc play a distinct role and take care of their livelihood and sustenance .Many of them smear sandal paste  and put a bright vermillion dot on the taxi, machinery, cash table, etc. and show Aarti to them.